Product Development Lessons from Infamous Product Flops

You’ve spent months laying the groundwork for your company's new product: conducting in-depth market research, creating wireframes and mockups, persuading stakeholders and execs to support your plan, plotting out a detailed project schedule, wrangling the development team, and working with marketing to generate buzz and ensure a successful launch. After all that work, the product is a guaranteed, slam-dunk success, right? 

Not so fast.  

Even wildly successful companies with a tried-and-true product development process can end up with a flop on their hands, and as they say, hindsight is 20/20. Learn from these 7 famous product failures to avoid your own catastrophic launch.  

1975 - Sony Betamax

Product Development Lessons from Infamous Product Flops - Betamax

VHS vs. Betamax is one of the most famous examples of poor product marketing strategy, proving that superior products don’t always win out. When Sony chose not to license Betamax technology, they effectively forced consumers to choose between Sony as the only Betamax producer, and the convenience of VHS, which was available from multiple companies.

Lesson: A good product strategy doesn't end at launch — you need to consider customer adoption as well as overall market conditions. 

1980s - Life Savers Soda

Product Development Lessons from Infamous Product Flops - LifeSavers Soda

The product did well in taste tests, and things were looking promising for this '80s soft drink. But as soon as the Life Savers logo was slapped on the bottle, people started picturing the soda as liquified Life Savers and couldn't stomach the idea of drinking melted candy.

Lesson: Understand how customers perceive your brand. While you can be innovative and push into new markets, don't try to venture so far outside your territory that you confuse customers or muddle your image. 

1981 - DeLorean DMC-12

Product Development Lessons from Infamous Product Flops - DeLorean
“You built a time machine… out of a DeLorean??” 

Introduced in 1981 with a unique stainless-steel body design and gull-wing doors, the DeLorean was the pet project of famed auto exec John DeLorean, who designed iconic vehicles like the Pontiac GTO, Firebird, and Grand Prix. But after building a much-hyped car with a sleek design but shoddy performance, the company folded in less than two years, having produced fewer than 9,000 cars. 

Lesson: Don't expect good brand reputation to save a sub-par product. More often than not, a single stinker is enough to sink your company, so make sure everything you produce is something you can proudly stand behind. 

1992 - Crystal Pepsi

Product Development Lessons from Infamous Product Flops - CrystalPepsi

When Pepsi decided to jump on an early-90s marketing fad that equated clarity with purity and health, the world was introduced to Crystal Pepsi. It tasted like regular cola, but without any caramel coloring. Although it did well initially, sales plummeted fast and Crystal Pepsi was yanked from the market the following year.

Lesson: Novelty and gimmicks will only get you so far. You need a quality product that customers actually want if you're going to maintain success. 

2006 - Joost

Product Development Lessons from Infamous Product Flops - Joost

 Pitched as a revolutionary peer-to-peer TV network and headed by the creators of Skype, Joost seemed to have everything going for it. The celebrity-backed, buzzed-about company even had a deal with major content providers like CBS and Viacom, but it stubbornly stuck with its client-based video service model, while competitors like Hulu began offering browser-based streaming. We all know how the story ends.

Lesson: Markets can shift very, very quickly. If you're not paying attention, a competitor can come along and pull the rug out from under you — even if you have a great product. 

2011 - Qwikster 

Product Development Lessons from Infamous Product Flops - Qwikster

In what some analysts believed was an ill-conceived attempt to pacify customers protesting a recent price hike for streaming video, Netflix announced its DVD subscription service would split off into a separate entity called Qwikster. Users would access their DVDs through a separate website, meaning they'd have to manage two different title queues on two different sites. Customers hated the idea, and the project didn’t survive more than a month. 

Lesson: Resist knee-jerk reactions to criticism. Listen to your customers and react quickly, but not without thinking through your response very, very carefully. 

2013 - Facebook Home

Product Development Lessons from Infamous Product Flops - FacebookHome

Facebook spent a lot of money building hype for its Android application — they even collaborated with HTC on a branded Facebook phone with the software pre-installed. Six weeks after launch, HTC  slashed the price of the phone from $99 to 99¢. So what went wrong? According to insiders, the Facebook Home development team was made up of iPhone users who weren’t familiar with the habits and expectations of typical Android users — nor did they adequately test the software with Android users before launch. Another problem: not many people wanted that much Facebook, to the point where it took over their smartphone home screens. 

Lesson: Understand exactly how your customers prefer to use your product, not how you wish they used your product. 

Find out how Wrike helps product development teams deliver amazing results, faster than ever.

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Sources: DailyFinance.com, Buzzfeed.com, BusinessInsider.com

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