For the last 12 weeks, Andrew Eborn has been shining a light on the products and services, brand extensions and campaigns that failed to take off and have as a result earned entry into the Octopus TV Failure Awards and a place in The Museum of Failure. Now it's time for the results.
It’s been a fine year for fantastically fabulous failures, and even award ceremonies have not escaped, from La La Land mistakenly being named as best picture at the Oscars to Prue Leith's premature congratulation of the winner of the Great British Bake Off... dough!
But nothing has been more eagerly awaited by everybody around the world than the results of The Octopus TV Failure Awards 2017.
Well, my lords, ladies and gentlemen – and all those embraced under the Dove Diversity initiative – the wait is over and the results are finally here.
Cue the music ..…
And so the great, the good and the unwashed splashed on their Harley Davidson Cologne and gathered at that monument to success from failure, The Millennium Dome, for the inaugural Octopus TV Failure Awards.
Expectations were challenged at the pre-show reception where the fizz being served turned out not to be Cristal Champagne but rather Crystal Pepsi
Fresh from their Oscar and Great British Bake Off fumbles, our hosts for the evening were Warren Beatty and Prue Leith. Thank you to digitally dextrous Diane Abbott for supervising the vote count.
But first let’s have a reminder of this year’s nominees:
Colgate Kitchen Entrees, a range of frozen ready meals, is a textbook example of how brand extensions can fail. The Colgate brand is so associated with health and oral hygiene and that fresh minty taste that using the brand with food was clearly not going to work. Who wants toothpaste flavoured pasta? Tongue tinglingly tasty!
Twitter Peek – a device that only did Twitter but could not even do that very well. The Twitter Peek failed on several levels – both flawed in logic and execution. Using the Tweek was a painfully slow experience. The messages were truncated with only the first 20 characters being shown. One reviewer said: “The Twitter Peek is so dumb it makes my brain hurt.” As Frankie Howerd would say – Twitter ye not!
The Nokia N-Gage combined a mobile game system with a smartphone. The device had to be disassembled to change games. Users had to hold the phone sideways, with its thin edge against their head. This led to the N-Gage being referred to as the “taco phone”. Commercially it was a disaster – one of the weakest console releases ever. N-Gage? It did not!
Juicero, the Wi-Fi connected juicer, was launched as the “iMac of Juicers” with an eye-watering $700 price tag. It used singled purpose juice pouches available on subscription. Over $120m was squeezed from investors including heavyweights from Silicon Valley. Distribution was limited and the need for the smart juicer called into question when it was shown the pouches could be squeezed by hand. Juicero was widely ridiculed as an over-engineered, overpriced solution to a problem that just did not really exist. The business collapsed in September 2017.
Unlike the famous WD40 aftershave spoof, Legendary Harley Davidson eau de toilette was no April Fool. Many customers who loved Harley Davidson hated the Disneyfication of the brand.
Who wants to smell like a hairy biker after a hot day getting kicks on Route 66? Hogwash!
Watch out for Castrol shampoo for particularly oily hair…
The low calorie Guinness Light was designed to appeal to younger people moving to ales and lagers. The advertising campaign used the tagline "they said it couldn't be done.” And indeed it couldn't.
The dark one’s journey into the light was such a spectacular flop that the Irish Times called it “The HMS Titanic of stout products". As one critic put it, the taste could not have been less appealing – it was enough to drive you to drink!
The DeLorean story is itself a fascinating fable of failure and fraud. The DMC-12 was an iconic symbol of the 80’s thanks to The Back To The Future movies. In reality, without the benefit of a plutonium-fuelled nuclear reactor and Flux Capacitor, it was a nightmare of a car – a badly engineered gimmick and a commercial disaster. 88 mph? Hmm
Rejuvenique Facial Toning Mask straps on to your head and tightens facial muscles by using electrical stimulation. How shocking!
The product was not FDA cleared, there appear to have been no clinical tests and there are reports from users of pain. One user said that the mask actually “feels like a thousand ants are biting my face”.
A fairy tale product – Grimm!
:CueCat is a cat-shaped barcode scanner designed to save people the trouble of typing web addresses by scanning special codes/cues. The data gathered enabled content to be tailored based on users’ profiles. Investors, including Radio Shack, put $185m in the kitty. It was a commercial failure and awarded the title of one of the worst gadgets of all time. It was difficult to use relying on being tethered to your computer and there were concerns regarding privacy. Talk of a wireless version was too late.
Trump – The Game is a roll and move game about buying and selling real estate. It was described as a boring and complicated variation of Monopoly, although The Donald claimed: "It's much more sophisticated than Monopoly”. Critics said it “can leave you exhausted” and is “a great game if you don't have very many friends”. Accordingly, Trump – The Game flopped, shifting just 40% of its expected 2m sales. “Trump: the President’s Game”, cunningly devised by your author, is a sure fire hit, however! The Game would be won when you get re-elected or the world ends... whichever is the sooner.
Google Glass – the computer you wear on your face with built in camera, head-mounted display and voice activation capability – was described as “the worst product of all time”, “plagued by bugs”, “of questionable use” and “overpriced” and had an abysmal battery life. The release in its beta form was a failure and also gave rise to concerns over privacy. Wearers became known as “Glassholes”. Proving again that failure is the father of success, Glass 2.0, an enterprise edition, was launched this year. Snap, Amazon and Facebook are also making their passes at AR Glasses.
Crystal Pepsi was a child of the 90s clear craze which associated clarity with purity. Devoid of artificial ingredients, including the colouring that gives Pepsi its caramel hue, Crystal Pepsi was marketed as a caffeine-free healthier alternative to regular cola. Consumers were confused and, in spite of an initial spike in sales, rejected the new product. Tab Clear was introduced by Coke as a "kamikaze" effort to add to the confusion and kill both products. The Pepsi Invaders strategy worked, aided by the fact that even Pepsi Crystal’s creator, David Novak, thought the product did not taste good.
Each of the finalists provides valuable lessons to other brands and businesses and has earned its place in The Museum of Failure, but there can only be one winner...
And The TOFA goes to...
After much deliberation, wringing of hands and grinding of teeth, I’m delighted to announce that this year‘s winner of The Octopus TV Failure Awards 2017 is…
The judges unanimously agreed that Juicero epitomised the essence of The Octopus TV Failure Awards. From Silicon Valley star startup to fabulous firesale failure. The combination of unsustainable costs, lack of significant infrastructure and ridicule in the media meant that Juicero was losing about $4million a month. Its demise in September 2017 was inevitable. But in the spirit of The Octopus TV Failure Awards, lessons will be learned. Up from the ashes of failure grow the roses of success.
As I predicted, the inevitable march of AI and robotic technology is changing the way we live and work, replacing millions of jobs. I'm aready working with various companies on products and services for our brave new connected world. Expect to see several connected products, services and experiences embracing AI, AR and holograms released over the coming months.
Recognising Juicero's failure and understanding the reasons for that failure will help ensure that those products and services are a success.
As The Octopus TV Failure Awards have established, the path to successful innovation is through failure. Necessity is the mother of invention. Failure is the father of success.
Thank you for all of your nominations this year.