27 Products In The Museum Of Failure To Remind You That Not Every Idea Is A Good One
By Austin Harvey | Edited By Cara Johnson
Published December 1, 2022
Updated December 3, 2022
From the DeLorean to New Coke, these retail products resulted in some of the biggest flops in history — and now they're on display in the traveling Museum of Failure.
“Giving up on your goal because of one setback is like slashing your other three tires because you got a flat,” reads the anonymous quote that hangs on a brick wall in the Museum of Failure. It’s a poignant quote, and one that represents the whole point of the museum — to celebrate failure.
The concept may seem strange — after all, museums usually celebrate successes — but for curator Samuel West, the world-touring museum has as much to teach visitors as any other.
“To learn from failure we need to talk about it,” he said. “The museum is a good way of creating that discussion.”
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Colgate Beef Lasagna, a frozen entrée from the 1980s.
Although Colgate as a brand had been around since the early 1800s, the name became — and still is — ubiquitous with toothpaste.
It's little wonder why shoppers didn't latch onto the brand's microwavable lasagna. ROBYN BECK/AFP via Getty Images
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The Microsoft Zune, a portable digital music player released in November 2006 as a competitor to Apple's widely popular iPod.
Despite a larger screen and built-in FM radio, however, the Zune never quite found the success Microsoft had hoped for.
In fact, for many years, the prospect of owning a Zune instead of an iPod was largely regarded as a joke. Scott Olson/Getty Images
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Steven Spielberg's film E.T. the Extraterrestrial was a massive success, still held in high regard to this day.
Unfortunately, the same can't be said for its 1982 video game adaptation.
The Atari 2600 game was so notoriously bad that unsold copies of it were buried in a landfill in Alamogordo, New Mexico and left undiscovered until 2014. Wikimedia Commons
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Just the mention of Blockbuster recalls a time before streaming, when renting a movie involved driving to a brick and mortar store and hoping the film you wanted to watch was in stock.
Blockbuster's decline, however, began when Netflix entered the scene. Renting DVDs online and getting them shipped to your home was, for many people, a far more convenient option — though Blockbuster certainly had its appeals still.
But when Netflix introduced the video streaming platform for which it is now known, it put the nail in Blockbuster's coffin. Blockbuster did try and create its own streaming service, but it was too little too late. Jonathan Elderfield/Liaison/Getty Images
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In 2017, the Chinese company Taqu Ltd. decided to combine two of China's largest moneymakers — the "share economy" and the adult entertainment industry.
The result was a service called Shared Girlfriend, which rented out sex dolls for $45 a day.
Yes, rented out.
The dolls were designed to be “for his pleasure," and came in a variety of outfits, delivered to a renter's door after being ordered through an app.
When the renter was finished with the doll, the doll was then disinfected, and any broken or damaged parts were replaced.
The service lasted four days before it was shutdown due to public outrage. The Museum of Failure
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LaserDisc was an optical storage medium from the 1980s that offered far better quality than that provided by VHS.
Unfortunately, LaserDisc had a few caveats. The discs themselves were fragile and, unlike VHS, couldn't be recorded. The players were also incredibly expensive and loud.
In the end, convenience triumphed over quality. Jens Büttner/picture alliance via Getty Images
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Heinz Ketchup is the world's most iconic ketchup brand, but that doesn't mean it is invulnerable to mistakes. In the early 2000s, Heinz launched a slew of colorful ketchup called "EZ Squirt" that came in Blastin’ Green, Funky Purple, Stellar Blue, Passion Pink, Awesome Orange, and Totally Teal.
Unfortunately, the drastic color change from ketchup's standard red meant that the product required an exorbitant amount of food coloring and food engineering to make it taste remotely like ketchup.
Unlike other products in the museum, though, Heinz EZ Squirt actually sold well and was fairly popular. Interest in it simply declined as time went on. Antony Dickson/South China Morning Post via Getty Images
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In 2006, the German Institute for Condom Consultancy aimed to make a condom that would fit every man, no matter his size.
All a man had to do was stick his penis into an apparatus that would coat it with melted latex. Three minutes later, the latex would dry, and he'd be ready to go.
Understandably, though, the men asked to test the product were hesitant to jam their more sensitive bits into a container that was going to spray them with melted latex.
The product died before it even went to market, but in 2015, an art student reimagined the product in a friendlier looking spray can. The Museum of Failure
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“Why take diet pills when you can enjoy Ayds?”
From 1937 to the late 1970s, Ayds diet candy was a popular and functional appetite-suppressant candy.
You can probably guess why the product stopped selling in the '80s, as the AIDS epidemic began to peak.
The company did try to rebrand as Diet Ayds, but that really wasn't much better. The Candy Encyclopedia Wiki
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Bic for Her pens were exactly what they sound like — pens made for women.
Because women couldn't use regular pens, which were clearly made for men, right?
Sarcasm aside, Bic for Her pens were a disaster from the moment they launched and represent an object failure in marketing. ROBYN BECK/AFP via Getty Images
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Another strange, failed idea to come out of the 1980s was IKEA a.i.r. — inflatable furniture that could be blown up with a hairdryer. IKEA
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The furniture was admittedly lightweight, affordable, and easy to set up.
Unfortunately, it also leaked constantly, meaning it regularly need to be reinflated, and it was perhaps a bit too lightweight, frequently moving around the room if the air blew too strongly. IKEA
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On May 23, 2005, former U.S. president Donald Trump made an announcement at Trump Towers in New York City: Soon enough, anyone could get a degree from Trump University.
Prospective students could pay to learn about real estate, asset management, entrepreneurship, and wealth creation in a series of lectures and seminars from the man himself. Carvalho/FilmMagic/Getty Images
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Of course, Trump University wasn't an accredited college — nor did it have any partnerships with accredited colleges, despite claims to the contrary.
Seminars ranged from $1,499 to $35,000 for "elite" programs, and the university was subjected to multiple investigations and lawsuits for illegal business practices and defrauding students.
Trump ultimately had to pay a $25 million settlement as a result.
Ironically, one of his courses focused on taxes — a subject for which he is now facing a $250 million lawsuit from the New York Attorney General's office. Biz Herman for The Washington Post via Getty Images
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In the 1990s, clear was the new black. For many brands, the lack of color represented a kind of purity or healthiness that color didn't.
Enter Crystal Pepsi, a product that sold incredibly well until consumers realized that it wasn't very tasty.
David Novak, the man behind the drink, later said, "It would have been nice if I’d made sure the product tasted good. Once you have a great idea, and you blow it, you don’t get a second chance to resurrect it."Raudies/ullstein bild via Getty Images
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Crystal Pepsi was a misfire, but it paled in comparison to the backlash that Coca-Cola received when they launched New Coke, also known as Coke II.
After 99 years of using their original formula, consumers weren't thrilled when the company switched.
In this photo, Coca-Cola Company President Donald R. Keough and Roberto Goizueta toast each other with cans of "New Coke."Bettmann/Getty Images
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The love of New Coke clearly didn't trickle down to consumers, and backlash against the product was so strong that it led to petitions all across the country.
Coca-Cola eventually changed back to their original formula. Roger Ressmeyer/CORBIS/VCG via Getty Images
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When it came out in 2014, the My Friend Cayla doll was lauded as one of the most innovative products of the year.
The internet-connected doll could recognize speech and speak back to children, which unfortunately became a major problem when hackers began exploiting its internet connection to control the doll remotely.
Even beyond malicious hacking, the doll was problematic for how it spied on children and used the information it gathered about them to advertise commercial products like Disney films.
Oh, and Disney paid for the advertising, because all of the data Cayla collected was sent back to a U.S.-based server and sold to advertisers. Rob Stothard/Getty Images
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Little Miss No Name wasn't quite as invasive as Cayla, but she still wasn't the kind of doll parents wanted to give to their children.
She was designed in 1965 by Hasbro to be an alternative to Barbie. The idea was to teach young girls empathy for those less fortunate.
Instead, she terrified children and was quickly pulled from shelves — which may have made the opposite point. The Museum of Failure
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On June 3, 2014, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos unveiled the company's first flagship smartphone, the Amazon Fire Phone.
The phone's biggest selling point was an app called Firefly, which allowed users to scan items they wanted in stores so they could buy them on Amazon instead.David Ryder/Getty Images
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The Amazon Fire Phone, however, was far too expensive for most consumers, and Amazon's limited app ecosystem made it a hard sell when compared to Google's Android or Apple's iOS. David Ryder/Getty Images
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Nowadays, the DeLorean is most widely known as "the car from Back to the Future," but it was once marketed as a luxury sports car.
First introduced by John DeLorean in 1976, the car suffered years of delays, and by the time it finally went to market, competitors greatly exceeded its performance.
Plus, the stainless steel finish required constant polishing. Roger Ressmeyer/CORBIS/VCG via Getty Images
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In 1989, Nintendo tried to take gaming to the next level by introducing a wearable controller known as the Power Glove.
While Nintendo has since made motion control a major selling point of its most successful consoles, the 1989 Power Glove failed in pretty much every way. It was difficult to set up, imprecise, and more of a hindrance than anything else. Marcin Wichary/Flickr
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Another addition in the '90s trend of zero-calorie badness, Olestra was approved as an additive in 1996 and used in a number of zero-calorie products.
It quickly fell out of favor, though, when people started noticing the uncomfortable side effects — mainly gastric cramps and diarrhea.
The product came to be associated with "anal leakage." James Leynse/Corbis via Getty Images
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Google co-founder Sergey Brin at the announcement of Project Glass in 2014, a wearable personal computer device later renamed Google Glass.
The product was greatly hyped, and enthusiasts were paying $1,500 to get their hands on one. It promised to be the next evolution in personal computing. Kim Kulish/Corbis via Getty Images
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However, most people didn't realize that despite the high price tag, Google Glass was far from a finished product. If anything, it was an expensive prototype that raised privacy concerns and led to bans in certain businesses worldwide.
Also, users who bought them came to be known as "Glassholes."
In this picture, King Charles tries out a Google Glass prototype. Chris Jackson/Getty Images
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Linda Evans promoted the Rejuvenique Facial Treatment System by Salton Maxim Promotion as a product that would make users feel good and tone facial muscles for a low price and only 45 minutes a week.
Instead, users said it felt like "a thousand ants are biting my face."Ron Galella/Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images
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In 1975, Sony launched Betamax, an innovative home video tape recorder, a year before VHS.
Like LaserDisc, Betamax was higher quality than VHS, but it was also more expensive. It could also only record for one hour, whereas VHS could record for far longer.
The failure of Betamax did, however, eventually lead Sony to develop the CD. SSPL/Getty Images
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Orbitoclast lobotomy tools were developed by American surgeon Walter Freeman as a way to simplify the lobotomy process.
Thanks to his tools, the process left no scars and took less than ten minutes to complete. Even better, it didn't require a neurosurgeon or even an operating room.
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The problem was that lobotomies were a gruesome medical practice that worked only a portion of the time and were quickly replaced by the first wave of psychiatric drugs in the 1950s.
Orbitoclast tools allowed the procedure to be performed on an estimated 50,000 patients in the United States. Public Domain
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Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes told the world her product would make blood-testing easier, cheaper, and less painful. She quickly became the youngest self-made female billionaire in the world and garnered support from numerous wealthy investors.
As it turned out, the whole thing was a scam. Her product didn't work. Investors pulled out, and Holmes was hit with many, many lawsuits. Gilbert Carrasquillo/Getty Images
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The Swedish warship Vasa, now at the Vasa Museum in Stockholm, spent 333 years on the seabed before it was brought out in 1961.
As one of the first warships with two gun decks, the ship was lavishly decorated with symbols of the country and of King Gustav II Adolf of Sweden. When it was finished, it was one of the most powerfully armed military vessels in the world.
It was also dangerously top-heavy, and it sank the first time it was ordered out to sea. JONATHAN NACKSTRAND/AFP via Getty Images
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Donald Trump was evidently full of bad ideas, as his second product inducted into the Museum of Failure shows.
Donald Trump: The Game was described as "a boring and complicated variation of Monopoly" despite Trump's claims that it was "much more sophisticated than Monopoly."
It first went on sale in 1989 and featured ten pages of complicated instructions. It was then rereleased in 2004 following the success of The Apprentice, with a simplified rulebook and many more pictures of Trump.
It was a commercial flop, described by one reviewer as "not a game you want to play again."TOM LITTLE/AFP via Getty Images
27 Products In The Museum Of Failure To Remind You That Not Every Idea Is A Good One
A Collection Of Failures That Spark Conversation
In 2017, Samuel West was a clinical psychologist and innovation researcher living in Sweden when he decided to open up a museum in Helsingborg that would house his collection of failed products.
He had spent a year searching for his collection on eBay, Craigslist, and anywhere else he could find these obscure, niche flops, Sifted reported.
"I nearly killed myself with work that year," West said.
Naturally, the curator had trouble receiving funding or products from the companies whose products he wanted to feature — why would a brand want to flaunt their abject failures?
But West persevered and the museum became a massive success. After that, donations started making their way to him — and to visitors worldwide.
ROBYN BECK/AFP via Getty ImagesDr. Samuel West, the curator of the Museum of Failure, during the museum's Los Angeles tour in 2017.
Though the museum found initial success in Sweden, West began traveling to cities across the world, bringing his collection of 140 failures along with him.
The Museum of Failure includes some of the most famous and infamous snafus in history, ranging from a lobotomy kit to Donald Trump's board game to Elizabeth Holmes' company Theranos.
"It's a fun and entertaining exhibit, definitely," he told the Calgary Herald. "But there's a serious message there that we need to be better at accepting and discussing our own failures, both in the workplace and even as individuals."
And West is certainly a man of his word — he declared bankruptcy in 2019, an irony he was quick to point out.
"After years of advising organizations on accepting the risk of failure, I now get to apply that on myself in an unexpected way," he told Quartz. "Once this legal hassle is over it will make a great addition to the exhibit and to my talks."
The Museum Of Failure's Collection
It's hard to identify a throughline for why products fail. Failure, like success, is the result of numerous factors.
Some items in West's collection are so brazenly terrible it's a wonder how they made it to market in the first place. Some were beaten out by better alternatives. Others were simply ahead of their time.
Take, for example, the Unobrush, the now-defunct eponymous oral hygiene product that could allegedly clean your entire mouth in six seconds. The product earned over $1 million from Kickstarter backers — and it doesn't work.
"It doesn't clean your teeth, it mainly just irritates your gums," West said of the product. "It's easy to laugh; I'm holding it and I can't believe they made it... But somebody has to be first, you know? Who knows?"
Unobrush/KickstarterThe Unobrush, funded in only four hours on Kickstarter.
Other notable products on display include the Hawaii Chair, an invention that wound up on TIME magazine's "50 Worst Inventions" list in 2010.
"Imagine a chair where the seat rotates, so that to sit in it, you have to sort of make a hula hoop movement with your hips," West said. "The idea was you could just sit on your ass and get fit because, you know, you have to move with the chair."
Instead, the chair was just incredibly difficult to sit on.
Then, there are two different failed Coca-Cola products: New Coke, arguably the company's biggest blunder, and Coca-Cola Blak, a coffee-flavored Coke which West described as "an absolutely vile drink."
The museum also features a few different products peddled by former president Donald Trump, including Trump: The Game, a 1989 board game which, Newsweek reported, only sold 800,000 copies of an anticipated two million.
Featured alongside Trump: The Game is Trump University, a collection of seminars from Trump himself offering prospective students a chance to gain real estate skills and knowledge. Costs for the program went as high as $35,000.
It was also hit with several lawsuits for "deceptive practices" among other claims, resulting in Trump paying a $25 million settlement to anyone who attended Trump University between 2007 and 2010.
Other items in the museum had much less severe consequences, though, such as the Microsoft Zune, BOO.com, HD DVD, the Segway, Harley-Davidson perfume, and the Sony Minidisc, to name a few.
ROBYN BECK/AFP via Getty ImagesSamuel West with some of the museum's displays including a plastic bicycle, a DeLorean, and a Segway.
The one thing they all have in common, though, is that they all failed for one reason or another.
"Learning is the only process that turns failure into success," West said. "So if you don't learn from your f— ups, then you've really f—ed up."
A staff writer for All That's Interesting, Austin Harvey has also had work published with Discover Magazine, Giddy, and Lucid covering topics on mental health, sexual health, history, and sociology. He holds a bachelor's degree in screenwriting (widely considered to be a bad move) from Point Park University.