All-Time Biggest Product Flops (Crystal Pepsi, Anyone?)

Photo (cc) by Royal Opera House Covent Garden

Not every product that reaches the marketplace is a hit with consumers. In fact, some of the most wildly successful companies have had some of the most epic product failures.

24/7 Wall St. compiled a list of some of the biggest product flops of all time.

The larger the company, the greater its capacity for taking risks. While pouring millions of dollars into market research and advertising campaigns can lead to tremendous successes, such ventures can also be a formula for the most miserable failures.

24/7 Wall St. highlighted 12 of the biggest product duds. Here are our favorites:

  • Ford Edsel. Released in 1957, Ford’s attempt at a high-end, midsized vehicle was an epic failure. It was expensive for consumers and loaded with heavily promoted, but unreliable, new features. The car cost Ford $350 million ($2.9 billion in today’s dollars). Sadly, only 84,000 Edsels were sold in its three years of production, CBS noted.
  • Crystal Pepsi. Pepsi launched Crystal Pepsi in 1992. The caffeine-free, clear beverage, which was marketed as “healthy and pure” had a good first year, with sales topping $470 million, but its popularity was short-lived. “Not only were consumers not convinced by Pepsi’s health angle, but also many cola-drinkers expected a darker beverage,” 24/7 Wall St. said.
  • Google Glass. Released in 2011, Google Glass was an experimental wearable computer prototype tested by several thousand users, who each paid $1,500 to test the glasses. It received a lot of hype, but didn’t take long for users to report software glitches and privacy concerns. “Glass was immediately banned from movie theaters, casinos, and bars, for example, to prevent customers from making recordings,” 24/7 Wall St. said. It was discontinued this January.
  • WOW! chips. PepsiCo subsidiary Frito-Lay released WOW! Chips in 1998. The chips contained olestra, a fat substitute, so they had less fat and calories than regular chips. More than $347 million in WOW! chips were sold in 1998, making it the best-selling potato chip brand that year, 24/7 Wall St. said. Unfortunately, olestra had some nasty side effects, including diarrhea, incontinence and cramping. Yuck. Not surprisingly, the chips quickly lost their appeal.
  • Zune. Microsoft released the Zune in 2006 to compete with Apple’s popular iPod. The Zune proved to be no match for the iPod. That, coupled with its performance issues, led to Zune’s failure. Microsoft lost more than $3 billion as a result, 24/7 Wall St. said.

In order to make 24/7 Wall St.’s list, the product had to be introduced after 1950 by a company that made the Fortune 500 the year it was released.

I loved Crystal Pepsi as a kid. And I own a Zune, albeit one that’s been collecting dust for several years.

Do you remember any of these product flops? What are some other products that were epic failures? Share your comments below or on our Facebook page.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

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