The wheel. The printing press. The telephone. The light bulb. The internet. BEER! These are just some of the profound products throughout history that have transformed and enriched the world.
And then, on the other end of the spectrum, are some products that are so astonishingly ill-conceived, they make us wonder: “What on earth were they thinking!?”
Here are 7 terrible product ideas that never should have seen the light of day:
1. Cheetos Lip Balm
Many people around the world love Cheetos. But do they love Cheetos SO MUCH that they want the cheesy taste on their lips all day long? Well, in 2005, Frito-Lay thought the answer was a resounding yes, and so they introduced Cheetos-flavored lip balm. Not surprisingly, the product failed to connect with consumers who preferred their lip balm to taste and smell like familiar flavors such as vanilla, cherry, mint, orange, and so on. Even Chester Cheetah probably thought this was a really, really bad idea.
2. Colgate Frozen Meals
In 1982, Colgate unveiled a line of frozen meals. The problem? Consumers couldn’t help but imagine the meal tasting like toothpaste (even Homer Simpson wouldn’t want to eat a minty-fresh beef lasagna). The folks at Colgate should have absolutely seen this problem in advance, but they didn’t. Alas, the product line died. But hey, don’t feel too bad about Colgate — they are currently the number one toothpaste brand in the world with an estimated value of $15.6 billion USD.
3. Microsoft’s “Clippy” Office Assistant
In the 1990s, there was near-universal ABSOLUTE LOATHING for “Clippy,” the painfully annoying MS-Office assistant that would continually pop-up whenever it thought a user needed some help. The intention was pretty good (it’s nice to be helpful). But the execution was awful. Microsoft received an immense volume of negative feedback, and in Office 2007 Clippy was finally, mercifully removed.
4. Heinz EZ-Squirt Ketchup
Heinz is easily the most popular brand of ketchup in the world. But sometimes, even the biggest and best among us make mistakes. Behold: Heinz’s EZ-Squirt Ketchup. Introduced in 2000 and available in green, purple, and teal, the idea was to make ketchup more fun and appealing for kids. After six years of lousy sales and marketplace mockery, the product was discontinued. (Heinz claims this ending after a few years was the plan all along, but was it?)
5. Twitter Peek
Have you ever said to yourself: “Hmmm, you know what I REALLY need in my life is a mobile device that ONLY allows me to send and receive Tweets, and only gives me a 20-character preview of tweets?” Of course not. But in 2009, that didn’t stop the folks at Twitter from checking both of these boxes with TwitterPeek. Not surprisingly, it was panned by consumers and disappeared.
6. Gerber Singles
OK, let’s just admit it: Every parent at one time or another has decided that baby food looks and smells kind of good (especially after a long and tiring day), and sometimes the spoon of mashed peas or apple puree ends up in their mouth instead of their infant’s. There’s no shame in this. But there IS plenty of shame in Gerber Singles. Launched in 1974, this was — believe it or not — a line of baby food for adults. Flavors included beef burgundy and blueberry delight. Consumers couldn’t get past the packaging (can you blame them?), and Gerber Singles entered the dustbin of history.
7. Bic Disposable Underwear
We have saved what might be the worst product idea of all time for last: Bic disposable underwear for women. Yes, we have all been in situations when having a second pair of underwear would be really helpful. But the idea of wearing underwear with the express purpose of disposing of it later is a different matter. It didn’t take long for this product line to get disposed (get it?).
Failure Isn’t Always Bad
We’ve had some fun looking at a few of the worst product ideas of all time. But still, in some way we have to respect the fact that these companies took a chance and tried to do something successful. After all, life is about risk and reward — and that means failure is part of the picture. Consider that Thomas Edison, the inventor of the lightbulb, is responsible for several truly epic product failures. Yet where would we be without his ingenuity and perseverance? As Bruce Lee said: “Don't fear failure — not failure, but low aim is the crime. In great attempts, it is glorious even to fail.” (Granted, introducing disposable underwear does not qualify as “great attempt,” but the advice is nevertheless essential and inspiring!)
What Products Are in Your “Hall of Shame”?
Are there any products you’ve seen or used over the years that had you saying: “Wow, this is a remarkably bad idea”? Please comment below. There is always room to add more ill-conceived products to the Hall of Shame!