A number of incredible new products were launched this year. Apple introduced the iPhone 4S—a phone with voice command — and Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner — a fuel efficient jet built of carbon composite — finally had its first commercial flight.
But not all products and services launched this year did well. Some failed miserably. In fact, some were so bad, it was awesome. 24/7 Wall St. looked at the biggest product launches of 2011 in order to identify the worst of the lot.
Products usually fail for two reasons: they are inferior versions of already successful products or they have little to no demand. Research In Motion’s PlayBook is the greatest example of the former. There was no room for a poorly designed tablet in a market dominated by the top shelf iPad and its inexpensive cousin Kindle Fire. The Playbook was widely panned. RIM publicly blamed its weak sales on competitive shifts in the tablet market, referring to the release of Kindle Fire.
Many companies also often fail to understand consumer sentiment and, as a result, do not accurately estimate demand for the product. When Netflix announced it would spin off its DVD-by-mail service in the form of a new service called Qwikster, customers were outraged.
Nobody wanted the new site and nobody wanted to pay extra money for it. As a result, it failed before it even got off the ground. The Qwikster blunder ended up costing Netflix thousands of customers.
So while this article could focus on the new products of 2011 that did remarkably well as far as sales and customer reviews are concerned, the products that went beyond simple flop and became fantastic flops are way more interesting and worthy of derision.
1. Ashley Push-Up Triangle
Company: Abercrombie & Fitch
While no stranger to controversy, Abercrombie & Fitch seemed to have crossed a line this time. In March, 2011, the retailer unveiled its spring line for Abercrombie Kids, a division targeting children ages 8 to 14. Included in the line was the “Ashley” Push-Up Triangle, a bikini top with padding. The launch prompted a violent response from parent groups. Several child development experts also criticized the top because it sexualized young girls.
At first, Abercrombie tried to address the concerns by reclassifying the top as padded and saying it was not intended for very young girls.
“We’ve re-categorized the Ashley swimsuit as padded. We agree with those who say it is best ‘suited’ for girls age 12 and older,” the company stated on Facebook. But while the bottoms are still available, the bikini top is no longer featured on the company’s website.
In September 2011, Netflix announced that it would be separating its online streaming service and its DVD mail service. Streaming was going to continue under the Netflix brand, while DVD-by-mail was going to operate under a new website called Qwikster. The change and the accompanying increase in prices outraged customers, leading the company to kill off Qwikster before it was even launched.
CEO Reed Hastings announced this decision in a blog post on the company’s website in which he began, “I messed up. I owe everyone an explanation.” The blog post was mobbed with more than 27,000 comments from angry customers. The ordeal cost the company approximately 800,000 customers.
Oh, yeah. They also didn't count on a baked Elmo taking their Twitter handle.
Company: General Motors
GM was originally so excited about the Volt that the company had announced in January it was speeding up its roll-out by six months. However, by November the excitement had fizzled out.
“It’s naive to think that the world is going to switch tomorrow to EVs [electric vehicles],” Larry Nitz, GM’s executive director for vehicle electrification ,told Reuters.
Indeed, sales for the vehicle have been consistently low. Only 125 models were sold in July 2011. This was after GM spokeswoman Michelle Bunker was quoted as saying that the Volt was “virtually sold out” due to its popularity — a statement later shown to be “misguided” [Editor’s note: that’s the most polite term we could think of.]
Adding insult to injury, Chevy Volts are under investigation for fires involving the cars’ lithium-ion batteries. For concerned Volt owners, GM has offered free loaner cars.