If you’re having a rotten day, you could possibly cheer yourself up by laughing at the epic failures of some of the world’s most popular companies. Here are some products whose existence can only be explained as “epic failures” or “very bad drinking binges.”
Frito-Lay Invents Healthier Potato Chips That Destroy Your Digestive System
While obesity is rampant, the mere prospect of not being able to freely gargle junk food is enough to kill our spirits much faster. In 1998, Frito-Lay attempted to provide a solution to this dilemma with WOW Chips, fat-free versions of its Doritos, Lay’s, Ruffles, and Tostitos brands. The healthier formula was achieved with a fat substitute called Olestra, which added no calories, cholesterol, or fat to the products. However, while Olestra did leave the inside of your body without a trace, it left the inside of your underpants with plenty.
The WOW Chips came with potential side effects like explosive diarrhea, abdominal pains, and straight-up butt leakage. As hundreds of snack enthusiasts found out to their rectal dismay, eating WOW Chips was a literal crapshoot. One media frenzy, fast-plummeting sales, and an FDA-mandated warning label later, Frito-Lay quietly discontinued the WOW brand and buried their quest for a fat-free snack experience under various “Light” labels. After all, whoever buys and eats a bag of Doritos Light already hates themselves so much that pooping out their soul is probably a welcome respite.
Somewhere in the Frito-Lay headquarters, there’s a dark basement room where the executives in charge of the WOW chip project now reside. In every wall of that room plays the rest of that ad, which shows the guy rapidly disappearing into the horizon to the sounds of jet-engine farting and screams of agony. Once every hour, a large man enters the room and screams in the executives’ ears: “Not like this. Never like this.” And they understand their punishment perfectly.
Xybernaut Creates A Wearable PC That’s Like Wearing Your Actual PC
The start of the 21st century was a weird time in the field of portable tech. We already had modestly decent laptops and PDAs (remember those?), but even the most advanced mobile phones still looked like props from a 1960s sci-fi show. Everyone was clamoring for the next big thing in pocket-sized and/or wearable computer chicanery. Since the first iPhone was still years away, things got pretty weird for a while.
A company called Xybernaut introduced what should’ve been a game-changer in 2002: Poma, the first wearable PC. The Poma cost around $1,500, which was pretty steep, but still only about half the price of a high-end laptop of the era. Unlike the “smart” phones of the time, it was a real computer with a real computer’s capacities.
It actually did look pretty cool. That’s difficult to pull off with wearable tech. Even Google Glass made you look awful, and that was over ten years later! So why isn’t Xybernaut ruling our collective consciousness along with Apple and the other tech giants?
Well, they might’ve omitted a few tiny things from their puff pieces and promo shots. The base model of the device is a book-sized CPU unit, a head-mounted “monitor,” and a weird pointer thingy that you used in lieu of a mouse. As such, you could only really use it for rudimentary email reading and casual online browsing. To use it as a computer, you needed to include stuff like a wireless modem, a portable hard drive, and/or a special keyboard gauntlet, at which point you’re significantly less of a “portable computer person” and more of a “sad husk who has inexplicably strapped an entire computer to their body.”
Add that to the fact that the Poma ran slowly, even for a 2002 gadget, and its head-mounted display made it really difficult to keep track of what’s going around you. It’s probably no surprise that the product failed to make an impact. Xybernaut itself didn’t last too many years, seeing as its owners’ other business plans largely revolved around securities fraud and money laundering.
Coors Adds Sparkling Water To Its Beers
“American beer is basically water” is such a classic joke that when Monty Python used it in 1982, they were probably quoting their grandfathers. You’d think that stateside breweries would be aware of the joke, or at least refrain from actively calling attention to it. Some just dive in head-first.
In 1990, the Adolph Coors Company introduced us to Rocky Mountain Sparkling Water. This wasn’t necessarily a bad move. Bottled water was becoming a thing, and recognizing a nascent trend and establishing a brand early is generally regarded as amazing. What was a bad move, however, is how they chose to brand their overpriced H2O.
For reasons that only made sense if they were trying to score free publicity by making the writers of Seinfeld mock their product in an episode, Coors walked right into the “Is it beer or water?” trap by attempting to market Rocky Mountain Sparkling water under the established, beer-y Coors name and logo. They even sold it in six-packs to reinforce the beer imagery.
Although the unintended self-disparaging meta joke would probably have made the product a hit if they’d launched it at the height of the Hipster Era, the 1990s had no time for Coors’ nonsense. People took one look at the water bottle, assumed it had alcohol in it (since, you know, it said “Coors” on it), and walked away to buy some less confusing products. Rocky Mountain Sparkling Water was quietly withdrawn from the market only two years later, and no one ever made the American beer/water joke again. For a while, anyway.
Nissan Somehow Thinks A Convertible SUV Is An Amazing Idea
A convertible SUV? That’s clearly one of those “submarine screen door”-type joke products, or maybe a Banksy piece that he snuck into a car manufacturer’s event to ridicule commercialism or whatever. This can’t be a real car. SUVs are huge and clumsy. Convertibles are sleek and, more often than not, aerodynamically worthless. Both are driven by very specific types of idiots who have very little overlap on the Venn diagram. Who would even drive the combination of the two? Soccer moms reenacting Thelma & Louise? That can’t be a profitable demographic. Wouldn’t get too many repeat customers, for one.
Earlier this decade, Nissan had the bright idea to turn their popular Murano SUV into a convertible. Shockingly, turning a tall, ugly utility vehicle into a $45,000-$48,000 luxury cabriolet did not go too well, to the point where if you visit Nissan’s own web page for the car today, it flat out recommends you a separate SUV and convertible.
Unless you’re really tall, you could barely see out of the CrossCabriolet. The lack of structural integrity thanks to the removed roof made the car shake like a toy. It was slow, sloppy, and handled like a brick, and was somehow heavier than the standard Murano.
In other words, expect aging hipsters to buy these as soon as they finally get tired of riding bicycles. Maybe the Murano’s cup holder is even big enough for a bottle of Coors Rocky Mountain Sparkling Water.
Colgate Introduces Colgate-Brand Microwave Meals
Boss: “Anderson, did you come up with those suggestions for brand extension like I asked?”
Anderson: “Yes, Sir, I did. To truly expand our toothpaste empire, I think we should start making ready-to-eat meals.”
Boss: “Do whut?”
Anderson: “The frozen kind, Sir. That you heat in the oven. We’ll strap our brand logo all over the packaging and everything. That way we can market them along with the toothpaste, under some handy umbrella term like ‘World of Oral Care.'”
Boss: “Do you really think that people will want to associate the taste of chicken pot pie with the clean, minty tang of our toothpaste, Anderson? Or the fluoride aftertaste of said paste with beef lasagna? People’s taste buds will be completely confused.”
Anderson: ” The gods will be most pleased, Sir.”
Boss: “Yes, they will indeed. Excellent work. Here’s your bonus.”
Whether or not a conversation like that took place in the Colgate headquarters circa 1982, or that elder gods or (more likely) cocaine were involved in the brainstorming process, find a better explanation for the existence of Colgate Kitchen Entrees.
The early 1980s were a growing market for ready-to-eat meals, so Colgate hoped to tap into it. Like Coors, they brazenly did this with their existing brand name. Unlike Coors, Colgate decided to confuse its customers with packaging they had already learned to heavily associate with a radically different product. The idea, I suppose, was to create an umbrella brand of consisting of whatever Colgate felt like people should stick in their mouths. In practice, that went roughly as well as you’d expect. Not only did Kitchen Entrees experience a swift, resounding failure, but in certain places, the sales of Colgate toothpaste actually went down because the customers were now mentally associating it with frozen spaghetti.