The Museum of Failure
April 19, 2017 5:18 PM   Subscribe

From Colgate Lasagne to Crystal Pepsi The Guardian brings you news of a museum in Sweden that showcases - "products that swan-dived from the highest board; failures so legendary they have their own appendix in business-school textbooks. They’re proof that even with a multi-million dollar marketing budget, you still can’t buy someone who’ll see that the emperor’s new soft drink tastes like cat piss."

From the Museum's website:
Museum of Failure is a collection of interesting innovation failures. The majority of all innovation projects fail and the museum showcases these failures to provide visitors a fascinating learning experience.

The collection consists of over sixty failed products and services from around the world. Every item provides unique insight into the risky business of innovation.

Some examples of the items on display:
• Apple Newton
• Bic for Her
• Google Glass
• Nokia N-gage
• Orbitoclast Lobotomy (medical instrument)
• Harley-Davidson Perfume
• Kodak Digital Camera
• Sony Betamax
• Lego Fiber Optics

on YouTube
The Museum of Failure on Seth Meyers
posted by pjsky (35 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
 
FAIL:

Sony Betamax doesn't belong on this "list."
posted by shockingbluamp at 5:29 PM on April 19 [22 favorites]


DIVX and HD-DVD were much bigger failures in the same market compared to Betamax.
posted by cmfletcher at 5:40 PM on April 19 [9 favorites]


Thank goodness there’s still somewhere in this world where I can side-talk.
posted by Going To Maine at 5:40 PM on April 19 [6 favorites]


There was a book I loved in high school called Complete and Utter Failure by Neil Steinberg. Recently I reread it and it held up pretty well. It was about commercial failures like these - Colgate meals, Gerber's for grownups, toaster bacon - and also personal failure. But the author was young at the time, and I had not heard of him since, so I wondered what he had been up to. Failing painfully hard in public, it seems, although he is fine now.
posted by Countess Elena at 5:40 PM on April 19


New Coke®
posted by Fizz at 5:44 PM on April 19


Well, I'm not one to comment on failures.
posted by Wolfdog at 5:53 PM on April 19


• Apple Newton
• Bic for Her
• Google Glass
• Nokia N-gage
• Orbitoclast Lobotomy (medical instrument)
• Harley-Davidson Perfume
• Kodak Digital Camera
• Sony Betamax
• Lego Fiber Optics


one of these things is not like the others
posted by wires at 5:58 PM on April 19 [8 favorites]


You know, try as I have, I haven't been able to find any concrete evidence of Colgate frozen dinners. Not a single photo exists out there on the internet. It's frustrating.

The write-up kind of got a few points wrong, as these things often do — the N-Gage didn't require you to "crack it open like a taco" to talk on it, but it did require sidetalkin', which was a problem in its own right.

I also hear that the Newton's handwriting recognition issues got ironed out pretty well soon enough after release, but not until "egg freckles" had buried itself into the popular consciousness.

I suppose that, to some extent, this is really just a museum of bad first impressions, especially given that the apparently-technically-superior-but-less-convenient Betamax seems to be on the list.
posted by DoctorFedora at 6:05 PM on April 19 [2 favorites]


Those Kodak digital cameras were actually pretty damned good consumer-grade cameras for the time. They interfaced with just about every computer, PC and Mac.

And, I'm not sure I'd call the Newton a failure per-se. Ahead of its time, maybe.
posted by Thorzdad at 6:07 PM on April 19 [4 favorites]


Oh, New Coke. Far more than a failure, it was in fact an object lesson in the way people have no fucking clue what they actually want and will happily endorse shit as long as it has a shiny patina. In some ways, its lesson lead directly to the Republican Revolution and What's the Matter With Kansas. We weren't paying attention to the lesson, but right wingers certainly were.
posted by wierdo at 6:10 PM on April 19 [5 favorites]


I just found my CueCat and original instruction manual while cleaning.

Given how frequently QR codes are used to embed URLs in physical spaces and on the printed page, I think it's a little unfair to say that the bar code scanner was a failure. If Digital Convergence hadn't embedded unique ID numbers in each cat so that everyone's scans could be tracked and cataloged, the idea might have caught on a bit earlier (also if they hadn't tried to sue everyone who pointed out that their super-secret encryption was just XOR).

By fair the bigger "CueCat failure" was the audio component. The instructions that came with my Cat also recommended connecting an audio line-in cable between my television and my computer so that their special software could collect URLs broadcast over ordinary television and automatically pop open the sites. Who the hell wanted that?
posted by RonButNotStupid at 6:20 PM on April 19 [3 favorites]


Also, the CueCat people knew just how significant cats would be before the rest of us copped on.
posted by Going To Maine at 6:25 PM on April 19


CueCat

I have no idea how these people got their scanners wedged into their cats or why.
posted by nathan_teske at 6:30 PM on April 19 [17 favorites]


I'm not sure why the fellow in the video included nylon/pantyhose among failures.

I suppose it's been too long, but has everyone forgotten the Edsel and the midiskirt?
posted by Nancy Lebovitz at 6:38 PM on April 19


Crystal Pepsi was not a failure. Unless by "failure", you mean "delicious". I have a bottle on my desk at work now. Although I prefer to call it Cristal Pepsi.
posted by kevinbelt at 6:47 PM on April 19 [3 favorites]


the midiskirt

I think Bjork still wears those
posted by thelonius at 6:54 PM on April 19 [5 favorites]


I almost bought one of those Peek devices.
posted by 4ster at 6:59 PM on April 19 [2 favorites]


I'm not sure why this "museum" is sticking in my craw, but it does.

This list is a mixture of bad marketing ideas (Bic for Her, Crystal Pepsi), mixed with products that simply lost the quality-vs-price battle (Betamax), and then you have products that were just not ready for their times (Newton, Kodak Digital).

It's the last category I really get hung up about. Let's take the Newton. Was it commercial flop? Sure. But products like the Palm Pilot that did 60% of the things Newton did (but for 20% of the price) did amazingly well in the years after. Newton also introduced the world to the low-power ARM processor. ARM was a joint venture of Apple and Acorn Micro, and now it's a cornerstone of the mobile world as we know it today. Would we be in the same place without that R&D that took place back in the 1990s?

Okay, I'll put the soapbox away now.
posted by JoeZydeco at 7:02 PM on April 19 [14 favorites]


the N-Gage didn't require you to "crack it open like a taco" to talk on it, but it did require sidetalkin'

Also, what the hell kind of tacos are these people eating that need to be cracked open? Have they confused tacos with eggs?
posted by mr_roboto at 7:03 PM on April 19 [20 favorites]


Yeah I really liked Crystal Pepsi, but I don't like Pepsi and I didn't think it was Pepsi. The only way it wasn't a failure though is if they were playing a super long game where they knew there'd be a bunch of Gen X folks with money demanding the weird products of their formative years. In that case, nice work Surge and Crystal Pepsi seeing 20 years into the future.

The Newton wasn't that bad, didn't completely bomb, and turned into the smartphones we have today.

Betamax was (and still is but fading very fast) huge in certain markets. TV stations, sports arena jumbotrons, media displays that run on a loop, etc. mostly used it.

Kodak developed the first digital cameras and made some pretty good ones. The camera wasn't the failure at all - it was the company hanging onto film as the flagship product way too long.

I don't know about the Premier cigarettes but they sound like the same idea as vape devices today. Maybe badly implemented and/or ahead of their time?
posted by Clinging to the Wreckage at 7:05 PM on April 19 [2 favorites]


I think Premier was about a company being smart enough to see the writing on the wall for their future and do something about it, unlike Kodak.

The technology was just not ready yet. The tiny high-powered batteries and vaporizing coils we have today solved the problem.
posted by JoeZydeco at 7:22 PM on April 19


Also, what the hell kind of tacos are these people eating that need to be cracked open? Have they confused tacos with eggs?
how many chefs were employed to make tacos for gaston's breakfasts
posted by DoctorFedora at 7:24 PM on April 19 [2 favorites]


Still waiting for someone to admit they have in their possession a bottle of Harley Davidson perfume. I am honestly not sure what compels me, but I NEED TO KNOW WHAT HARLEY DAVIDSON PERFUME SMELLS LIKE. I'm guessing axle grease and Big Mac sauce with a hint of stale Marlboros.
posted by pjsky at 8:24 PM on April 19 [1 favorite]


Crystal Pepsi was not a failure. Unless by “failure”, you mean "delicious". I have a bottle on my desk at work now. Although I prefer to call it Cristal Pepsi.

Is you desk located in the 1990s? Because otherwise I’m not sure where you got that bottle from.
posted by Going To Maine at 8:59 PM on April 19


kevinbelt might be referring to the cola-flavored vodka.
posted by Flashman at 9:16 PM on April 19


Pepsi did a re-release of Crystal Pepsi last year that is ongoing.
posted by fluffy battle kitten at 9:19 PM on April 19 [2 favorites]


What, like YOU don't have a few 25 year old bottles of soda on YOUR desk?
posted by Anne Neville at 9:53 PM on April 19 [3 favorites]


The n-gage required the battery cover and battery to be removed to change games, which of course also rebooted the device. Perhaps the author conflated that bizarre arrangement with the side talking design blunder.
posted by autopilot at 12:11 AM on April 20 [1 favorite]


OK Soda was a little flat, tasting like a mix of orange and cola with a splash of root beer, at its best served at room temperature. Like meh in a can -- the Platonic ideal of just OK. But why ? Your guess, mine, what's the difference ?
posted by y2karl at 1:25 AM on April 20


OK Soda tasted like warm smarties soda. Its upside was that Dan Clowes did the artwork.

No love for the Arch Deluxe?
It was a mega national ad campagin of children looking disgusted and saying that the burger tasted terrible.
Seriously!
It was the biggest fast food chain in eternity aggressively showing how unappealing their new product was.
posted by lkc at 1:36 AM on April 20 [1 favorite]


there'd be a bunch of Gen X folks with money demanding the weird products of their formative years

No demand for Orbitz Soft Drink, I note.

Oh, and I LOVED the Arch Deluxe and would love to see it back. It's the only hamburger that McD's has ever made that tasted more interesting than comforting. I think they should do with the Arch Deluxe what they do with the McRib, because I know I can't be the only person who would like to have it back now and then.
posted by hippybear at 2:44 AM on April 20 [1 favorite]


"Is you desk located in the 1990s? "

*sigh* I wish.
posted by kevinbelt at 2:48 AM on April 20


I'd forgotten the TwitterPeek existed. The reviews at the time of launch were all "wtf? why make a smartphone that does only one thing?" But the really damning part is that it apparently didn't do that one thing very well. Slow, bad UI, etc.
posted by Nelson at 8:58 AM on April 20


I wouldn't say Google Glass failed. The marketing of it as a general consumer device failed miserably, but it found plenty of applications in industry. You hear a lot about its use in healthcare for example (because it's somewhat public facing and a more sexy news story than some guy doing inventory in a warehouse).

Turns out the customer for high priced bleeding edge products aren't tech dweebs but companies that can apply it directly to the things they do to make money. Like almost every technology, at first.
posted by danny the boy at 1:51 PM on April 20 [2 favorites]


It wasn't just the cost that killed Betamax, it was that a new version came out every ten minutes. Machines had selectors for, for instance, Beta I or Beta II. These went up to Beta IV at least. No machine could play more than two varieties of Beta, so to get a Beta I tape up to Beta IV meant owning three machines. VHS, on the other hand...
posted by CCBC at 3:10 PM on April 20


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