Many are familiar with the term niche marketing where a company develops a product to more profitably entice an underserved segment of the market to emerge. Sometimes in attempting to serve a small demographic, marketers overreach (think Glade Coffin Fresheners) and sometimes they’re spot on (think Fidget Spinners). Consumers have been trained to appreciate products specifically tailored to their unique requirements. Tailoring products to individual needs makes them more desirable, but it also makes them more expensive and forces consumers to endure a bewildering avalanche of choices.
I mean could Levi Jeans possibly introduce any more “cuts” or “styles” to its lineup? I’m just trying to find a pair that fits, not one that I can pass down as a family heirloom. The dizzying barrage of never ending permutations on a theme is out of hand. For example, the National Beverage Council now estimates there are more specialty drinks on the market than there are people to drink them.
But in a continuous effort to placate consumer demand, create markets and generate profits, numerous products of dubious utility have come and gone. Some of these product introductions have a shelf life faster than a left Tinder swipe. While some new products emerge and are worthy of shelf space, most others are relegated to discount bins at The Dollar Store: which is where I recently purchased 12 rolls of pumpkin spice-scented toilet paper (leaves your ass cheeks jack-o-lantern fresh). So through the Freedom of Information Act (it’s not really free – it’s just an Act) and a Red Bull-fueled imagination, I’ve obtained a partial list of these disastrous product launches. This list demonstrates just how arcane and foolhardy some of these marketing schemes have become. And if you don’t understand my premise by now, there’s no hope for this piece.
New Product Marketing Blunders
- Arm and Hammer’s Clumping Litter for Humans – Designed for people who want to potty like it’s 1999…BC. The litter sold well, but you just couldn’t train humans to use the damn box. Arm & Hammer should have stuck to baking soda.
- Seagram’s Complimentary Cocktails – Seagram’s rightfully claimed that these “talking drinks” were the only complimentary cocktails that actually gave compliments. Years in development, these ingratiating cocktails curried favor with the drinker by uttering such complimentary lines as, “You look marvelous” and “I think she likes you.” Despite their agreeable disposition they were viewed as too toadying and were of no help at sobriety check points with such comments to law enforcement as, “Good evening officer. Why you aren’t out on disability like the rest of them?”
- Habañero Visine – Latinos weren’t buying it and for good reason. Not only did it not “get the Red out”, it actually “put the Red in.” Major error.
- Liquid Soot – From the makers of Liquid Smoke, this flavor enhancer was concocted for people who like their food splashed with the grimy tang of creosote. Originally marketed as Sootracha Sauce, this chimney-derived additive found limited popularity with a narrow demographic of Cockney chimney sweeps where it maintains a cult following to this day.
- Good and Enough – This product failed once consumers realized it was just a box of Good and Plenty candy with a few pieces taken out.
- Senior Mints – This product failed once consumers realized it was just a box Junior Mints well past its expiration date.
- Cadaver Mints – This product failed once consumers realized it was just a box Senior Mints well past its expiration date.
- I Can’t Believe It’s Not Sphincters – Tubular animal parts for the holier than thou. Made exclusively from the leftovers of the leftovers the dog food companies had already taken. Consumers didn’t take well to their slogan: We’re scraping the bottom of the barrel so you don’t have to.
- Ghoulish Goulash – Sold only at specialty Halloween stores. Once opened it can also be used as a substituted for “gag vomit.”
- Morton’s Epsom Salts – Claimed to season your food on the outside while simultaneously soothing sore muscles from the inside. It did the trick alright, but it tasted like pumice.
- Non-Sequitur Peanut Butter – Just like regular peanut butter, but sold only in the Tool Corral at Home Depot. Turns out Milwaukee Sawzalls and ground legumes don’t mix.
- Smuckers KY Jelly – Marketed as a “multi-use Jelly” it never captured the public’s imagination. It seems people didn’t care much for Kiwi-Yam Jelly spread on their bread or on their private parts.
- Skippy Extra Chunky Granite Peanut Butter – For legume connoisseurs who like the crunch of real granite chunks in their peanut butter more than they value the teeth in their head. Marketed as a nutritionally complete peanut butter (one tablespoon provided a lifetime supply of all the minerals known to exist), the product was doomed from the start when the American Dental Association rated it ZM (Zero Molars).
- New New Coke – Worth a 2nd try; or so thought Coca-Cola. This New Coke redux made the unfortunate choice of using incarcerated Bill Cosby to once again act as pitchman – big mistake. He kept trying to doctor the drink.
- Ostomy Friendly Hotels – Really? Venture Capitalists thought they had this one in the bag and showed great intestinal fortitude in funding a hotel for traveling ostomites, who themselves display little intestinal aptitude. Ironically the VCs ended up flushing a bundle of money down the toilet. Market research later showed this demographic was intestinally infinitesimal.
- Coppertone’s 0 SPF Sunscreen for Epidermal Risk Takers – What’s not to like here? – Everything. With an SPF of 0, this was a sunscreen in name only. Coppertone wasn’t even throwing shade at the problem of sunburn.
- Gibson 24-string Guitars – Scientific marketers postulated that if a regular 6-string guitar was universally popular, then a 24-string guitar would prove to be at least 4 times more popular – right? Wrong. This String Theory proved unworkable.
- Downy Fabric Softener with Bluing for extra-Whiteness – Hmmm, Bluing for extra-Whiteness may sound like a contradiction in terms, but this scheme actually worked (the bluing counteracts the natural yellowing process in white clothing).
- Breath Mints for Ventriloquists – A failed high concept breath freshener that one takes in order to freshen the breath of the person next to you. For example, it doesn’t freshen your breath, but, if thrown properly, it will freshen the stale breath of anyone who happens to be sitting on your knee. And Breath Mints for Ventriloquists cuts across levels of intelligence – it didn’t matter whether the person with bad breath was smart or just a dummy. Skilled and stealthy throwers of good breath can accomplish this feat while barely moving their lips – the throwee doesn’t even know what hit them. Despite its effectiveness, consumers shunned the product calling it, in the words of Einstein, “spooky action at a distance.”
- Smith & Wesson’s Wound Salt – A wound-worsening rub that adds just a little more sting to the enemy when you’re “rubbing it in.” Consumers rejected this exacerbating cream saying it just seemed to add “insult to injury.”
- Britta Portable Personal Hydration System – Too much of a good thing. While formerly parched consumers appreciated being fully hydrated 24/7, they complained the so-called “handy IV gurney” was unworkable while driving and its lines were always getting tangled up with the catheter bag: which was necessary to process the 5½ gallons of water the IV dripped into your system every day.
- 3M’s 80-Grit Toilet Paper – Maybe it served its purpose for the first wipe, but after that it just irritated people.
- SONY No Screen TVs – All the sound, tuning and clarity of a regular TV, but without the visual screen. Buyers were bewildered, “So did I just buy a radio?”
- Clairol Same Shade Hair Color – None of the contrast with none of the highlights. Consumers found this dye, not to die for.
- Sarasota Avionics Blackout Windshield Cover – This road blocking screen gave wannabe pilots the opportunity to drive under the canopy just like a real airline pilot encountering IFR conditions. However, even with the periscope option, this visually limiting driving aid generated excessive litigation and was pulled from the market.