A website just ranked the 50 worst product flops of all time. I reranked their list.
Last week, the pagination experts at 24/7 Wall St. put out a list ranking the “50 worst product flops of all time.” The rankings are based on, well, I guess their feelings. And hey, as a product of the child empowerment ’80s, I can assure you that I have feelings too.
Here are their 50 picks for the worst product flops of all time, plus my snap judgments on whether each ranking is too high, too low or just about right.
1 | Google Glass
Too high. Google Glass most certainly didn’t set the world on fire, mainly due to (1) being way too far ahead of its time and (2) being way too goofy-looking to gain mainstream acceptance. But the worst flop ever? I can’t imagine so. Google alone has had bigger flops (once of which we’ll get to later), and for a company worth approximately half the money in the world, their financial hit on Glass amounted to little more than a rounding error.
2 | Apple Newton
Too high. The Newton was a major, and high profile, failure. But I think a lot of its reputation for a flop comes from the fact that it basically killed Apple in the early ’90s. And now that we’ve seen Apple bounce back — with a furious vengeance the likes of which ye have never seen — the Newton looks more like a quirky swing-and-a-miss than a company-killing strike out.
3 | E.T. The Extra Terrestrial for Atari
About right. The E.T. game wasn’t just one of the biggest video game flops of all time, it more or less killed off Atari’s dominance in the space and cleared the path for Nintendo to swoop in. And had Nintendo not done that, E.T. might’ve killed off home video games for years. In that alternative timeline, right now we’d only be on, like, the PS2 and Gamecube era.
4 | Burger King’s Satisfries
Way, way too high. Fourth? For the crinkle cut, small portion of fries that Burger King started selling five years ago? This shouldn’t even be in the top 50 at all, let alone fourth. If I was to make a list of just the top 50 *fast food* flops, it might not make the list. Did the people making this list have a scarring experience with Satisfries. “Lisa, I hear your arguments, but I have to rank them fourth. Satisfries ran over my dog.”
5 | R.J. Reynolds premier smokeless cigarettes
Too high. R.J. Reynolds introduced smokeless cigarettes in 1988, sunk $1 billion into them and wound up pulling them off the market in a year. But I don’t really remember them at all from the late ’80s. I was young, but still, shouldn’t things at the top of a famous product flops list be more universally recognizable? (At least to someone who’s been professionally ass-to-elbows deep in pop culture for two decades?)
6 | Cheetos lip balm
Way, way too high. It was definitely a miscalculation to think people would want their lips to taste like fake cheese powder. But top six? Is there anyone in the world who’s like, “I used to love Cheetos, but after that whole lip balm debacle I would never buy them anymore”?
7 | Terra Nova on FOX
Too high. I remember a little bit about the Jurassic Park-esque show Terra Nova; when it came out in 2011, I even panned it in my list of 11-word TV reviews. It ranked seventh on 24/7 Wall St.’s list because of the budget-busting cost of the episodes, leading to a big loss for FOX when they canceled it after one season. But there are certainly other TV shows that feel like they were bigger flops relative to expectations (if not financially), like Joey, the XFL, the 2015 revival of The Muppets and even Cop Rock.
8 | Clairol’s Touch of Yogurt shampoo
Too high. Came out in 1979 and flopped. Would absolutely dominate the market if it came out today. People LOVE toiletries with natural-but-weird ingredients.
9 | New Coke
Way too low. Could be in contention for the top spot, if not top three. One of the most high profile — and costliest — product failures of all time.
10 | Windows Vista
Too low. Windows XP was a beloved operating system. Vista was change for the sake of change that just exacerbated Windows’ underbelly of flaws and sent Microsoft into the beginning of a downward spiral that would let other tech companies supplant them for the top spot in the world.
11 | Colgate Kitchen Entrees
Just about right. Colgate’s early ’80s attempted brand diversification into frozen food was as comical as it was misguided; even if their meals didn’t taste like toothpaste, that was kind of the implication.
12 | Coors Rocky Mountain Sparkling Water
Too high. Can’t fault Coors for trying to get in on the burgeoning ’90s bottled water market, even though this failed product created “watery” brand associations that they should’ve really tried to avoid.
13 | Harley Davidson perfume
Too high. Came out in 1994, didn’t move the needle one way or the other.
14 | Persil Power detergent
Too high. Persil Power was a “revolutionary” detergent, created by Unilever in 1994, that wound up costing the company $300 million. That’s a big loss. But this is supposed to be a list of interesting things, and it feels like there should be a ceiling on how high a random detergent can rank on a list of interesting things. Fourteenth is above that ceiling.
15 | Cosmopolitan yogurt
Too high. Feels like a low-profile failure that didn’t really have a long-term effect on the Cosmo brand.
16 | DH 106 Comet jet
Too low. The DH 106 Comet was the first commercial jet, and after its debut in 1949, it suffered from several fatal crashes. That probably warrants higher placement on this list than a magazine’s attempt at white labeling yogurt or a toothpaste’s attempt at frozen dinners.
17 | DeLorean
Just about right. The DeLorean is an interesting case because the cars undeniably flopped in their era but, thanks to Back to the Future, literally everyone today has heard of them and would love to take a picture with one. That makes the DeLorean awfully tough to rank, so I’ll just leave this spot alone.
18 | Heinz EZ Squirt colored ketchup
Just about right. Heinz’s ketchups in blue, purple, green and more lasted for a surprising six years. They never looked natural, from the day they debuted to the day they were discontinued. But to me, the biggest flaw of the product is its necessity. Do kids really need to be enticed to use ketchup? I have a toddler who’s perfectly happy with old-fashioned red ketchup, and it’s not like that affinity is going to decrease as he gets older nor would it increase if the ketchup were chartreuse.
19 | United States Football League
Just about right. The USFL is one of the many failed pro football leagues of the past half century. I’m assuming it gets the nod over others because Trump was an owner in the league and it’s important to point out his many, many failures at every possible opportunity.
20 | Facebook Home
Too high — and also not really a product. Home was an app that Facebook created in 2013 to replace the homescreen of Android phones. It was a failure, but not close to Facebook’s biggest. (That would certainly be their generosity with your most personal information, comrade.)
21 | Ford Edsel
Too low. How are you going to do a list of product flops and have the Edsel in 21st place? It’s been on these lists since long before you were born. It walked uphill both ways to school to make it onto these lists.
22 | Friendster
Too low. The first big player in the social media space, now reduced to more or less a footnote.
23 | Doritos WOW! Chips
Just about right. These “diet” Doritos were just ahead of their time. Sure, they used olestra as their key fat substitute, which caused diarrhea. But if they’d just waited until the probiotic craze — when people started buying yogurt where diarrhea was a feature, not a bug — WOW! chips would’ve killed.
24 | Microsoft Zune
Too low. Microsoft really positioned the Zune as an iPod killer — or, at least, a viable competitor. It was neither. The only thing it killed was the idea that anyone but Apple could produce a successful music player.
25 | GlaxoSmithKline Relenza
Slightly too low. Relenza was one of the two flu drugs released in 1999. It became the Betamax to Tamaflu’s VHS. Speaking of that, why hasn’t Betamax appeared on this list yet? What the hell?
26 | Google+
Way too low. Google put basically all of their energy into getting their social network off the ground in 2011 and it never went anywhere. Now the only people left on it are Google employees and so, so many white supremacists.
27 | HP Touchpad
Too high. While it’s a failure as a product, its legacy is anything but. HP’s iPad competitor certainly didn’t take off — until the prices were slashed to $100-$150. Then they sold out everywhere. So, if nothing else, they gave other companies a strategy for competing with the iPad: Keep the price as low as possible. And Amazon’s actually managed to achieve some traction in the tablet market thanks to that lesson.
28 | Kellogg’s Breakfast Mates
Too high. Breakfast Mates were an all-in-one package with a serving of cereal, a carton of milk and a plastic spoon. They were certainly unnecessary, but one of the top 30 worst product flops ever?
29 | Maxwell House pre-brewed coffee
Too high. Pre-brewed coffee is now a giant market. Maxwell House was just 30 years too early.
30 | McDonald’s Arch Deluxe
Too low. How is (arguably) the most famous fast food product flop ranked 30th, while Burger King’s Satisfries are fourth?
31 | HD-DVD
Too low. There’s no way HD-DVD should’ve lost the high definition home movie battle to Sony Blu-Ray. Sony’s entire company history is littered with failed attempts to get their awkward proprietary formats to gain primary market share. This is one of, like, two times ever they actually pulled it off. There’s a real embarrassment in that, HD-DVD.
32 | Microsoft Bob
Just about right. Disrespectful to Clippy.
33 | 47 Ronin (the Keanu remake)
Too high. Really, this is the movie bomb they went with?
34 | Qwikster
Just about right. Netflix’s attempt to spin off its DVD-by-mail service into a company called Qwikster in 2011 was certainly a misstep — but obviously not one that affected the company’s long-term trajectory.
35 | Nintendo Virtual Boy
Too low. I owned a Virtual Boy and wrote a defense of the Virtual Boy. But I can’t argue that it was a major screw-up in Nintendo’s history.
36 | MeeGo
Too high. MeeGo was a smartphone operating system, introduced by Nokia in 2010. It was such a minor blip on the radar it shouldn’t have made this list at all.
37 | Crystal Pepsi
Way too low. For those who weren’t around in the early ’90s, it’s hard to describe JUST how big the hype was for Crystal Pepsi — and how much all of us really, really tried to like it. But eventually, we just couldn’t fake it anymore. It was gross.
38 | Hot Wheels and Barbie computers
Too high. Mattel licensed the Hot Wheels and Barbie brands to a small-time Canadian computer company in 1999. The computers weren’t any good and the company went out of business. But adding “bad licensing deals” to this list opens a giant can of worms — and I’m not sure why this one deal would be the representative.
39 | LaserDisc
Too low. LaserDisc was the predecessor of the DVD, and with a smarter strategy, should’ve been able to get more of a market share as the high-quality alternative to VHS.
40 | Sega Dreamcast
Just about right. The Dreamcast has a rabid fan following — which I learned in a big and angry way after I mocked it several years ago — but it got lost in the console market and wound up ushering in the sad end of Sega’s hardware days.
41 | Smith & Wesson Mountain Bikes
Just about right. These bikes came out in 2002. They *just* missed the era of people masturbating over guns, and some of that could spray onto a Smith & Wesson bike brand too.
42 | Macintosh Lisa
Too low. Lisa was a massive failure for Apple that slowed down the progress toward more powerful prosumer computers.
43 | Betamax
Way too low. The inclusion at 43 almost feels like it’s perfunctory; like, “we know had to include this on the list but we didn’t want to.” That’s nuts. If you were to survey the general public on the biggest product flops of all time, wouldn’t like 90 percent of people include the Betamax?
44 | Too Human
Just right, I guess. I’m not that plugged into modern video games, but this seemed like it was a pretty major flop by the numbers.
45 | Mobile ESPN
Just right. Ha! I forgot all about the ESPN flip phone, but I love it for one of the bottom spots on a list like this.
46 | Life Savers soda
Too high. Life Savers soda is a funny product for sure, but worthy of a spot on the list? Probably not.
47 | Mars Needs Moms
Too high. I’m just not sure that I’d sum up the entire history of movie flops as the 47 Ronin remake and Mars Needs Moms. If you’re talking about movies that lost the most money, those are fifth and sixth, respectively. (Adjusted for inflation, 23rd and 16th respectively). If you’re talking about critical reception, 47 Ronin got 15 percent on Rotten Tomatoes and Mars Needs Moms got 37 percent — neither great, but neither rock bottom. If you’re talking about long-term impact, neither killed a studio nor any high-profile careers. Just two odd picks.
48 | Eons.com
Too high. Eons was, apparently, a social media site from the mid 2000s targeted at people over 50. Has anyone ever heard of it? Something has to dive off the diving board in order to bellyflop.
49 | Supertrain
Just about right, I guess. Supertrain was an NBC show in 1979 and called the most expensive TV series ever aired. (It’s since been eclipsed repeatedly.) It was canceled after nine episodes. It’s another strange choice as a representative of television’s overindulgent flops, but why not. It’s fine enough.
50 | Samsung Galaxy Note 7
Too low. These were the ones that kept catching on fire, a devastating blow in Samsung’s battle with Apple to reign over the smartphone market.
The Minidisc wuz robbed.