The Biggest Product Flops of All Time

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What are the most significant product flops of all time?  

While writing this, I found myself going down memory lane, remembering some of these products from my youth. The ones I bought and shouldn’t have and the ones I just remember. My husband still has three Apple Newtons in our closet! It makes me question our choices. Ha!

Sit back, enjoy, reminisce if possible, and find some joy in the product choices you didn’t make and a sense of humor about the ones you did.

Why Do Some Products Flop?

Here are some fun facts:

  • About 75% of consumer packaged goods and retail products fail to earn even $7.5 million during their first year.  
  • Less than 3% of new consumer packaged goods exceed $50 million in first-year sales - considered the benchmark of a highly successful launch.
  • American families, on average, repeatedly buy the same 150 items, which makes up 85% of their household needs, so it’s tough to get something new on their radar. 

Here are seven factors that can cause a new product to fail:

  1. Failure to understand consumer needs and demands
  2. Wrong pricing
  3. Attempting to fix a non-existent problem
  4. Targeting the wrong market
  5. Poor Preparation
  6. Technological inadequacies
  7. A launch of a revolutionary product that isn’t fully supported

To read more about these factors, click here.

If you’re considering launching a new product, and you’re not doing your research, BEWARE. There’s too much evidence that not taking the above factors into account could lead to a flop.

If you need help you recruiting for your research study or studies, please visit here or reach out to us today.

Now, without further ado let’s dive into the biggest product flops:


The Edsel tops every list of product flops. With its release in 1957, it cost Ford at least $350 million ($2.9 billion in today’s dollars) and was promoted aggressively with expensive ads that may have raised customer expectations.  


Their Teletouch pushbutton and transmission and electronic controls were considered revolutionary, and they turned out to be unreliable.

The car was also expensive, ranging from $2,500 to $3,766, which may have made their sales slow in the economic downturn of the time. They ended up with four model years before they stopped producing the Edsel.

Coors Rocky Mountain Sparkling Water

In 1990, Coors decided to respond to moderate alcohol consumption by launching its spring water, its first nonalcoholic beverage since Prohibition. 

Coors Rocky Mountain Sparkling Water1.png

Because they advertise their beer as “cold brewed with pure rocky mountain spring water,” they didn’t think it would be much of a stretch to sell the spring water as a standalone product. What went wrong?  The theory is that their Rocky Mountain Sparkling Water used a similar label to their beer, which may have confused or even spooked their consumers. 

Not helping matters, Anheuser-Busch, maker of Budweiser, began criticizing Coors for connecting its superior quality to its mountain spring water, which Anheuser-Busch claimed was also made with water from Virginia. 

Coors’ sparkling water became a product flop between consumer confusion and Anheuser-Busch attacks, and they stopped selling it in 1997.

The Apple Newton

A tech giant product flop, the Newton (the product I still have three), released in 1993, was meant to kick off a revolution of handheld tech devices. It featured an innovative handwriting feature that allowed users to write on the screen with a stylus pen, and the Newton would translate it into easy-to-read digital text. +

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The handwriting feature didn’t work as well as Apple had hoped, with much of the writing becoming indecipherable. The Newton became a mockery, even used in the Doonesbury comic strip and “The Simpsons.”


Apple expected to sell 1 million Newtons in their first year, but instead only sold 50,000 in the first three months.  

By 1997, CEO Steve Jobs scrapped the Newton. He said that people shouldn’t have to use a stylus when they have fingers.  By shutting down the Newton, Jobs “freed up good engineers who could work with mobile devices,” and they moved on to the iPhones and iPad.  The rest is history.

New Coke

Pepsi-Cola was continuing to gain market share in the 1970s and early 1980s, much to do with their “Pepsi Challenge” campaign in which consumers took a blind taste test and learned that they preferred the flavor of Pepsi over Coke.  Coca-Cola also performed internal taste tests and, much to their surprise, also came to the same results.

New Coke1.jpeg

Company executives determined that it wasn’t the Pepsi-Cola challenge campaign, but rather Coke's taste leading to its declining market share.  So, the executives made a risky bet and introduced New Coke’s new formula, thinking this would put them back on top. They replaced the classic with New Coke. BIG mistake.

Within weeks, Coca-Cola was fielding 5,000 angry calls a day, and the number of complaint calls went up from there.  The company was caught off guard by the outrage and saw that they had made a quick decision with unsupported data. Their customers were emotionally attached to the original formula and would have none of the new one.

Seventy-nine days after they announced New Coke, executives made their mea culpa and returned the original formula.  It wasn’t long before Coca-Cola returned to being the top-selling sugar cola, ahead of Pepsi.

McDonald’s Arch Deluxe Burger

Hard to believe in today’s world of artisan burgers designed for the mature palate that, at one time, no consumer could imagine it.

McDonald’s marketed their burger as the “Burger with the Grown-up Taste.”  The idea was to have a burger not associated with children.

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There were two problems:

  1. Nobody goes to McDonald’s for sophisticated taste; they go for convenience.  Consumers go to McDonald’s because they know what to expect no matter where they are.  They want an easy time without making many decisions when the same tried-and-true product works fine.
  2. McDonald’s attempted to sell the Arch Deluxe Burger on taste.  While McDonald’s claims no Michelin stars, people come back for the more -than-good-enough bite of a McDonald’s burger. 

The Arch Deluxe Burger became a product flop. It appears they failed to understand consumer needs and demands.

The Segway

Remember these?  Honestly, I always thought they were funny looking.  However, there was a time that Segway, released in 2001, was a status symbol costing a whopping $5K.  It was nothing more than a motorized skateboard with handlebars that would speed up, but not that much, topping out at ten mph as you leaned forward.

The Segway1.jpeg

In 2004 George Bush fell off one, and after that, if you include the tech flop (high price, low speed) and that the owner of Segway, Jim Heselden, died after he fell off a cliff riding one, there wasn’t much to do to save it.   It has gone down in history as one of the worst tech product flops of all time.

A final thought  

So, what’s to learn from all of these product flops? These stories are about products, yes, but there’s a lesson for us regular people as well…

What lessons can we take from these flops to help our own lives?

What stands out for me is listening, really listening, to what people want, not trying to fix imaginary problems (which I am guilty of sometimes), and most of all, always being prepared.  What lessons can you glean?

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