Unsuccessful Inventions That Could Be Cool

Aug 08, 2021James Montalvo

With the way technology has been growing rapidly, every few years or so we are treated to an invention that changes the way we all live or think about life.  This list isn't about those inventions. It's about the ones that failed miserably. Feast your eyes on some then-cool ideas that failed miserably when they went to market.

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In 1975, new technology was emerging and revolutionized the video market. It offers a convenient concept of allowing consumers to record a TV show and watch it later on time. At first, it caught the attention of technology enthusiasts, but Sony is not the only one working on VCR technology. JVC introduced VHS tapes shortly after Sony Betamax was introduced. VHS tape may not have superior picture quality and sound like the Betamax cassette tapes, though they could record longer hours of playtime which became their advantage.

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Aside from the tape length issue, they seemed to be one step behind manufacturing features that are convenient for their consumers. Betamax was doomed for being unresponsive and inconsiderate of human needs and wants. With continuously refusing to cope up with the demand of consumers, they were eventually forgotten. Despite that, Sony leaves us one lesson and that is to always listen to consumer demand and design.

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In the 1970s era, shampoos containing lemon, herbs, honey, and fruit were popular. Yogurt on the other hand is gaining recognition because it is good for your health. However, during that time, it didn’t reach the point where people loved the idea of a yogurt shampoo. Clairol made an effort thinking that it was a solution for people who have oily hair.

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Sadly, a few appreciated it. Nowadays, food-based and natural products are interestingly in high demand and commonly used by most people. It goes to show that marketing a product has something to do with good timing. Unluckily, Clairol Touch of Yogurt shampoo was ahead of their time.

Image Credits: Unsplash/Sara Cervera/For Illustrative Purposes


On September 4, 1957, the Edsel debuted where Ford called it E-Day. The term Edsel was coined after Henry Ford's son. It was supposed to be every American car enthusiast wanted to have but it turned out to be a horrific flop. It became a classic case of the wrong car for the wrong market at the wrong time. After spending millions to run more studies and years of advertising before pulling it out in the market, the Edsel came out as a car that consumers do not want to buy. 

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Aside from being overpriced, overhyped, and poorly made, they also disregarded the data of the polls and continue putting so much effort into it. Adding to Edsel's misery was the fact that it debuted at the beginning of a recession. An expensive Ford does not look like a good option for most consumers. As production ended in 1960, the supposed to be a car of the future became the car industry's most famous flop. Even so, the Edsel is now a rare collector's item.

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During the 1980s, Coca-Cola made some serious gamble that turned out to be disastrous. Even though Coca-Cola remained the world’s best-selling soft drink, rival Pepsi-Cola continued to gain market share in the 1970s and early 1980s. A genius marketing campaign from Pepsi in the 1980s where people who underwent blind taste tests surprisingly preferred the flavor of Pepsi and this put Coca-cola to tremble with worry.

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To beat Pepsi in the marketplace, changing the formula since 1903 and making a new recipe which was a better tasting cola was the solution they thought of.  But after launching the New Coke, people responded with unrelenting backlash and even a boycott. Its failure became a worldwide story for the wrong reasons and the decision they made was criticized for being the most blunder of all time. After less than three months, they brought back the original coke and the nightmare was over with a lot of lessons to ponder. 

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Made in 1989, the Pepsi AM was an alternative variant of Pepsi. About the secondary name “AM” this caffeinated beverage was designed and marketed as a cold alternative to morning coffee, It had a similar flavor to a regular Pepsi beverage with an added 28% of the caffeine from its regular caffeine input. PepsiCo tested the product along with Diet Pepsi in quadrants across the United States, where marketing and product testing was conducted in places such as Iowa, Phoenix, and Indiana. 

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However, it never generated sales or made it out during its test market run, since people did not like drinking cold soft drinks for breakfast in favor of coffee. They had a few devoted fans for a while but it wasn’t like what the bosses expected. Thus leading to the project cancellation of Pepsi AM. 

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Aside from revolutionary products like the iPod, iPad, iPhone, Apple Watch, Macs, and AirPods, Apple had announced a new product in 1992 that did not do well in the marketplace which was called Newton. It was coined a Personal Digital Assistant (PDA) by the Apple CEO John Scully. The goal was to create an entirely new class of computers that you could slip into your pocket and can easily be brought everywhere you go. 

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After announcing the plans with Newton PDA, competitors also came up with their own competing devices. Apple then rushed to ship the device in every store without properly testing it first and that became a disaster. With its poor features, malfunctions, and expensive price, instead of becoming a hit, the Newton became a 90s meme. Though the Newton was groundbreaking and innovative, unfortunately, the technology just wasn’t there at the time to make it practical and reliable. 

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Even one of the largest companies in the world like Microsoft had some setbacks and missteps along their journey. In 1995, if anyone remembers, Bob was a user interface that dropped the familiar “desktop and folders” metaphor in favor of the virtual home. It was intended to provide a simpler way while working on a computer than a Program Manager. 

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Bob altered every desktop to be a house instead of a desk. He also had helpers including the infamous talking paper clip that suffered slings and arrows inside Microsoft Office long after Bob had been put to rest. Knowing what could be clicked and what couldn’t wasn’t always easy. Though it was quite helpful, there are problems faced while using it and despite numerous investigations with its complications, none were successful. It was then withdrawn after a year and the famous quote from Bill Gates became popular, “Bob died”.

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Also known under a project name called Vr32, Nintendo Virtual Boy is a tabletop portable video game console that displays 3D video game Graphics, which uses the Parallax effect to see through the 3D world. It was much like our very own VR box in the 20th Century. It was introduced in 1995 as a pioneer of virtual reality but it didn’t come out as expected. There is nothing in the game just like what was promised. 

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Despite the innovative idea of the future that VR32 displayed, criticisms aimed at the gadget were seen as something that was too ahead of it’s time to be developed. Critics mostly aimed at the monochrome display, the price, the mediocre stereoscope effect and, etc. The product was also pushed out of the Marketing phase. Even if  Nintendo Virtual Boy being in an unfinished prototype stage, the sale hit an all-time low of only 700,000 units sold within its term, the funding for improvements of the gadget was cut and put to the development of the Nintendo 64 console.

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The Arch Deluxe was a hamburger concept made by Mcdonald’s came into the fast-food market during 1996.  The Hamburger Arch deluxe was a quarter pound of beef on a split-top potato flour sesame seed bun, topped with a circular piece of peppered bacon, leaf lettuce, tomato, American cheese, onions, ketchup, and a "secret" mustard and mayonnaise sauce. This product was one that was mostly aimed at adult consumption.

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Despite the delicious concept of the Arch Deluxe, the product was a huge flop in Mcdonald's product line. With over 300 million dollars worth of expenditures in research, marketing, and production cost plus they didn’t reach the target income. People condemned the product’s unconventional ads and high-calorie content which led to health complaints.

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It seems like companies in the 90s became very experimental with their food and drink inventions. One unique product by Clearly Canadian Beverage Corporation was the Orbitz Soda aka Lava Lamp Juice. It is a fruit-flavored beverage with small edible balls floating in it. It has an eerie combination of flavors and they assume that the look of their product can save them from its terrible taste. 

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Aside from its awful taste, they come out with their first ad campaign “The drink with balls”, which is not suitable for their target market which is children. The line seemed to gross their consumer out so they decided to change it with a more complicated tagline. Within a year of hitting the market, Orbitz Soda was put out of the market with a memory of a drink that looks good only from a distance.  

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Bottled water gained popularity between the 1970s and 1980s. Coors decided to venture into the bottled water business with a twist in the 1990s. It is no ordinary water but sparkling water with flavors like original, lemon-lime, and cherry.  With a name that everybody already knew, Coors Rocky thought they would surely succeed. 

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However, having the same logo as they have with their famous Coors products made people hesitate to purchase their bottled water doubting its content and that became a problem. It either discouraged a nondrinker thinking it was an alcoholic beverage or disappoint a customer that it was plain water. It seems that they lack research and marketing their product in the right way, though it has the potential to flourish.

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We all dream of a magical solution allowing us to eat as much as we want without gaining weight. In 1998, Frito-Lay introduced WOW Chips, fat-free chips made with olestra–whose molecules acted like a laxative when people ate too much. A lot of people were attracted to this product when it came out to the market with the idea of junk food that is non-fat. Sales “exploded” at $347 million, making it the best-selling new product in the U.S. that year.

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Sadly, the result of olestra is similar to that of a laxative – stomach cramps and disastrous issues prevailed. When the media storm around the unpleasant side effects, sales dropped to $200 million by 2000. After deceptively marketing their Olestra chips, Frito Lay WOW Chips was quickly withdrawn from the markets and they were sued by their consumers. 

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Cosmopolitan has been labeled as one of the most popular international women’s magazines in the world. I believe that aside from women, other genders also purchase magazines from them that makes them successful in their field. However, it is a big question of why they decided to steer away from their specialty and sell yogurt. They sold them in the supermarkets with prices higher than other brands for they believe that the product is sophisticated.

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After 18 months, the Cosmopolitan Yogurt was taken off the shelves, leaving probably a mere 0.001% of the population disappointed, and a lot of high-up Cosmopolitan executives quite embarrassed. After this failure, Cosmopolitan came to a simple conclusion that they should stick with what they’re good at, like “what men want”, “what to wear” and “love and astrology”. Basically anything but not dairy products.

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Microsoft Zune was a portable media player that was first launched in November 2006. When Zune debuted, it was five years after Apple had already taken over almost the entire mp3 market. The Zune was too little, too late, and Microsoft never gave consumers a real clear reason to buy one.

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If only it had been introduced before the iPod, it would have been the main portable music device. They did not launch a product that users need, instead, they launched a very similar product with similar functions to their competitor. Besides, their marketing strategy is insufficient and they lack innovation. Six years later, in 2012, Microsoft shut down the Zune Marketplace ending a product that was doomed from the start.

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Joost launched in 2006 as a premier online video service that aggregated and streamed premium video online just like Netflix in the present time. It was a service that allowed people to watch high-quality content online rather than on television. It started very well, but unlike Hulu and Netflix that ascended to near household name status, Joost surprisingly flopped 3 years after it was launched. 

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Joost failed for the same reason that broadcast, cable, and satellite providers are losing viewers and subscribers. The lesson is a choice. Enlightened, sophisticated content consumers will choose that content based on three primary criteria – entertainment, information, or character – either any single one or a mixture. The failure of the initial Joost experiment was inevitable and served as a warning for all other content creators and marketers. 

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Games that allow players to make their character and become a whole new different person than they are in reality were popular in the 2000s. Aside from that, players can design, meet new people, indulge in conversations, buy things on the game, and experience a new life. After four months and a half of launching lively,  Google announced that it would shut down the browser-based three-dimensional world by the end of the year to focus on its core business.

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In 2008, Google decided to cease development on Lively to devote more efforts to growing its core business offerings of search and advertising applications. Some got furious with the sudden setback of Google. It took some time for them to move on over it. Some people disagree with the decision made and believe that Google could be able to turn the service into something compelling, but that appears not to be.

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Another one of Google's inventions that were supposed to change how the world work was Google Glass. A wearable visual interface that seemed to be the stuff of every science fiction geek and enthusiast had ever wanted. However, before the product had even gotten onto the shelves, there were already a lot of question marks.

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The real question behind this seemingly intense and futuristic piece of technology was 'what was it really going to do?' "Google Glass is a breakthrough concept, but it involves wearing a camera on your face, saying things like “OK, Google,” out loud, and walking around like it’s cool to do those things in public,” says Dan Kaplan of Threadling. Can you really imagine doing that? Poor Google. 

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Much like any innovative piece of technology, a product has to adapt to the changing environments. If you fail, you die. This is what happened to Nokia when the first smartphones started coming out, it's also what happened to Tivo. Remember when you could just hit pause, playback, or record your favorite tv show? Well, that was Tivo for you!

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While it took off like a rocket headed for Mars when it first came out, Tivo failed miserably to sustain itself in the market. Along with poor marketing and the lack of foresight to recognize that the industry was turning to stream early on, Tivo faded away from the limelight as quickly as it was adopted by the market. It's been playing catch up ever since Oh, what it could have become. 

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When something spectacular like a fancy two-wheeled personal transporter with its self-balancing technology feature comes out, people are bound to get a little curious and want to try it out. When it was launched in 2001, the hype around Segway was like an alien device straight from a sci-fi movie. The product is clever but it failed to gain significant market acceptance. 

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Then, the so-called life-changing vehicle eventually became a flop in the market. It only reached 1% of its target sales. It was expensive and unsafe for even the Segway company owner Jimi Heselden got into a serious accident from falling off a cliff because he lost control of his Segway. And in 2015, the company decided to give up. 

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Oakley's Thump line of MP3-player sunglasses was first introduced in 2004.  They are pretty big but useful and not terrible for what they are. Aside from having a pair of sunglasses with a built-in MP3 player, you can enjoy doing your physical activities while listening to your favorite songs. You will have to bear on how it looks on you. You will also have to spend a big amount of money ranging from $249 to $349 depends on which version you choose. 

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We can commend Oakley for its creativity. It will be surely more appreciated if the Thump has twice as much memory, with a cheaper price tag, and comes in a pair of sunglasses people would not be embarrassed to wear. By then, it might never be pulled out again in the markets quickly. 

Image Credits: YouTube/Jacob Person


Back in the early and mid-2000s, owning a Blackberry was not just having a phone. It became a status symbol. It ruled the cellular market having the lion's share. The BlackBerry Smartphone led the way in business communication. It is not just a mere symbolism or representation but also a useful device. The PlayBook was probably one of the most anticipated mobile computing products of 2011. 

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However, despite the extreme care put into the actual engineering of the product, the launch of the PlayBook is widely considered to have been a failure due to a lack of good applications seeded into the BlackBerry App World and the product lack of a native email and calendaring client. Only a third of PlayBooks were sold if there is no doubt that RIM employs a great deal of engineering talent that is capable of developing fantastic products. The company has made several strategic management errors that likely have doomed the PlayBook platform to failure.

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In 2011, Netflix launched a new DVD by mail service, which separated its DVD-by-mail and streaming businesses into two separate entities. Netflix would continue to stream, and Qwikster would be born to conduct its mail service. It was for their reason that streaming and DVD by mail are becoming two quite different businesses, with very different cost structures, different benefits that need to be marketed differently, and they need to let each grow and operate independently. However, it turned out to be a disastrous nightmare.  

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People ended up being confused, outraged, and lost some trust with all of their policy changes. It seems that major decisions were not being properly planned out. Qwikster became a disaster. Netflix was damaged out of CEO Hastings' four months of poor decisions and misconceptions. They badly wanted to compete with Apple so badly that it backfired, which caused their stocks to drop and for Qwikster to vanish. 

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Have you ever owned or tried any of these then-cool inventions that never made it? What was it like trying it out back then? Can you share more gadgets and gizmos that you think should be on this list? Let us know in the comment section. If you had fun reading this, then you're gonna have a blast checking out the different stories we write about on Amomedia!

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