It happens to the best of us: We come up with a great new product, launch it confidently into the marketplace, and … it flops. Horribly.

It’s all part of the job when you’re a product designer, but knowing that doesn’t make it any easier when it’s your product that flops To help you avoid that fate, take a look at this list of some of the worst product fails of all time, and the lessons you can learn from each.

  1. New Coke.
  2. Many a lament has been written on this sad can of cola, which blazed brightly and burned out within just a few months back in 1985. After Coca-Cola had already earned massive success with its flagship drink over the 99 years of its existence – it was first sold to customers in 1896 – the company decided to change the formula. The result was a drink that consumers generally referred to as “New Coke.”

    Why? Pepsi had started moving in on Coke’s market share, so the company thought it would try something new. But the product didn’t take off the way Coke thought it would and the product was pulled from the shelves. The original formula was reintroduced as “Coca-Cola Classic,” much to soda drinkers’ relief.

    The lesson? If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. If your product is doing well, you probably don’t need to tweak it much.

    That’s not to say that you shouldn’t take a risk. If New Coke had taken off, after all, it would be one of the greatest stories of a risk that paid off in product history. But if you are going to take a big risk like changing a product that’s already performing well, be ready to take some losses and rework your strategy in case it doesn’t pan out.

  3. Cosmopolitan Yogurt.
  4. Cosmopolitan magazine, which is one of the most popular women’s magazines in the world, tried to branch out into a totally different product area when they came up with their own branded yogurt. The reason behind the decision was a survey that yielded the information that “65 percent of Cosmo readers had used edibles in the bedroom.”

    How that led the company to yogurt, and not, say, chocolate, no one knows. But Cosmopolitan Yogurt launched at a significantly higher price point than competing brands, with zero marketing, and was pulled from the shelves 18 months later.

    The lesson? Go with what you know. If you’ve worked in the auto industry for 30 years and have an idea for a better kind of windshield wiper, chances are it’s at least a decent idea.

    On the other hand, if you’ve worked in the auto industry for 30 years and you come up with an idea for a new shampoo, you might want to take some time researching that before jumping in with both feet. It might change the shampoo industry forever – or it could be an idea that’s better left unrealized.

  5. Coors Rocky Mountain Sparkling Water.
  6. Some brands are so associated with their product, that it’s almost impossible to separate them. Take Coors, for example – as the maker of one of the highest-selling beers in the world, the company’s name and logo are instantly recognizable. You see or hear “Coors,” and the average person thinks “beer.”

    However, in 1990 Coors decided to break into the growing bottled water market with Coors Rocky Mountain Sparkling Water. This was supposed to piggyback off of Coors’ beer, which the company advertised as being brewed with Rocky Mountain spring water.

    The jump was a bit too much for consumers, and sales were sluggish. Coors ended up pulling the product within a few years, cancelling the trademark in 1997.

    The lesson? Make sure that all the products under your brand name make sense together. If you’ve got a recognizable brand with a single product, realize that people are going to strongly associate that product with that brand. Therefore, as you branch out into different products under the same brand name, you want to make sure that you don’t go too far afield.

If you’re working on your next product and want to give it the best chance at success you can, Pivot can help. In addition to our product design staff, we’ve got marketing and business development pros who can help you avoid a New Coke-like disaster. Contact us for a free consultation.