Failed Product Launches

If you have a product that you feel is ready to launch, we understand your excitement. But most likely, there’s a tad bit of anxiety, too. After all, failed product launches do not discriminate. In fact, failing is an equal-opportunity phenomenon, and it can happen to the best of us. No, seriously, ever heard of Apple? How about Microsoft, Twitter, Nintendo, or Sony? While their success stories may include some of the gadgets you have in your house or your pocket, there were some flops along the way. 

Were these failed product launches preventable? Yes! And we’re ready to back that statement up with evidence. As a platform specializing in idea validation, extensive competition & market research, as well as price and position testing, we’ve compiled a lot of data about the importance of product validation before launching. For instance, some common reasons why launches fail include:

  • Lack of funds
  • Lack of a strong community
  • Lack of marketing knowledge
  • Lack of a professional team

Another reality is sometimes the market just doesn’t want it. Plain and simple.

That’s why this article looks at the most infamous flops in gadget history from some of your most trusted brands. The goal in showcasing these flops is not only to show that failures can happen to anyone but also that today, anyone, no matter how new an entrepreneur, has access to the tools and know-how to prevent it. 

Behold the Wall of Failed Product Launches (aka Flops)

#1 TwitterPeek

Product Category: Mobile Device

Reasons it flopped:

  • Idea validation: The idea was not validated by the market
  • Positioning: Marketed as a time-saver and item of convenience. 

We all know the sarcastically sage advice of keeping one phone for the wife and another for the girlfriend. But Twitter isn’t anyone’s lover, so there was absolutely no need to create an entirely separate device for one application, taking up valuable real estate in people’s pockets. Most avid Tweeters already had the latest smartphone, so the TwitterPeek really was much ado about nothing. This is a classic flop that could have been stopped at the idea validation stage.

Back in the day when there were pagers, people were accustomed to reading only a part of a message, but smartphones did away with that, and users began to expect more. So, the fact that TwitterPeek, a device devoted entirely to one app, displayed the tweets in a manner that was difficult to read created more problems than it solved. On top of everything, it was way too expensive, priced at $200.

As first in our presentation of failed product launches, the moral of this story is to validate your idea. Don’t wait until millions have been spent in production to find out if your product even has a market. And finally, if you can’t solve a pain point, don’t create one.

#2 Nintendo Virtual Boy

Product category: Gaming

Reasons it flopped:

  • Timing: Rushed to market
  • Not tested: Led the company to issue a warning about the product post-factum 

The Virtual Boy quickly morphed from a futuristic set of lightweight goggles to a bulky headset. But lack of true portability was not the only factor that held this product back. It was released in the summer of 1995 and marketed as the first gaming console to feature stereoscopic 3D graphics. Sounds good in theory, but oh boy, there were flaws. For one thing, the console came with a game, Mario’s Tennis, which was intended to be multiplayer. And yet, the multiplayer feature was not enabled in the console! A gentle reminder that half-baked products are never worth pushing to market just for the sake of being first. 

Secondly, the product was not adequately tested. If it had been, then “side effects” like neck pain, eye strain, headaches, and nausea galore would have been caught at an earlier stage. In fact, it’s fortunate the company was never sued. Not so much a flop as a flippity-flop, the monochrome display and unimpressive 3D effect failed to deliver even on those benefits its marketing capitalized. 

All this, coupled with the health concerns and low-quality games, turned out to be catastrophic. Finally, the launch price was $180, which would be the equivalent of $300 today. The console was four years in development, and an entire factory in China was built for the sole purpose of manufacturing Virtual Boy’s. Needless to say, both time and money were lost in the faulty hustle.

This is why it’s imperative to be sure your audience wants what you’re building before you devote significant funding to mass production. And finally, test what benefits you should be capitalizing on. Don’t leave your product open to benign accusations of false promises.

#3 DeLorean DMC-12

Product category: Automotive

Reasons it flopped:

  • Poor market research: Did not anticipate the competition
  • Positioning: Emphasized being a luxury vehicle but turned out to be too experimental

The car with wings! Ring a bell? But in the words of Woody from Toy Story, “That’s not flying, that’s just falling with style.” Indeed, this car had swagger, but in an epic case of the user interface being monumentally nicer than the user experience, the famous car from “Back to the Future” quickly bit the dust. 

The DMC-12 was manufactured in Belfast, Ireland and was brought to life with the financial assistance of Johnny Carson and Sammy Davis, Jr. Some of the notable features included the gull-wing doors, unpainted stainless steel body panels, and a rear-mounted engine. However, the car’s release was delayed, facing tough competition upon entering the market in 1981. This, coupled with mixed reviews on performance, quality concerns, and an unfulfilled luxury image, hindered its success. 

#4 Microsoft Zune

Product Category: Music & Audio

Reasons it flopped:

  • Positioning: Failed to stress what set it apart from the iPod.
  • Timing: Entered when the market was already flooded by another product.

The first Zune was launched five years after its competitor, Apple’s iPod. By this time, it was too late. Now, while launching after a competitor is not necessarily a guarantee for failure, it’s essential to come in strong. If this is the case, the competitor’s product can act the way foils work in storytelling, looking lackluster in the background while your product shines by comparison. Competition is nothing to fear, and it can act as a tremendous juxtaposing force in your favor. 

However, in the case of Microsoft’s Zune, the product simply looked and, by all user-experience accounts, appeared to be a non-Apple version of an Apple product that had already devoured the market at the time. The iPod had already become the go-to source for portable entertainment and had taken over almost the entire mp3 industry. This made it an uphill battle from the beginning.

Still, the product was arguably a winner on its merits. For one thing, Zune had Wi-fi capabilities, which made it possible for users to share music and photos – a significant factor that set it apart from the iPod. Secondly, it had a bigger screen than the iPod, another thing users loved. And yet, the product fell short. 

The option of wirelessly being able to share music and photos is a great point to emphasize. Still, if many users run into data-sharing issues because of DRM restrictions, then the feature ultimately renders itself useless. This is why thorough market research is imperative to a successful product launch. Not only that, but it’s essential to test the demand for your product and the features that make it unique. By the time you launch and you notice you’re not meeting your sales goals, it’s too late. 

#5 Fire Phone

Product Category: Mobile Phone

Reasons it flopped:

  • Preparation: Lack of thorough consumer research
  • Timing: Too little, too late

Unfortunately, the only thing Amazon’s Fire Phone and an actual fire have in common is that they both left a trail of ashes behind them. Why? Because a company of considerable reputation chose to lean on the name of its brand and replaced data-driven insights with assumptions about its audience. Rather than conducting thorough market research, Amazon turned out to be completely off when it came to what their customers cared about, how much they were willing to pay, and even the apps they wanted. 

Sure enough, these assumptions proved to be incorrect, causing the Fire Phone to fail spectacularly. In fact, the flop was even predicted by those on the outside. The fact remains that the Fire phone was late to market, not priced competitively, and was lacking in the number of applications it was able to offer and in its other features. Meanwhile, the iPhone 6’s slick exterior with a larger screen and Apple Pay, which was compatible both within and outside of Apple’s ecosystem, turned into a significant advantage that wiped out the competition. 

#6 iPod Hi-Fi

Product Category: Music & Audio

Reasons it flopped:

  • Product specifications: Took away beloved features that the brand name already had a reputation for
  • Lack of pre-launch testing: Product was not tested for its practicality

Now, this one is a truly special example. After all, who would expect an i-anything to fail, right? Wrong! In fact, the sound system was taken off the market in just 18 months. 

It seems like lightyears ago when the iPod took off, but the brand has sold around 450 million units as of 2022. Its main advantage was its aesthetic, lightness, and portability. The two latter points cancel out when you think of the boom box that was the iPod Hi-Fi. 

True, it was never meant to be something you put in your pocket to go jogging, but the iPod’s audience was primed to expect something that was different and more compact than other stereo systems. The fact that it had to be plugged in or stuffed to the gills with 6 D batteries sort of defeated that purpose. Thus, users were left to choose between having something that had a cord attached to it or a product that took about two extra pounds of weight to make it portable. Not exactly what they signed up for. 

However, the invention of the HomePod shows that a home stereo system by this brand was something the market was ready for. If only they had tested the product a bit more, they would have ended up with one less flop on their wall.

#7 Microsoft Kin One

Product Category: Mobile Phones

Reasons it flopped:

  • Lack of market research: Made apps unavailable on a gadget that was mainly intended for social media
  • Lack of price testing: Too many hidden costs

From its design to its targeting, Kin was meant to be a phone specifically for social media and internet savvies. This is why the phone was set up to include a browser and access to social media sites, as well as some widgets. However, there were no apps. A lack of market research led Microsoft to incorrectly ascertain what its audience was looking for. 

Many people saw it as another Blackberry and expected to use it for productivity and planning. Yet that’s not what Kin had in store. By making these kinds of apps unavailable on the phone it quickly became a cumbersome piece of plastic. To add insult to injury, the Kin OS was also problematic.

Moreover, the pricing was off. Kin 1 and 2 were priced at $50 and $100, respectively, which doesn’t seem like a lot, but this particular phone was absolutely useless without the internet. And by the time you added on service fees from Verizon, the price began to creep up. Arguably, if the phone had been price-tested at the proper stage in development with all its add-ons, they would be able to judge sooner what price would lose customers. 

#8 Harley Davidson Cologne

Product category: Fragrances

Why it flopped:

  • Positioning: The product aggressively challenged customers’ brand loyalty
  • Limited target market: Product was only going to appeal to a group within those who were aficionados of the brand

Now, if Mustang can have its own line of colognes, why can’t Harley Davidson? After all, as one of the most renowned motorbike names and practically embodying the spirit of being out on the open road, the product should have been a hit. So why wasn’t it? 

The trouble for HD began when it failed to identify the brand’s actual popularity. The product stood on the shoulders of the brand it represented and was meant to appeal to an even more narrow group within that target audience. 

The product was also a victim of a brand mismatch. Harley-Davidson is primarily known for its motorcycles, and the company ultimately did not have the brand recognition or credibility to succeed in the fragrance market. As a result, the market viewed this product as a ploy to increase sales revenue.  

#9 Nike FuelBand

Product category: Wearable tech

Reasons it flopped:

  • Long-term strategic planning: Failure to factor in product with the company’s broader strategy
  • Rushed to market: Better to be the best, than be first

The big Nike swoosh! The company’s slogan is ‘Just do it,’ but in this case, checking the market before doing it would’ve helped. True, at first, the FuelBand was in high demand. It even sold out during the initial launch. However, where the company was able to properly lean on its name to attract buyers, they weren’t adequately prepared to handle everything that came after.

The company was not prepared to handle the supremely intricate business that was wearable tech. Though it’s something people do wear, it’s a far cry from sneakers and requires an entirely different business strategy. 

Not only that, but the company rushed. The product was meant to help people keep track of physical activity, but the metric known as “fuel points” confused many users. And did we forget to mention the “conflict of interest”? Perhaps not in the strictest legal definition, but there was indeed a conflict of interest between FuelBand and Apple Watch. This became apparent in 2014 when Apple announced its intention to enter the wearable market, too. Eventually, the company decided to fall on its sword and discontinue the FuelBand after three years in order to maintain its Nike+ application on the Apple Watch itself. 

So be sure to check the market before you dive in and consider how the product you’re currently launching will affect products already in circulation or future plans you have down the pipeline.

#10 Juicero

Product Category: Kitchen Appliances

Reasons it flopped:

  • Pricing: The product was priced too high considering that it didn’t solve a real problem
  • Product testing: The product included a slew of unnecessary features, contributing to price mark up.

Comedian Jerry Seinfeld once said that if it gets late enough at night, the products advertised on TV start to look good. This must have been what happened to all the poor souls who purchased the overpriced juicer known as Juicero.

This high-tech juicing machine experienced a failed product launch primarily due to a combination of overengineering, high costs, and a lack of perceived value. Launched in 2016, the Juicero machine was designed to squeeze juice from proprietary packs of pre-cut fruits and vegetables. However, it faced criticism for its exorbitant price tag and the fact that users could achieve a similar result by manually squeezing the packs without the expensive machine. The product’s initial selling point was its internet connectivity, allowing users to track and control their juicing process remotely, but this feature failed to resonate with consumers who deemed it unnecessary and contributed to the overall high cost of the device. This is exactly why testing for precisely what features your consumers want is imperative. 

Additionally, Juicero faced a public relations crisis when it was revealed that the machine could be bypassed entirely, and the juice packs could be hand-squeezed to achieve the same results. This revelation undermined the machine’s supposed technological innovation and reinforced the perception that Juicero was an overpriced and unnecessary gadget. The company eventually faced financial struggles and discontinued its product in 2017, marking Juicero as a notable example of a failed product launch resulting from a combination of misjudged pricing, questionable value proposition, and inadequate market understanding.

#11 Apple Newton 

Product Category: Virtual Assistants

Reasons it flopped:

  • Pricing: High price made the product unavailable to a wider consumer base.
  • Insufficient market research: Assumptions were made about the market, rather than data-based conclusions.

The Apple Newton, introduced in 1993, suffered from a combination of technological limitations, high pricing, and premature market expectations, contributing to its status as a failed product launch. Marketed as a personal digital assistant (PDA), the Newton was ahead of its time and faced challenges with its handwriting recognition technology. The device struggled to accurately interpret users’ handwriting, leading to frustration and a lack of user confidence. This technological shortcoming, coupled with the relatively large size of the device, diminished its appeal and practicality for the average consumer.

Furthermore, the Apple Newton was positioned as a premium product with a correspondingly high price tag. This pricing strategy positioned the device as a luxury item, limiting its accessibility to a broader consumer base. The high expectations set by Apple’s brand reputation also played a role; Newton fell short of the anticipated groundbreaking innovation, leading to disappointment among consumers and critics alike. Subsequent iterations of PDAs and smartphones with more advanced technology eventually overshadowed the Newton, and Apple discontinued the product line in 1998. Despite its failure, the Apple Newton contributed valuable lessons for the company, guiding future successful ventures in the realm of personal digital devices.

#12 Jibo

Product Category: Virtual Assistants

Reasons it flopped:

  • Limited functionality: Too little features at too high a price.
  • Competition: Rapid advancements in voice-activated virtual assistants
  • Innovation: The product lacked much-needed regular software updates
  • Positioning: Product could’ve benefited from clear and compelling value propositions

If you’re scrolling through this list and thinking that ideas stopped failing after 2010, think again! Flops transcend time and space. The Jibo home robot, launched in 2017, for example, faced numerous challenges that contributed to its failure in the market. Despite early excitement surrounding its promise of being a social and interactive household companion, Jibo fell short of consumer expectations due to limited functionality and a high price point. The robot’s capabilities were restricted to basic tasks such as taking photos, providing weather updates, and engaging in simple conversations. This limited functionality failed to justify the premium price, making it difficult for consumers to perceive significant value in owning a Jibo.

Moreover, the rapid evolution of voice-activated virtual assistants like Amazon’s Alexa and Google Assistant overshadowed Jibo’s capabilities, offering users more extensive and practical features. The lack of regular software updates and improvements further hindered Jibo’s competitiveness, rendering it obsolete compared to the continuous advancements seen in other smart home technologies. Ultimately, despite its initial appeal as a friendly and interactive home robot, Jibo’s inability to keep up with technological advancements and deliver meaningful value to consumers led to its discontinuation in 2019, marking it as a failed product launch in the rapidly evolving smart home market.

#13 Nexus Q by Google

Product Category: Virtual Assistants

Reasons it flopped:

  • Pricing: High price tag ($299) without justifiable functionality.
  • Limited compatibility: The product only worked with Android devices and Google Play content.
  • Positioning: Consumers didn’t understand the product’s purpose, features, and benefits 

Finally, as we approach the end of Flopperdom, there’s Nexus Q, introduced by Google in 2012. The product failed due to several key factors. One significant issue was its high price tag, which did not align with the limited functionality it offered. Priced at $299, the Nexus Q primarily functioned as a media streamer, but it lacked the versatility and features to justify its premium cost, especially when compared to more affordable alternatives in the market. Additionally, the device had limited compatibility, working only with Android devices and Google Play content, which restricted its appeal to a broader consumer base.

The little round fella also suffered from a lack of clear positioning and marketing strategy. Its ambiguous purpose and the absence of distinctive features left potential consumers confused about its intended use. Google halted the release of the Nexus Q before it became widely available, acknowledging its failure in meet consumer expectations and market demands. The product’s shortcomings in pricing, functionality, and market positioning contributed to its swift discontinuation.

Common Reasons Product Launches Fail

When it comes to launching a new product, there are many potential pitfalls that can derail even the most well-planned launch. In fact, research suggests that up to 95% of product launches fail to meet their initial sales targets. With such a high rate of failure, it’s essential to understand what causes these failures and how to avoid them. In this section, we will explore the common reasons for product launch failures and provide tips on how to prevent them.

  1. Lack of Market Research

See examples 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 11 & 12

One of the primary reasons for product launch failures is a lack of proper market research. Without a deep understanding of your target market and their needs, it’s challenging to create a product that will resonate with potential customers. Many companies make the mistake of assuming they know what their target audience wants without conducting any formal research or gathering feedback from potential customers. This can lead to a mismatch between the product and its intended consumers, resulting in low sales and, ultimately, failure.

To avoid this, it’s crucial to conduct thorough market research before launching a new product. This includes analyzing competitors’ products, conducting surveys and focus groups, and gathering feedback from potential customers. By understanding your target market’s needs and preferences, you can create a product that meets their demands and has a higher chance of success.

  1. Lack of Idea Validation

See examples 1, 5, 8, 9 & 10

Launching a new product without validating the idea first is another common reason for failure. Many companies fall in love with their product idea and assume that customers will feel the same way. However, this may not always be the case. Without proper validation, you risk spending time and resources on a product that may not have enough demand or appeal.

To avoid this mistake, it’s important to validate your product idea before investing significant resources in its development. This can include conducting surveys and focus groups, creating prototypes for user testing, and gathering feedback from potential customers. By validating your idea early on, you can ensure that your product has a market and is likely to be successful.

  1. Lack of Optimal Pricing

See examples 2, 7, 10, 11, 13

Another common reason for product launch failures is pricing the product incorrectly. Setting a price that is too high will discourage potential customers from purchasing, while setting it too low can lead to decreased profit margins. Additionally, if your pricing strategy doesn’t align with your target market’s expectations, it can also result in lower sales.

To avoid this mistake, it’s essential to conduct thorough market research and competitor analysis to determine the optimal price for your product. Consider factors such as production costs, customer willingness to pay, and the value your product offers. It’s also crucial to regularly review and adjust pricing strategies as needed to stay competitive in the market.

  1. Incorrect Positioning

See examples 1, 3, 4, 6, 8, 12 & 13

Lastly, incorrect positioning can also lead to product launch failures. Product positioning refers to how a product is perceived in the minds of consumers. If your product is positioned incorrectly, it may not resonate with its intended audience or may even target the wrong audience altogether.

To avoid this issue, it’s crucial to define your target market and create a positioning strategy that will appeal to them. This includes understanding their needs and preferences, as well as how your product can fulfill those needs better than competitors’ products. By identifying the unique selling points of your product and effectively communicating them through marketing efforts, you can position your product for success.

Avoid a Flop with

Trust us that all these failures served their purpose. And that purpose is to help you scoot past the hurdles and avoid all these mistakes with a single platform. That’s right. There is a comprehensive platform that provides you with all the tools you need to make your next product launch a success. Meet

Prelaunch lets you validate your product concept at an early stage. From there you’ll be able to build a community and get people pumped about the launch of your next big thing. 

The platform uses an innovative approach, where brands introduce their initial concepts on the platform while a community commits a small amount of money to reserve a discount if these Products reach the market. This way, they give credible signals of their intention to buy. Prelaunch then takes the data, analyzes it, compares it with its own benchmarks, and tells you what the estimated product performance in the market is and who its customers would be. And since it’s based on real purchase intent, it’s ten times better than any survey or focus group discussion.

Prelauch allows you to build a page, list features, list different models or versions of your product, as well as test for the best price. The platform’s unique subscription/reservation model gives you an even better idea of who your audience is by sorting out the early majority from early adapters. And if you’re looking to see if there are specific features that would sway your potential audience, you can test for that, too, with different iterations of the product. 

Finally, once you’ve narrowed down which version of your product will be in the highest demand, you’ll be able to find the strongest positioning angle to pitch your product.

All this data is compiled in an executive dashboard complete with audience breakdown, buyer persona profiles, and best-performing product iterations. These insights are accompanied by suggestions and recommendations on what you can improve before you launch – Prelaunch. 

To learn more about how not to end up on the wall of failed product launches, book your demo here

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