5 Popular Brands That Crapped Out Insane Failures
Let's say you're working for a company that wants to design a new type of ass. You could approach the job the reasonable, professional way: Research what type of ass people seem to want, create it to the very best of your ability, and launch it at the world in a way that accurately communicates the positive aspects of its form and function.
Or you could just mash up a bunch of concepts your 59-year-old marketing manager half-remembers the kids being into these days, throw a huge amount of money at the project, and launch your Harambe 420 Giant Winged Mega-Butt at the public with great fanfare. And then, when your prospective customers start screaming in terror as your creation takes flight and an avalanche of poop cascades on them from the skies, you finally think to ask yourself: "Aw man, did the original memo mean 'ass' as in 'donkey?'"
Here's a list of 5 products whose existence can only be explained with that metaphor.
Frito-Lay Invents Healthier Potato Chips (Which Cause You To Poop Uncontrollably)
Obesity is slowly killing the Western world, but the mere prospect of not being able to freely gargle junk food is enough to kill our spirits much, 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.
Great, right? But there was one problem: While Olestra did leave the inside of your body without a trace, it left the inside of your underpants with plenty.
If you think that means the WOW Chips came with potential side effects like explosive diarrhea, abdominal pains, and straight-up butt leakage, you're disgusting. You're also absolutely correct. As hundreds of snack enthusiasts found out to their rectal dismay, eating WOW Chips was an extremely literal crapshoot. There was always the chance that they'd refuse to leave your body without arranging a grand going-away party, complete with unnecessarily elaborate poop chute fireworks. 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 fucking Doritos Light already hates themselves so much that pooping out their soul is probably a welcome respite.
My favorite part of the whole debacle: Because the Universe likes its failures with a side order of irony, the marketing campaign for the WOW Chips featured this TV ad of a dude stuffing his face with the snacks while lazily floating about in a water tube, blissfully unaware that he's about 30 minutes away from inventing the world's most user-unfriendly outboard motor:
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, you fuckers. Never like this." And they understand their punishment. They understand it perfectly.
Xybernaut Creates A Wearable PC (That's Like Wearing Your Actual PC)
2002 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 and had names like Danger Hiptop. Everyone was clamoring for the next big thing in pocket-sized and/or wearable computer chicanery, and since the first iPhone was still half a decade away, things got pretty weird for a while.
It was against this backdrop that a company called Xybernaut introduced what for all intents and purposes should've been a gamechanger: 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. And most importantly, wearing it made you look like a sexy Borg:
As if there was any other sort.
Hey, that thing actually does look pretty cool. That's difficult as shit to pull off with wearable tech. Even Google Glass made you look like a dipshit, 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. If you're actually going to use the Poma as anything even moderately close to a computer, here's what its real setup looks like:
OK, yeah, so maybe "unsexy Borg" is a thing after all.
The base model of the device is a book-sized CPU unit, a head-mounted "monitor," and a weird pointer thing 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 "badass portable computer person" and more of a "sad husk who has inexplicably strapped an entire computer class 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, and 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 Introduces Sparkling Water To Its Line of Beers, Hilarity Ensues
"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. Fortunately for this column, you'd be dead wrong.
In 1990, the Adolph Coors Company decided to expand their product line with 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 a "pretty amazeballs think-brick," as industry insiders like to call it. What was a bad move, however, is how they chose to brand their overpriced H2O:
See? I just talked about the durability of that joke, and now I'm using it! Works every time! Seriously, though, the real bottle wasn't much better:
No matter what's in those bottles, you'll be disappointed by it.
Yeah. 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, decidedly beer-y Coors brand name and logo. They even sold it in six-packs to reinforce the the beer imagery.
Although the presumably 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' bullshit. People took one look at the water bottle, assumed it had alcohol in it (since, you know, it said "Coors" right in there), and walked the fuck 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. Until, you know, I did just now. I debunked that myth, like, years ago so I'm allowed. It's a good joke. Shut up.
Nissan Somehow Thinks A Convertible SUV Is An Amazing Idea
Haha, no. 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 assholes 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.
But a real car this is, and exist it does. Meet the Nissan Murano CrossCabriolet:
As for who drove it, the answer is "no one," as it had a hard time reaching four-figure sales.
Earlier this decade, Nissan had the bright idea to turn their popular Murano SUV into a convertible. Shockingly, turning a tall, ugly-ass 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 the shit out of these as soon as they finally get tired of riding bicycles. Maybe the Murano's cup holder's even big enough for a bottle of Coors Rocky Mountain Sparkling Water.
Colgate Tries To Create "A World Of Oral Care" (By Introducing Colgate-Brand Microwave Meals)
"Hey, Jenkins. Did you come up with those suggestions for brand extension like I asked?"
"Yes, Sir, I did. To truly expand our toothpaste empire, I think we should start making ... ready-to-eat meals."
"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.'"
"Do you really think that people will want to associate the taste of chicken pot pie with the clean, minty tang of our toothpaste, Jenkins? Or the fluoride aftertaste of said paste with goddamned beef lasagna? People's taste buds will be completely confused. That way, only madness lies."
"Yes, it does. The great god Azathoth will be most pleased, Sir."
"Yes, he will indeed. Excellent work, Jenkins. Here's your bonus."
I have no proof that 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. But hey, let's see you come up with a better explanation for the existence of Colgate Kitchen Entrees.
"Why not accompany your meal with a nice glass of Colgate orange juice?"
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 go balls-out and confuse the hell out of 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.
I like to think that those stickers came with the meals, and the Museum of Failure merely bought the surplus from Colgate.
I'm not throwing stones at these companies. On the contrary, I say keep 'em coming. Their profound misunderstanding of basic human psychology is more helpful to me than any antidepressant. It brings me so much joy that I should be able to pay for their next ridiculous product with health insurance. As long as those keep popping up from time to time, I think we're all going to be just fine.
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