Written by Ian Ord
Face it, marketing departments and product development divisions can be made up of real dopes sometimes. We mean, for every Apple iPod there’s an Arch Deluxe or worse, a Time Warner/AOL merger. Hey, they can’t all be winners, right? In that spirit, we present to you
Five Product and Marketing Disasters
1. New Coke
New Coke was the unofficial name of the sweeter formulation introduced in 1985 by The Coca-Cola Company to replace its flagship soft drink, Coca-Cola. Properly speaking, it had no separate name of its own, but was simply the new version of Coke, until 1992 when it was renamed Coca-Cola II. Public reaction to the change was devastating, and the new cola quickly entered the pantheon of major marketing flops. The subsequent reintroduction of Coke’s original formula led to a significant gain in sales.
In the early 1980s, Coca-Cola had lost major youth market share to Pepsi-Co. in terms of sweet colas. The new Coke formula was invented to change that. Emboldened by positive survey results (while ignoring a pissed off minority in focus group tests) , Coca-Cola grabbed Bill Cosby for their ridiculous commercials about “New Coke”, where previously Cosby’s commercials for (the old) Coke had played up it’s less-sweet aspect.
Jazz is like the new Coke, it’ll be around forever! Ha ha ha!
New Coke was a disaster not because it was crap (although it most certainly was), but because the consumer sheeple were too attached to their brand of cola which hadn’t been changed since 1903 when the good stuff (cocaine) was taken out. The failure of the “new” formula points to the psychology of branding and consumer attachment to a frickin soft drink. It was only 3 months later when Coke Classic was brought back to appease the raging hordes of angry soda drinkers who were obviously in some sugar-induced manic state. The Coke Classic did so well that it outsold the New coke and Pepsi, leading to some conspiracy theories that this was all planned in advance. Yeah, right. Of course, customers wouldn’t technically get the original Coke they loved since at this time sugar was replaced with high-fructose corn syrup, which now thanks to cheap corn is probably put in baby’s milk these days.
In 1992, “New” coke was renamed as Coke II, which instead of resembling Terminator 2 was closer to Cannonball Run 2 or Caddyshack 2. After being on life support for 10 years, the product was finally and mercifully euthanized in 2002.
2. The Ford Edsel
The Edsel was a make of automobile manufactured by the Ford Motor Company during the 1958, 1959, and 1960 model years. The car brand is best known as one of the most spectacular failures in the history of the United States automobile industry.
On September 4th, 1957, the Ford Motor company introduced the Edsel. It was code-named the “E-Car”, and no, that’s not E for electronic for E for experimental. Well, the experiment failed.
To help promote what some referred to as “Ian Oldsmobile sucking on a lemon.”, Ford even bankrolled one “Edsel Show” that had Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, Louis Armstrong, and Bob Hope. The show was a success; the car wasn’t. Edsel failed for a number of reasons. Some were design-related. Edsel’s body was not much different than other Ford models at the time. The front grille was compared to a vagina. The pricing structure was an attempt to fit between a Ford and a Mercury but it failed miserably. The recession of late ’57 and 1958 rolled in, and the car needed premium gas. The teletouch automatic transmission system was implemented through buttons on the steering wheel. Imagine trying to honk your horn only to find your car in reverse. Oh yeah, Robert McNamara wasn’t exactly a fan either.
As the Edsel was a large commercial failure, the name became a popular joke in various media. (New Coke went through the same thing, which lead the head of Pepsi’s American operations to compare the two). In May 1958, VP Richard Nixon was hit with eggs and tomatoes while riding in an Edsel convertible – he later said “They were throwing eggs at the car, not me.”
Personally, we think it was the name. Who wants to buy a car that sounds like somebody’s great aunt?
3. Apple III / Apple Lisa
A personal computer aimed at business users, Apple III was sold from May, 1980 until April 24, 1984. Unlike the Apple II, which was designed by Steve Wozniak, the Apple III was a perfect example of design-by-committee. Not only was it extremely expensive ($3500 -$7800, depending), but it’s pretty much one of the biggest pieces of crap with a CPU ever made.
How crappy? Well, in a technical bulletin, customers who were experiencing certain problems were instructed to lift the machine three inches and drop it in order to reseat the chips that would pop out due to overheat! The real time clock would fail after prolonged use. There were numerous short circuits. There was no cooling fan, as Steve Jobs wanted a quieter machine. The heatsinks didn’t do a thing, as the machine was tightly put together with a metal case and no venting. In the end, Apple had to replace the first 14,000 Apple III machines, free of charge.
From Low End Mac:
The Apple III would often crash when using the save command, causing great frustration to journalists using the computer.
Today, used Apple IIIs are valued at around $50-250 depending on condition and extras. Jeez, somebody should pay us just for taking it off their hands.
“It would be dishonest for me to sit here and say it’s perfect.” – Mike Markkula, President and CEO of Apple Computer, Inc.
No shit Mike. Randy Wigginston, one of Apple’s founding employees, one-upped Markkula when he said of the Apple III, “The Apple III was kind of like a baby conceived during a group orgy, and everybody had this bad headache and there’s this bastard child, and everyone says, ‘Its not mine.’” Wow, we have nothing more to say after that revelation.
As for the Apple Lisa:
The Lisa is Apple’s forgotten gamble into the business market. It was released a year earlier than the Macintosh and was Apple’s first computer with a GUI operating system. The Lisa was underpowered and overpriced. At $9,995, only large corporations could afford to purchase one. Apple had no experience in this market and had almost no chance of breaking IBM’s dominance of the business world. Although the Lisa was a more advanced computer than IBM could offer, its lack of software and interoperability with IBM-based networks made it a loser before it ever got started.
That girl works at Wallace MicroMart now.
The 5 MHz, 68000 chip was not up to the task of handling the GUI. An insider joke goes like this:
(extremely long pause)
Lisa was named after Steve Jobs’ daughter, although a stupid acronym was also quoted (Local Integrated Software Architecture). The Lisa was first introduced in 1983 at a cost of $9,995 US (that’s $20 grand in todays dollars). It was one of the first commercial personal computers to have a GUI and a mouse. But yeah, it was also $10 grand. It used a Motorola 68000 CPU at a 5 MHz clock rate and had 512 KiB or 1 MiB RAM . At $10 grand.
Lisa was discontinued in August 1986. We haven’t spoken since. She’s probably married now, with kids.
4. Microsoft Windows Millenium Edition / Microsoft Bob
It’s 2007, and we still haven’t quite recovered from the horror of Windows ME (Millenium Edition). The lingering memory of that abomination still chills us to the bones. Microsoft said it was the first OS to support Universal Plug and Play. In reality, as most of you probably know, it was Plug-and-Pray.
From Miguel Carrasco:
It was also notoriously difficult to re-install, which was terrible since this operating system needed to be re-installed almost weekly. This was one of the worst software development projects of all time for Microsoft.
Sure, Windows 98 was bad, but not like this. Error messages, incompatibilities, failed or stalled shutdowns, and BSODs. XP couldn’t come soon enough, and the Windows ME CD install disks soon joined AOL discs as drink coasters.
But Windows ME was a cakewalk compared to the massive product failure known as Microsoft Bob. Released in 1995, Bob was meant to replace the Windows desktop with one aimed at novice computer users. In otherwords, for complete retards. The interface featured a big yellow smiley face with glasses and virtual rooms. This software development project was run by Bill Gate’s wife. Jesus, that’s like the other Bill putting his wife in charge of healthcare!
Microsoft Bob was a complete failure, but we’re surprised it wasn’t a hit with the AOL crowd. What with all the pretty pictures and friendly animals and all.
If you really hate Office Assistant and that stupid paper clip, wait till you get a load of his grandpappy – Microsoft Bob featured such endearing characters as Rover the dog, Baudelaire the gargoyle, Chaos, a fluffy cat from France(!), Digger, an Irish earthworm (wha?), Java, a coffee-drinking dragon from Guatemala (these designers should try decaf), and Scuzz, a guitar-playing rat from Peoria (no comment).
Oh, God, the humanity!
Somebody tell Digger the earthworm to get his eating utensils out, Cuz we’re burying Bob in the backyard.
(By the way, Rover never really went away. Try searching files in XP and you’ll see him. Somebody call animal control.)
5. Burger King: Herb
In 1985 and 1986 Burger King came up with the Where’s Herb? advertising campaign. Supposedly, “Herb” was “the one man who has never tasted a Burger King burger.” In one commercial the camera pans across crowded beaches and escalators in search of Herb. Supposed friends and family are interviewed, and boy are they completely boring losers. Can’t wait to meet Herb!
In early 1986, Burger King “found” Herb. Soon he was appearing on NBC’s Today show and at a New York City press conference. Burger King even cooked up a biography for Herb, (Wisconsin, cheese factory, you get the idea) Herb was played by actor John Merrick, who would randomly appear at Burger King restaurants nationwide; if a customer spotted Herb at a Burger King, he or she would win a prize.
Except nobody cared.
Only the corporate world could come up with such a letdown as Herb the Nerd. The icing on the cake is the exclaim “Gary Sirotzke found me!” as if anybody knew who Gary Sirotzke was and should give a damn. So Burger King gives us not one, but two nerdy accountants. Yeah, that’ll get them in the door!
Burger King spent over $40 million on the Herb advertisements; however, the advertisements were not successful, and are widely cited as a flop. We were totally caught off guard!
John Merrick/Herb was never heard from again. Well, hey, at least he’ll always have WrestleMania 2.