I overhear this conversation at Tim Horton’s recently between a couple of millennials, which caught my attention because it started with one turning to the other and declaring, “OMG! Do you know what is the WORST!”
So I had to listen.
Now you get the details of the “worst”… You might want to sit down for this!
“OMG you know what is the WORST!”
“When you order a Coke and they bring you a Pepsi…”
“…Without telling you.”
“I know, eh?”
“I mean, it’s so NOT okay for that to happen. They’re two completely different products and you should be warned.”
“Totally… Like when you order coffee with sugar but they forget to put in the sugar…”
“No… Not like that at all.”
Now, I had always imagined the “worst” being something far more catastrophic, like losing a child, or a spouse, or war, famine, natural disasters, but hey… Getting a Pepsi when you order a coke could be pretty bad… Like not being able to download that song for free right away, or not having WiFi available…
Plenty of big companies have abandoned products after disastrous launches. I have selected 13 of the most quickly cancelled products in history for this week’s Thursday Thirteen.
13. Coors Rocky Mountain Spring Water: 2 years. I recall this interesting decision to expand the Coors brand around 1990. Not sure why they thought beer drinkers would buy water if it had a beer name on it. Oh, let me have some Molson’s OJ, please.
12. HD DVD: Shockingly this lasted for about 2 years. Sponsored mostly by Toshiba, HD DVD was supposed to become the hi-def successor to the DVD when it launched in March 2006 but Sony-led Blu-ray ended up winning the format war when Warner Bros. announced it was dumping HD DVD for Blu-ray on Jan. 4, 2008.
11. Cosmopolitan Yogurt: 18 months. Talk about cross branding gone wrong. Cosmopolitan, the magazine thought if they got in the yogurt business in 1999 that their mainly female readership would buy lots of this yogurt. They didn’t.
10. Pepsi A.M. and Crystal: Both 1 year. Wow. I remember this as if it were yesterday, but in 1989, Pepsi tried to target the “breakfast cola drinker” with Pepsi am and then in 1992 Pepsi tried again, this time with a clear cola called Crystal Pepsi. Both lasted only one year.
9. McDonald’s Arch Deluxe: In 1996, McDonald’s introduced the Arch Deluxe. It was intended to appeal to “urban sophisticates” like myself who really liked this burger because we were considered to be outside of the target demographic. They spent upwards of $100 million dollars on creating this product and advertising it and it only lasted one year. Ouch.
8. Microsoft Bob: I remember the fuss around good old Bob, who was supposed to be a user-friendly interface for Windows. Came in 1995, left 1996.
7. Orbitz soda: I never understood this product nor did I ever dare to try it. I could never really tell if it was juice or soda (it was soda) and it looked like a combination between a lava lamp drink and children vomit in a bottle. It lasted one year. I think when I frist saw this list on yahoo a while back it mentioned that Orbitz was selling on ebay, so I checked and yes, you can buy a bottle for $24.00. Quite the premium, eh?
6. The Crunch Pad aka JooJoo: In the era of a $499 Apple iPad, an inferior tablet computer that also costs $499 doesn’t work. If you blinked you missed its inception in 2009 and you surely missed its disappearance in 2010.
5. Mobile ESPN: I remember in 2006 when Mobile ESPN was introduced because I was hoping it would succeed and then a Canadian version would arise, but it flopped and didn’t last a year mainly because the idea that ESPN would exclusively sell a phone that offered exclusive ESPN content and video, leasing network access from Verizon Wireless. But ESPN only had one phone at launch, a Sanyo device selling for $400. No one bought it. They went to the internet instead. Smart.
4. RJ Reynold’s smokeless cigarettes: This was before my time – I was 9 – and before their time too when in 1980 just around the time the anti-smoking movement started, RJ Reynold’s put $325 million into a new product: smokeless cigarettes. Now they’re cool. Back then… Not so much.
3. New Coke: In case you thought the Pepsi disasters were bad, you might have forgotten New Coke. In the early 1980s when Coke was losing ground to Pepsi it tried to create a product that would taste more like Pepsi. After disastrous days, Coke abandoned the product and went back to its old formula giving it a new name, Coca-Cola Classic.
2. HP Touchpad: 49 Days. After just a month and a half on the market, HP gave up the TouchPad and its mobile OS, WebOS in summer 2011. Touchpad lasted one day longer than the Microsoft Kin phones, another recent flop.
So it’s not the worst flop ever.
1. Qwikster: 23 days. In September 2011, Reed Hastings announced that Netflix would spin-off Qwikster as a DVD rental business. This move met tons of criticism, and Hastings backtracked on his statement 23 days later. Imagine all the work put into this business model that came and went in less than a month and Netflix have never recovered.
Which of these do you remember? Remember Al Capone’s vault?