When Corporate Innovation Goes Bad
Author: Maria Luisa Ayala
Product innovation is one way that large corporations stay competitive in a rapidly changing marketplace, but it doesn’t always work out when big brands attempt innovation.
Below are what we consider to be 145 of the biggest product flops of all time. We combed through thousands of media articles to select these product flops across major industries including tech software and hardware, consumer packaged goods, fast food, and electronics.
. NEW COKE, COCA-COLA (1985)
This was a change consumers never asked for and public backlash was a disaster. When the company went back to the original formula, Peter Jennings broke into hit TV show “General Hospital” to announce the news and US Sen. David Pryor called it “a meaningful moment in US history” on the floor of the Senate.
2. THE EDSEL, FORD (1957)
Renowned as one of Ford’s greatest flops, this ride had it all: weird body styling, unreliable controls (including a push-button ignition), and an ambitious run-up of ads that may have inflated customer expectations.
3. FACEBOOK PHONE, FACEBOOK (2013)
The Facebook Phone was surrounded by speculation from the moment the first rumors of it surfaced, so almost any product would have failed to live up to the hype. What the public got was the HTC First, an Android-skinned device whose main feature was being geared towards the Facebook Home application. The phone’s exclusive carrier, AT&T, drastically slashed the price to 99 cents in a “temporary sale” that became permanent until the phone’s death.
4. NEWTON, APPLE (1993)
Revolutionary for its time, this handheld PDA pinned its hopes on handwriting recognition. Jobs himself reputedly hated it, saying of the device’s stylus input device: “God gave us ten styluses … let’s not invent another.”
5. E.T. THE EXTRA-TERRESTRIAL (VIDEOGAME), ATARI (1982)
At a time when Atari was the undisputed monarch of video gaming and E.T. was the top box office hit, an officially-licensed E.T. video game should have been a guaranteed hit. Atari spent $20M securing the movie rights, built the notoriously-hard-to-play game in just five and a half weeks, then produced 4 million cartridges, of which 2.5 million came back to the company. Atari had a landfill in New Mexico for unsold product where many of the E.T. cartridges ended up. Video game historians have pointed to E.T. game as one of a string of high-profile duds that contributed to a crash in the North American video gaming industry from 1983 to 1985.
6. FIRE PHONE, AMAZON (2014)
The Kindle Fire tablets were a hit with consumers, so the development of a phone wasn’t much of a surprise. But the device turned out to be clunky, have limited app options, and even the Firefly feature (which recognized products and songs) couldn’t win over customers.