10 Famous Product Failures And the Advertisements That Did Not Sell Them


Everyone makes mistakes. When big business makes mistakes, however, it’s typically after they’ve spent millions of dollars on marketing campaigns to let us know about their flawed products.

Here we present the advertisements for ten of the most infamous product failures in history.


10) Sony Betamax

The 1979 Betamax was a real breakthrough for its time and for the video recording business. It’s a shame it didn't catch on. Grandma must be pretty ticked off that all of her memories are trapped in a dead format.

Why it failed: Despite having higher quality (and a cooler name), Betamax was defeated by VHS when over 40 companies decided to run with the VCR-compatible format instead. The lower price of VHS-C camcorders probably helped a little too.


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9) Coca Cola- New Coke

Bill Cosby, a soda can, and a crystal ball. Nope, nothing odd there.

Is Bill Cosby really trying to be believable?

Why it failed: There was nothing wrong with old coke. Life lesson: If it ain’t broke, don’t fizz it.



8) Polaroid - Instant Home Movies

Five seconds into this commercial and this guy has already lost us. "Imagine if someone invented a wonderful box (what??) and gave you a way to catch little pieces of your life so that you could see them again, anytime, by just dropping them into the box. Now, now...wo..wouldn't that be something?"

Why it failed: Polaroid will inevitably be associated forever with the act of standing around shaking a picture that may or may not come out as intended. Trusting Polaroid to capture any life event big enough to warrant a video camera would just seem reckless.


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7) Pepsi - Crystal Pepsi

Who knew that 15 years later Van Halen would be done with Sammy Hagar and bring back David Lee Roth? Also, who knew we would live in a world without Crystal Pepsi? We were pretty sure it was here to stay.


Why it failed:Similar to New Coke, there was no real need for Crystal Pepsi. Despite the shifting tides in early 90’s marketing towards healthiness and purity, people just didn’t get excited about a clear caffeine-free Pepsi. Not really a surprise- those who were that concerned with the health and color of their beverage probably would not be Pepsi drinkers to begin with.


6) McDonalds - Arch Deluxe Burger

Worst. Commercial. Ever.

Anytime you think the best way to market your product is by standing in an elevator in a chef's outfit and begging the people on that elevator to eat that product...you might want to go back to the drawing board.


Why it failed:The goal of the Deluxe line was to market McDonald’s fine cuisine to the adult demographic. Unfortunately, adults weren’t interested in paying significantly more for slightly different burgers.



5) Apple - Lisa

Wow. Looks like it took Steve Jobs and his minions a few years to really get the hang of that "cool commercial" thing....


Why it failed: The Lisa was geared towards business consumers, though those consumers were attracted to the lower price tag on IBM PCs. NASA got behind the Lisa project, which they regretted after it was discontinued two years later.


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4) Levi’s - Type 1 Jeans

Apparently jeans that are perfect for those situations when you're being dragged through the dirt while hanging on to a rope wrapped around a possessed car don’t resonate with the masses. This confusing Super Bowl commercial was simultaneously the debut and the death knell for Levi's Type 1 Jeans.


Why it failed: Fashion is a capricious field. The designers at Levi’s made Fashion Fumble #41b: Celebrating the launch of a product before checking to see if anyone RSVP’d to the Evite.



3) IBM - PCjr

This is what happens when you only have enough money in your marketing budget to afford a dead guy. This commercial is flawed on many levels. Would Charlie Chaplin really know how to use a computer? He was born in 1889, back when North Dakota wasn't even a state yet.


Why it failed: This computer had a hefty price tag. At $699, it was twice the price of computers from Atari and Commodore. Many were also disappointed at the awkward layout of the factory-shipped keyboard.



2) DeLorean - DMC-12

How this car failed to catch on perplexes us. We know we''d want one.


Why it failed: The fall of the DeLorean Motor Company was not due to the vehicle, which is no surprise because this car is an incredible piece of engineering and style. Rather, failure ensued after hard times fell on the company’s founder. John DeLorean’s empire was dismantled after his arrest on accusations of drug-trafficking resulted in bankruptcy.



1) Ford - Edsel

"They'll know you've arrived when you drive up in the 1958 Edsel, the car that's truly new!"
I guess in 1958, new was slang for ugly. The front of this car bothers us, as it looks like an angry mechanical face.


Why it failed: A small army worth of factors came together to curse the Edsel. A name that didn’t resonate with the crowd, a bizarre pricing strategy, and a national recession have all been cited as factors by those who use the Edsel as an example of how not to market a product.



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shishir says

Great work done but still there are more which outnumber these. If you cam post some new and recent it will be more interesting.
Posted at 4:25 pm
Darren says

It is truly amazing to see good and bad advertising in retrospect. If only we ad agencies had the foresight to know what would be good and bad, we could have not looked so bad on many aspects. What is REALLY amazing, is how many ideas were still horrible, yet the advertising was so good, people still bought it.
Posted at 6:07 am
Rosa says

WOW, three years ....and still bright and new...and I still in need of an ANGEL, and 1900.00 to show at the word, my consumer product. too much to learn...to many failers.
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Stan says

The mcdonalds one at number 6 is one of the biggest fails I've ever seen.
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sony may have lost the betamax battle, but they wont the blue-ray battle!
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Steve says

You mean Blu-Ray ? -_-
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Some of these failures could have been easily prevented if only the product manufacturers and their advertising companies would have researched the market a bit before launching them. Companies like EMI Encore Marketing can help avoid such mistakes by making market studies and analysis and giving the best advice about the advertising campaign.
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Graham says

I really think that these companies have learnt a lot from their failures. That's why they have so many successful campaigns today. Just take Apple for example, their advertiesement are always very effective. I think there is a great advertisement on what makes Windows XP slow, that is worth watching.
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