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5 products that didn't live up to the hype

5 products that didn't live up to the hype Michael Estrin

Take heart, marketers. Sometimes it really is the product. Sometimes all that awareness you created only ends up setting the stage for a mighty fail, because while marketers can hype any product like crazy, they can't make it a hit. That power belongs to consumers, and if the product doesn't deliver on its promise, no amount of marketing or spin can save it.

Here are just a handful of products that came in with a ton of hype and went out with a whisper.

Google Glass
Back in 2012, Google Glass was a really big deal. Heck, it was the future of all things futuristic, because the story was that Google had finally cracked the wearable market.

Just how big was the hype?

Time hailed Google Glass as one of the best inventions of the year. Vogue, a publisher not known for its technology coverage, devoted 12 pages to Google Glass. Even Prince Charles was photographed wearing a pair.

But then Google killed off Google Glass, at least as a consumer-facing technology. Not that Google Glass is dead. It isn't. But apparently, Google Glass is all about the enterprise applications now. So what happened?

According to Google exec Astro Teller, the program failed because of bad marketing and publicity. That claim is hard to square with the amount of positive press the product got in 2012. But to be fair, Google Glass did inspire a revolt against the so-called glassholes. So maybe it was a great product humans just weren't ready for. Regardless, the hype surrounding Google Glass circa 2012 just hasn't panned out. Sure, one day we might all use Google Glass -- or perhaps micro-thin Google lenses grafted to our eyeballs -- but for now Google Glass is just one of those products that never really lived up to the hype of a game-changer.

New Coke
New Coke was not a good idea. In fact, it stunk so bad that we actually took time out to remember the 30th anniversary of this epic flop.

To be fair, back when Coco-Cola decided to launch New Coke, it was facing serious pressure for the Pepsi Challenge, a long-running campaign that encouraged soda drinker to take a blind taste test. So maybe Coke had to do something. But did it have to change the formula? Time compared the idea of a new formula to putting a mini skirt on the Statue of Liberty or painting the White House red. That was not good press.

As for the taste, that was a subjective question. Some said it tasted pretty much the same, only sweeter. Others felt that it tasted more like Pepsi. But the real failure here wasn't the ability to craft a new winning formula, it was the mistaken belief that there was something wrong with the old formula. Sure, Pepsi was eating into Coke's market share, but turning its back on the classic formula effectively cannibalized the brand loyalists to win back the smaller number of consumers who had switched to Pepsi. In a sense, that strategy it implied that there was something unsatisfactory about the product millions of people around the world had been enjoying for almost a century. By putting New Coke out in the world, Coca-Cola essential put its entire business up for grabs.But there was a second failure worth mentioning, too. Coke's marketing effectively conceded the taste test question to Pepsi by telling consumers that its product was the preferred choice in a side-by-side comparison. The problem with that approach is that Coke went from being the leading brand to talking like an also-ran because they had essentially begun playing the Pepsi challenge.

Crystal Pepsi
The idea was to introduce a caffeine-free soda product. Somewhere along the way, Pepsi also figured that if it made it clear -- as in, crystal clear -- people would somehow think it was a healthier drink, you know, like water. Kind of a head-scratcher, right? Anyway, after launching Crystal Pepsi at the 1992 Super Bowl -- how's that for a marketing blitz? -- Pepsi pulled the product a year later due to disappointing sales.

Oddly, Pepsi recently decided to bring back Crystal Pepsi for a limited time. But AdAge probably got it right when it observed that the move may have been part of a larger trend of soda brands bringing back retro flavors to gain social media attention. Make of that strategy what you will. What's especially telling is how Millennials, many of whom aren't old enough to recall Crystal Pepsi's first run, reacted when they had the chance to taste the product.

As it turns out, bad taste is still bad taste all these years later. Then again, who can resist a second chance at a flop?

Apple U2 iPod
Content is king, but when Apple and U2 teamed up to load the band's latest album into 500 million iTunes libraries it felt to some consumers as though they had been spammed by a technology dictator. Sure, iTunes users got free music, so maybe the reaction was somewhat overblown. But regardless of how you felt about the giveaway, you can't deny that the whole thing ended up as a flop.

Apple reportedly spent $100 million in royalties to make the deal happen. U2 only ended up moving an additional $6,000 worth of back catalogue sales. That's some seriously terrible ROI. But worst of all, Bono ended up having to apologize for essentially giving away free music, which is beyond awkward.  

The hoverboard
First of all, it's not really a hoverboard -- at least it's not a hoverboard to anyone who watched "Back to the Future II" and thought: "Yes, in the future we'll all zip along on board's that HOVER just a few inches above the ground." Obviously, today's hoverboards don't do that. They have wheels, so that's disappointing.

But the real problem is that hoverboards can catch fire! In the U.K., the government advised retailers to recall the product. In the U.S., there's been a safety probe to look into injuries associated with the product. Say what you will about the other product flops on this list, at least they aren't prone to self-destruct.

Michael Estrin is freelance writer. He contributes regularly to iMedia, Bankrate.com, and California Lawyer Magazine. But you can also find his byline across the Web (and sometimes in print) at Digiday, Fast...

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