7 of the worst product flops ever, besides the Samsung Galaxy Note 7
The Galaxy Note 7: A Product up in Flames
The Samsung Galaxy Note 7, the Korean electronics company's newest smartphone, was supposed to be Samsung's answer to Apple Inc's (ticker: AAPL) iPhone 7. A blockbuster product. But those plans went up in flames just like the phone itself ... and like the replacement phones that were supposed to be less combustible. Now the company is telling Galaxy Note 7 owners to turn off their phones and send them back in a fireproof box via ground mail, just in case, and Samsung has stopped selling and producing the handset altogether. The Samsung Galaxy Note 7 joins the following legendary failures as one of the worst product flops of all time.
One of the most famous product flops ever, the Ford Motor Co. (F) Edsel was a heavily marketed hunk of metal that Ford had big plans for. If those plans were measured in dollars, you'd have seen 400 million of them invested in the project. Some Edsels did sell, but not nearly enough: Ford lost $250 million – in 1958 dollars – on the project. The car, which was supposed to take the auto industry by storm, had a poorly defined niche and an overblown marketing campaign. Projections called for the model year 1958 Edsel to sell 200,000 models. Instead, it sold 64,000 units and was out of production by 1959.
It almost seems like Google (GOOG, GOOGL) co-founder Sergey Brin ripped the description of this product from the pages of a sci-fi novel, took it to his top engineers and said: "Make this. We'll figure out the details later." The Google Glass, introduced in 2011, was a head-mounted, internet-connected display. Essentially, it looked vaguely like glasses but was really a tiny, voice-activated computer, screen, and video camera. Due partly to the inescapable and arguably painfully foreseeable privacy concerns that followed its release, the $1,500 poorly selling gadget was taken off the market in 2015. Google (now called Alphabet) still claims new iterations of the Glass are forthcoming, but today it looks like a failed product.
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The Coca-Cola Co. (KO) saw its market share steadily dwindle at the hands of PepsiCo (PEP) for more than three decades after World War II, and the company's top brass thought the time was nigh to change the taste of its flagship product. Then-CEO Roberto Goizueta thought the answer was "New Coke or no Coke," and in April 1983 Coca-Cola changed the formula of its iconic soft drink, which became much sweeter than the original. Shortly thereafter protests erupted and some of the company's own bottlers were on the verge of boycotts; Coca-Cola was forced by the market to reintroduce the original once more, and sales soared past previous levels.
Apple changed the music business forever in 2001, launching both iTunes and the iPod. It took Microsoft Corp. (MSFT) five years – an eternity in the world of consumer electronics – to respond with its own line of Zune MP3 players in November 2006. Within 18 months it would sell 2 million of them. If that sounds like a huge success, it's not; by the end of 2007, Apple had sold 141 million iPods and over 3 billion songs on iTunes. The Zune is widely considered to be a laughable, late and inferior imitation of a hit product, which is why it goes down as one of the worst product flops ever.
While the sweet taste of Pepsi may have forced Coca-Cola to briefly abandon (and then bring back) their flagship soda, PepsiCo's WOW! chips forced consumers to do something else entirely. Frito-Lay, a division of Pepsi, introduced WOW! chips to the public in 1998, branding them as healthier potato chips due to their low fat and caloric content. Alas, if it seems too good to be true it probably is: The "healthy" chips used fat-substitute Olestra, which has unfortunate side effects like diarrhea and incontinence. Sales quickly went down the drain and the product was renamed Light in 2004.
Former GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney gave a televised speech in March urging Americans not to vote for Donald Trump in the primaries. One of the many reasons he cited for not voting for Trump was the candidate's claim to be a masterful businessman. Romney pointed to a number of failed Trump endeavors, including Trump Steaks, as evidence to the contrary. Trump Steaks debuted in 2007 in a promotion with Sharper Image, and were briefly hawked that same year on QVC. Both deals ended shortly thereafter. The boxes of steak ranged from $199 to $999, depending on the quantity, and the trademark for Trump Steaks was canceled in December 2014. Bad!
Success is impossible without trial and error, and when Apple's Lisa came out in 1983, it was an undeniable error. Although the Apple Lisa was one of the first computers to have a graphical user interface, it was also one of Apple's most notorious commercial failures. The machine retailed for $9,995 ($23,962 in 2016 dollars), putting it way out of range for individuals and even largely pricing it out of the business market it was aiming for. To add insult to injury, the 1983 release was followed by 1984's Macintosh, which came with a mouse and retailed for $2,495, cannibalizing Lisa's already poor sales.
Copyright 2016 U.S. News & World Report
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