5 Famous Marketing Flops

Written by on February 21, 2013 in Career - No comments | Print this page


58 Edsel Pacer

The best market studies, test groups and professional research can’t guarantee the success of a new product. Marketing flops can happen to any company, even American icons such as Ford and Coca-Cola. The following is a compilation of five of the biggest marketing flops in history.

The Edsel

Ford Motor Company spent several years and over $250 million in research and product development to prepare the Edsel for the consumer market with the expectation that the original look and new features, including self adjusting brakes and a light-up speedometer, would draw in eager buyers.

After a public unveiling on September 4, 1957, that included fanfare to rival a post-war victory parade, the new model was released to the public. Inexplicably given the dull and uninteresting name “Edsel” in honor of the only son of the company’s founder, the car was unpopular from the start, and production was discontinued after only two years due to dismal sales.

Consumers labeled the car ridiculous and feared public humiliation if one of the ill-fated models were to be spotted in their driveway. Even big name endorsements from celebrities like Frank Sinatra were unable to save this automotive flop.

New Coke

The words “New Coke” have become synonymous with “market flop,” and as with most market flops, the more a new product is hyped, the harder it tends to fall. In April 1985, just a few months shy of the 100th anniversary of the Coca-Cola Company, New Coke was unleashed on a thirsty public.

Although it had performed well in taste tests, the new formulation was resoundingly rejected in some areas of the country. Due to growing public dissatisfaction with the Coca-Cola Company, within three months the original formula was revived as Coke Classic, and New Coke was consigned to the dustbin of good ideas gone wrong.


In a 2008 advertising campaign, LifeLock claimed their identity theft protection services to be so secure that the president of the company, Todd Davis, was not afraid to make his own personal information known to the public. This ploy backfired when Davis’ identity was stolen multiple times.

The company was also investigated by the Federal Trade Commission for false advertising. LifeLock survived the debacle and still offers identity theft protection, but now makes more realistic claims in their advertising.


The XFL was billed as an entertaining fusion of football, professional wrestling and reality television. The players were wired for sound and the action promised to be no-holds-barred. The first televised game on NBC on February 3, 2001, received impressive ratings, but shortly thereafter the death spiral began.

Live games were well attended, but near the end of the 2001 season NBC withdrew their support due to declining television ratings. No other major networks expressed in an interest in carrying the games, and the league was officially dismantled in May 2001.

Aqua Teen Hunger Force

In 2007, Cartoon Network arranged to have small LED light displays placed in ten major American cities to advertise the Aqua Teen Hunger Force cartoon program featured on its Adult Swim line-up. Panic ensued in the city of Boston when the light panels were mistaken for explosive devices. The parent company of Cartoon Network was assessed a $2 million fine and two men responsible for placing the harmless devices found themselves facing criminal charges.

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Casey Long is currently a marketing coordinator and knows that flops sometimes happen, even to some of the best respected in the marketing industry. Casey is happy to give pointers and tips about marketing to her readers and if you would like to learn more about her job, you can click here.


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