People make mistakes, and businesses make mistakes. It’s something that happens, and there’s little you can do to avoid it. We can spend considerable resources weighing risks, but in the end, sometimes you just need to take a stab at a project and see what happens. If you’re not careful, however, you can screw up majorly. Product failures and flops exemplify this perfectly.
Sometimes, a company releases a new product or service that changes things forever. Companies, such as Apple, Google, and Uber, have all done this over the past decade or two — numerous times, in some cases. Other times, a concept doesn’t take off. It might be because it was a bad idea in the first place, or perhaps it was ahead of its time.
Product failures and flops
There’s a pile of failed or flopped products out there we can look back on with 20/20 hindsight and see they were doomed from the get-go. Or, in some cases, we repackage and try to sell them again.
There are numerous examples from just the past five years, from tech to food. With so many new technologies and innovations out there, entrepreneurs and big businesses have been experimenting with all kinds of new products and services, with many becoming big hits with consumers. Others were not so much.
Here are 15 failed products and services that have flopped in the past five years. Did you buy one?
1. Samsung Galaxy Note 7
Although it might be a bit premature to say Samsung’s smartphone, the Galaxy Note 7, is a failure or flop, it’s certainly had one of the worst debuts in recent memory. The reason being that consumers have reported the batteries spontaneously catch fire. This led to massive recalls, and millions, if not billions, in lost revenue. It’s not clear whether the product will be able to recover and whether Samsung will be able to regain momentum when it releases the Galaxy Note 8.
2. McDonald’s Wings
McDonald’s has tried a lot of products over the years. You might recall McDonald’s spaghetti or more recently mozzarella sticks. But one product that really never made much sense was hot wings, or Mighty Wings as they were called. They originally debuted in 1990 and were around until 2003. They were brought back in 2013 but didn’t last long. There is a group of people who apparently love them, however, as they were resurrected for a short time in certain areas in 2016.
3. Apple Watch
Calling the Apple Watch a failure might be a bit unfair. Plenty of people like the watches and the company just unveiled the next generation of its smartwatch. Still, Apple is pushing on. The Apple Watch didn’t sell well, and consumers still aren’t completely sold on the idea of a smart watch that requires a smartphone. But Apple has more money than it knows what to do with, so why not keep trying? Perhaps the second-generation Apple Watch will win over more people.
4. Watermelon Oreo
The cookie wizards at Nabisco seem to have flown off the rails in recent years. A walk down the cookie aisle at your local grocer will unveil myriad Oreo and Chips Ahoy flavors you never expected, including Swedish Fish, birthday cake, and others. But nothing will ever be quite as weird as the Watermelon Oreo. It was a limited-edition product to begin with, so unfortunately tracking down a package of these fruity cookies is going to be difficult.
5. Google Glass
Google has a lot of experimental tech out there, and plenty of it has found practical use. Google Glass was one of the most hyped pieces of new tech to come from Google headquarters and had millions of people psyched to try it. Unfortunately, it just didn’t really work out. You can bet you’ll see similar technology hit the market in the future. But for Google Glass? It might have been ahead of its time.
6. HP Touchpad
You shouldn’t half-ass things. HP learned that the hard way when it announced the Touchpad, a product designed to rival the Apple iPad back in 2011. But the Touchpad barely got off the runway — you might say it exploded in the proverbial hangar. It’s become a case study for product failures in the tech space, with flawed software, a bad marketing strategy, and numerous other factors leading to the Touchpad’s quick demise.
7. Nissan Murano CrossCabriolet
If we were to drag an automobile into the list, we’ll have to go with the Nissan Murano CrossCabriolet — a convertible SUV nobody wanted. It was around for a few years, ending production in 2014. And it sold miserably. It was ugly and expensive, selling for $48,000. Reviewers were confounded by it, and it’ll likely end up on several “worst cars of all time” lists.
8. Amazon Fire phone
Amazon, like Google and Apple, has a lot of resources to experiment with. From drone deliveries to 3-D printing, Amazon has some serious wiggle room. But perhaps its biggest product failure so far was the Fire phone, which was released alongside the Fire tablet and bombed magnificently. Basically, no one needed the damn thing. There were already many, many other options out there, and the Fire phone soon flamed out, much like Windows phones.
9. 3-D television
Third time’s the charm, right? Not in the case of 3-D TV, which several companies have tried and failed each and every time. It’s not even a new technology. It’s actually something that’s been brought to the market a couple times before the most recent wave of products. People just don’t seem to want it.
Interestingly enough, it looks like virtual reality is catching on, so we might end up skipping 3-D TV completely and going to headsets within a few years. That’s assuming Oculus Rift doesn’t wind up on a list of product failures in the future, of course.
10. 47 Ronin
Although there are many box-office bombs we could contribute to this list, we’re going to go with 47 Ronin. The movie was released in 2013 and stars Keanu Reeves — and it ultimately became one of the biggest Hollywood busts ever. According to Variety, the movie was supposed to be a sort of Lord of the Rings in 1700s Asia. It had a budget of $175 million (not counting promo costs). And on opening weekend, it finished sixth and grossed only $20 million in its first five days.
11. Burger King’s Satisfries
People eat fries because they’re salty and greasy. It’s what makes them delicious. But they’re incredibly unhealthy, which is the main issue with them. Burger King, not willing to live in a world with unhealthy french fries, took a chance with Satisfries — fries with fewer calories. They didn’t catch on after their 2013 debut and were phased out in U.S. locations in 2014.
12. Nike FuelBand
The world is saturated with fitness devices, and that includes all the Fitbits, Apple Watches, and Garmins of the world. Nike also waded into the fray with its FuelBand, actually pioneering the concept to a degree. The FuelBand lasted a while but was put to bed after four years in 2014. The fitness tracker space proved to be too crowded, ultimately leading to the FuelBand’s death.
A popular social media network for a period of time, Vine wasn’t really a failure in the traditional sense of the word. It’s more like it was simply crowded out. Vine’s schtick was it was a sort of Twitter for video — and eventually Twitter actually acquired it. But Vine couldn’t make it with the likes of Instagram and Snapchat becoming more popular. It was canned in 2016 but still exists in the form of Vine Camera.
14. United Airlines
This isn’t a product, per se, but it is a service. And United Airlines deserves a spot on this list for the absolute disaster it caused itself by violently hauling a 69-year-old man off one of its flights to make room for company employees. The incident created an international fervor as it was caught on camera, and United suffered one of the biggest PR failures of all time. It’ll be hard for consumers to forget the images of a bloodied, concussed man being dragged off of a plan by plainclothes police officers anytime soon.
15. Trump University
We’re also giving a special shoutout to Trump University. It was officially announced in 2005 as a for-profit education company to teach people to make money in the real estate industry. Though it’s now defunct, the lawsuits are dragging on. The suits allege the university used deceptive sales and marketing practices to defraud students — students who didn’t earn credit or any type of real education at all. In fact, it was more of a scam than anything.
Trump University is one of many failures in the for-profit education industry. But with Trump serving as president, it’s probably the most consequential.