Sometimes products that look great on paper fail to deliver to customers. These products had all the promise and the world and failed for a number of reasons.
Here are 10 great modern failures of industry and what we can learn from the doomed product designs.
1. Microsoft Zune
Microsoft launched the Zune in 2006 as a competitor to the iPod. Its biggest failure was that it was simply late to the game—Apple had firmly established the iPod as a portable music player for five years before Microsoft entered the field. There also weren’t any innovative or differentiating features to entice people to buy a Zune instead of an iPod. Instead of improving on problems from the iPod, Microsoft made a very similar product that didn’t compel people to switch from what they knew. The Zune wasn’t necessarily a bad product, but it failed because Microsoft didn’t make bold enough changes to make it stand out. It was discontinued in 2011, but devout fans can still buy old Zunes on eBay.
2. Google Glass
It seemed like the device of the future: using voice commands and having information displayed directly into your field of vision. Google Glass debuted in 2012 and was touted as the future of AI. However, almost immediately it was criticized for an unfashionable design. There were also privacy concerns because Google Glass allowed users to record video without anyone noticing, which led to it being banned in many public areas. Not to mention the high price tag of $1,500. People weren’t willing to overlook the flaws for the high cost for a product they didn’t want to wear and didn’t think they needed. Google officially ended Glass in 2015 after years of disappointing sales.
3. Mobile ESPN
In 2006, ESPN introduced a phone that would offer exclusive content and video and give fans easy access to their favorite teams. The problem was that ESPN only had one phone model available, which was a clunky flip phone that sold for $400, plus the monthly fee of $40 to access the ESPN content. Customers didn’t want to pay so much money just to have access to sports scores. ESPN shut down the service within a year, but not before it spent $150 million on development.
4. Facebook Home
In 2013, Facebook tried—and failed—to expand its dominance in social media. Facebook Home turned the home screen of a user’s phone into their Facebook news feed. Customers weren’t impressed, and most people reported that only the most Facebook-obsessed people would enjoy it—if that. The design was clunky and couldn’t be customized, and many people reported it used large amounts of data and battery. Less than a month after Facebook Home was released, the cost of a two-year subscription dropped from $99 to $0.99. Facebook soon disbanded the team that was working on the project.
5. Amazon Fire Phone
Amazon announced its entry to the smart phone market with the Fire Phone in 2014, but the product was discontinued the next year after just one model. Fire Phone’s biggest differentiator was 3D face scanning technology, but many people thought it was too gimmick-y. The phone was also only released on AT&T, which greatly limited the number of customers who could purchase it. Most users thought the phone was only mediocre and overpriced and that it wasn’t worth paying more to switch from their current phones. When Amazon cancelled the project, it took a loss of $170 million.
6. Orbitz Soda
New drinks are always being introduced, and many customers were excited when they saw Orbitz Soda show up on shelves in 1997. The clear liquid was full of floating gelatin balls, which got the attention of people but soon fizzled out. To start, Orbitz wasn’t actually a soda, but it wasn’t a juice either. Early customers didn’t enjoy the taste or texture. No matter how catchy the product design or gimmick, it doesn’t make up for a poor product.
Even before it was released in 2017, Juicero caught the attention of investors and customers, earning $120 million from investors before it hit shelves. Selling for $700, Juicero was a Wi-Fi-enabled juicer that could only use special Juicero fruit packets, which cost up to $8 each. Customers quickly dismissed the idea of an unnecessary kitchen gadget that they viewed as extremely overpriced. The company shut down less than six months after it started.
8. Cosmopolitan Yogurt
Cosmopolitan magazine is known for its women-centric content, dating advice and fashion spreads. Women just love yogurt so much this would make perfect sense, right? Well not really. When the company expanded into yogurt in 1999, people were understandably confused. The ill-fated yogurt line only lasted 18 months, and many people still don’t understand what made the magazine think it would be a good fit in another area of the grocery store. Expanding to new product areas can be a good source of growth, but they still need to be related to the original brand.
9. HP Touchpad
HP was eager to compete with the iPad when it released the Touchpad in 2011 with a huge event and expensive advertising. However, it soon became clear that HP had rushed the release of its product with a poor operating system and lots of bugs. Stores soon faced excess inventory and were forced to slash prices. HP eventually discontinued the Touchpad and took a loss of hundreds of millions of dollars.
10. Cheeto’s Lip Balm
This one doesn’t even sound like a good idea on paper. Customer love Cheeto’s and they love lip balm, so Frito Lay decided to combine the two in 2005 when it introduced Cheeto’s Lip Balm. The company expected loyal fans to be excited for the product, but sales bombed and it was quickly pulled from shelves. Just because a product is successful in one area doesn’t mean it needs to be used in all areas.
These product designs and failures of industry were extremely costly for companies, both to their budgets and their reputations. Launching a new product is always a gamble, but taking time to research customers and the market and test the product can help avoid potential future failures.
The writer, Blake Morgan is a keynote speaker, customer experience futurist and the author of two books including her new “The Customer Of The Future.”
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