The world of business is far more competitive than most understand. For every product that succeeds, thousands are left behind. Businesses fail every day even when they have great ideas. Worse, some manage to chug along until they manage to churn out something truly horrible. These failed products are relegated to the dustbins of history, usually only trotted out to show the world that even great businesses can have terrible ideas. Even though they’re far from perfect, these products do play a very important role. Large-scale, high-profile failures help to teach the world lessons that simply aren’t learned through success.
It’s important to remember that big failures tend to come about because of big ideas. Little failures are immediately forgotten; the big stuff, though, goes down in history. No one cares about the person who designed a piece of tape that didn’t stick. However, everyone notices when someone manages to successfully produce and market a car that doesn’t actually run. It takes a big idea to make a big failure. These 7 listed here are among the biggest ideas to ever run afoul of reality. From the importance of timing to the dangers of reinventing the wheel, there are important lessons to be learned.
1. Ford Edsel
One of the biggest failures in marketing history, the Ford Edsel was a late 1950s car. This piece of innovative technology didn’t really seem to have an identity of its own. Looking at things from a purely objective perspective, it isn’t actually a bad car.
The problem was that it wasn’t sure what it wanted to be. This is a product that absolutely proves the necessity of having some strong brand identity guidelines before going to market. Especially today, interested customers want their belongings to be their ambassadors and represent their goals, dreams, character, social status, and other traits.
2. Microsoft Zune
Microsoft’s Zune was released in 2006 to be an iPod killer. The product itself was actually fantastic. It offered a host of features that are now considered standard and a great design that customers loved. However, there was a crack in their marketing strategy which got bigger and bigger.
The big problem, though, was that it tried so hard to be like the iPod that most buyers were content to just go after the iPod instead. This fantastic piece of technology died an ignominious death while its competitor captured even more of the market. The Zune’s failure teaches business owners everywhere that marketing yourself as an alternative only gives the other product more power.
3. New Coke
New Coke has to be one of the biggest failed products ever. Trotted out in the 1980s to compete with the growing market share of Pepsi, it was a failure on every conceivable level. People simply didn’t like the new taste, and they certainly didn’t understand why the classic product was pulled from the shelves.
It only took a few years for Coke to go back to its classic formula, but the damage was already done. New Coke is a great example of how trying to ‘improve’ a successful product can ultimately doom it to failure. Never mess with a good thing unless you want to go down the same road.
4. Virtual Boy
Nintendo’s Virtual Boy was one of the first “virtual reality” console ever made. However, it’s hard to see who would want to buy it. The games were simple even for those times. On top of that, they were presented in a horrible red hue that would give players headaches.
Those who did buy the machine were left with an ungainly product that was hard to use and even less fun to play for more than a few minutes. If nothing else, Virtual Boy is a great example of how being high-tech doesn’t necessarily mean success. Unfortunately, Nintendo would repeat similar mistakes with failed products like the Wii U.
Before the Segway’s release, it was touted as something that would literally change the world. Famous figures made statements about how the Segway’s utility would cause changes in the way that future cities were planned.
When it was released, though, the world was underwhelmed. It’s not that the product was useless, but rather that it didn’t deliver on the hype. Today, the Segway is mostly used for tours and by mall security officers, with little evidence that it’s changing the world. This is a great example of how hype can turn products with an enormous amount of potential into failed products.
6. The Arch Deluxe
Do you remember the Arch Deluxe? If you don’t, there’s absolutely nothing to worry about. This briefly-offered product only served to lose McDonald’s millions of dollars.
Marketed as an upscale burger, this more-expensive menu option wasn’t quite a gourmet meal. However, it certainly cost more than anything else on the fast food giant’s menu. While taste tests were generally positive, it was quickly found that no one wanted to spend that much money at McDonald’s.
The failure of the sandwich wasn’t so surprising if you keep the main message from this product in mind. Failed products often come from those who don’t understand their own customers.
Betamax is one of the most famous also-rans ever created. For a time, it was neck and neck with the VCR and many enthusiasts would consider it to be the superior product. Unfortunately, it never saw wide adoption. A host of problems made the cheaper VCR the recording and playback machine of choice.
While not a bad product, it simply couldn’t compete with something that did virtually the same thing for less. It’s a perfect example of how competition can kill a product, especially when it attempts to split the market.
These failed products all have lessons to teach us. Whether they warn against bad business practices or remind us of the unfairness of the business world, the lessons learned can help many to avoid similar mistakes. There will always be spectacular failures out there, and there will always be products that never live up to their potential.
If you are willing to look at the lessons that could be learned from these products instead of the losses they created, you’ll find that even these failed products have succeeded in changing the world. Remember to take each mistake as a valuable life lesson and incorporate it into your successful strategies.