It could be argued that up to 50% of businesses fail within the first 5 years in business. Most of these business start and end in obscurity. Here are 8 of the biggest business flops of our time:
8. Pepsi Am
In 1989, The Pepsi-Cola Company began to test market Pepsi A.M., a cola drink with approximately 28 percent more caffeine; an ounce more than regular Pepsi and 77% less than coffee or tea. Although many people do choose to drink Pepsi in the morning, it really did not make sense to consumers to have a time stamp on their favorite drink. Check out The NY Times news release on the subject. Although it was a flop at the time, it was a precursor to the modern energy drink. It perhaps didn’t have the market at that time.
7. Swiss Air
Switzerland once had one of the most successful national airline companies. Swiss Air was once so financial stable that it was often referred to as “The Flying Bank”. Things started to go sour after September 11, 2011. Swiss Air became a casualty of terrorism and was caught between a rock and a hard place. In 2002, it filed for bankruptcy and operation transferred to Crossair which then became Swiss International Air Lines.
6. Commodore Computers
Commodore Computers is now a forgotten invention of the distant past. In the 1980s, it towered over the computer market with the C64 and owned a near 50% market share. The company tried to transform its way out of success by releasing the Commodore +4. The Commodore +4 was much more expensive than C64 and less compatible with the latter, which almost all consumers loved. The company went bankrupt in 1994.
In the 1990s, this company brought consumers the internet directly to their television screens. It was psychic in that it foresaw the relationship between the TV and the web; now of course a reality. Unfortunately, the merger produced inordinately humongous bills for customer service, which eventually lead Microsoft to buy the brand. Microsoft ended up killing webTV and rebranding it under MSN TV.
4. New Coke
In the 1980s, Coke had no chance competing against the giant, Pepsi. In order to gain new customers and outwit Pepsi, it tried to create a product that would taste more like Pepsi – New Coke. While New Coke fared OK in nationwide taste tests before being launched in 1985, it flopped upon release due to the fact that it was too misleading. Coke abandoned the product after a few weeks and went back to its old formula. It also gave a new name to its famous product: Coca-Cola Classic.
3. Sony Betamax
Sony’s Betamax video standard was invented in 1975, a year before JVC came out with VHS. For nearly a decade, the two companies battled for domination. I could write a whole blog on why Betamax failed while VHS became so popular. It’s safe to say that: Betamax was bulky, difficult to dissect, ugly, expensive, much criticized, horribly marketed, scorned by the media, and only capable of limited recording and playback (when moves at the time were around 1h long). While Sony was trying to figure out how to make Betamax a success and being stagnant at the same time, VHS took home the bacon and advanced its market, entering pretty much into every home in the Western world. Betamax production in America seized in 1993 and the last machine was produced in Japan in 2002. Now both are pretty much obsolete.
Pets can’t drive and sock puppets aren’t the best spokespeople, but Pets.com made the dot-com bubble their spokesperson in 2000. They over expanded by opening a nationwide network of warehouses too early and too rapidly. Unfortunately, profits never justified with media buys for commercials. In marketing, nothing is worse than having everyone know who you are and no one is interested in buying what you sell. Widely recognized as the icon of dotcom failure, its stock went from over $11 in early 2000 to just $.19 on Election Day in 2000, when the company filed for Chapter 11.
1. Cosmopolitan Yogurt
Cosmopolitan is a popular fashion magazine with 58 international editions, is published in 36 languages and is distributed in more than 100 countries. You could say it’s got the magazine business formula and aced it. All the more reason why it should stick to the industry it knows best. One thing Cosmopolitan does not do best at is selling yogurt. From the time of its release, the yogurt was purportedly off of the shelves in 18 months.