We've all heard the saying, “You fail to succeed.” While there is undoubtedly truth behind this mantra, it can be a little disheartening when we come up with brilliant ideas only for them to flop completely. It helps to take solace in knowing that even some of the world's most successful people have experienced not-so-successful endeavors—from musicians and actors to entrepreneurs and inventors. From JK Rowling's “Harry Potter” rejection letters to Kodak's revolutionized camera franchise falling apart due to digital photography advances, let us honor these great minds who learned from failure, which then led them to bigger successes!
1. Social Media: Bringing People Together
One user posted, “Social media as a way to bring people together.”
Another replied, “It was back when MySpace was on top. I actually made new friends there. With Facebook, I lost friends, lost my brother, and saw mostly ads and pages I don't follow.”
“Did you lose any friends on Myspace because they weren't in your top 8? That… was a passive-aggressive person's dream, lol,” another Redditor commented.
One user commented, “That sh*t was legitimate social currency back in the day. ‘I'm in his Top 8; how did I not get invited to his party??' vs. ‘Well…, I barely talk to this loser, but he put me in his Top 8; I'd be a d*ck not to top him back.' Sorry Aunt Judy, the Top 8 isn't about love; it's about life. The real passive-aggressive sh*t came when they allowed you to customize the number of people in your Top Friends. The height of hilarity was to set it to one number below your actual friend count and then pick just one person to exclude from the list.”
Another commenter replied, “Most social media are executed perfectly, right up until the point where they are forced to attempt to make a profit.”
One Redditor shared, “Moviepass, i.e., a monthly subscription service to see as many movies as you want for a flat fee. The core concept is actually solid. The big risk with unlimited subscriptions is induced demand, where people consume more of your product because their unit price drops. Movie theaters are mostly fixed costs. However, they don't really care about induced demand outside of opening weekend for big blockbusters (which you can make special rules about). As long as a movie isn't sold out, you'd basically take any amount of money for the empty seats.
“Even if someone sees ten movies in a month, you're still probably making money even if you only charged them two movies' worth, and that's before potential concession sales. That said, the theaters have to be on board, and Moviepass launched without first getting them to agree to such a system. Instead, Moviepass had to pay full price to the theaters for every single movie seen. Their prices were not fixed, and as a result, the induced demand absolutely crushed them.”
Another user replied, “This is part of what kills the brilliant idea part. See, they thought they were going to show the demand they brought. THEN they were going to get the theaters to give them a cut of the concessions. Well, the theaters were like, yeah, that's not going to happen. Sure, the movie pass sold some tickets and possibly got a few more sales in the concessions, but it wasn't bringing the money into the theaters that made it worth it to the theater to give the cut they wanted. On top of that, places like AMC say, Hey, this works; we can do our own version(and limit the number of movies) and get the full reward once their model crashes.”
“What hurt them the most, I think, is the lack of research into ticket pricing in different regions. The ticket price for a premiere movie can range from $6 to $25, depending on where you are in the country. And, obviously, the places where ticket prices are the highest are places where the service is likely to be used the most,” one commenter explained.
3. Microsoft Zune
A Redditor shared, “Microsoft Zune.”
Another user replied, “Great product, poorly marketed. But it was (IMO) vastly superior to the iPod.”
“Why do you consider it superior? I remember when they were around, but I never used one, so I don't have the experience of having been able to compare them,” one user commented.
Another user added, “No need to use iTunes. Drag and drop all the way. Better interface. Ease of maneuvering. And… and this is a personal thing… I felt the quality was better when I listened to my music.”
“Also music sharing! You could send and receive songs and albums from friends wirelessly and then listen to them 3 times before they ‘expire,'” one user stated.
Another commenter responded, “Yeah, that was a great feature, but they didn't name it very well, lmao. It wasn't sent or shared or anything; it was a squirt. That said, I loved my Zune, the usability and interface, and 10 a month to try everything and then buy and get a kept copy of what you like. It was a great system; there're services out there now that can't match it. It just got killed by iPod hype.”
One Redditor added, “Recycling… I wish it were great everywhere.”
Another user replied, “I mean, it worked great for what it was intended to do… Turn the ire of the public away from the top 100 companies responsible for 71% of the pollution and instead towards individuals. Same tactic as when the fossil fuel industry invented the term carbon footprint and kept asking us what our footprint was until we started asking ourselves so much that we were too busy to remember to keep asking them.”
One user commented, “Much Recycling is a cost/return problem. Paper can only be successfully recycled once or twice before the fibers are too small to be useful. Glass is actually cheaper (and less costly in terms of damage to the environment) to make new with only a small amount of recycled Glass in the mix (on the other hand, Glass is suitable for nearly infinite reuses due to its lack of porousness and high heat tolerance) than it is to recycle entirely. Some metals are nearly impossible to extract from objects they've been built into. Plastic has the problem of so many polymers. Even so, many recyclable ones that separation by type becomes prohibitively expensive. I recycle, but I reuse first.”
5. The Segway
One user commented, “The Segway. It was hailed as what the car was to the horse and buggy. Built by a famous inventor, it never took off. One of the most hyped inventions of all time.”
Another user added, “James Heselden, the guy who bought Segway Inc., died from his injuries after he fell off a cliff while riding his segway.”
“It flew like a champ; just need to work on the landing,” one user joked.
“I miss the tech optimism surrounding the year 2000. This sort of vague cultural idea that we were now in the New Millenium and it was time to start being futuristic but using the same technology we'd had for a decade. The segway wasn't even the dumbest idea we had. Remember those electronic pets they used to make? Poo-Chi? I remember one time I was watching a true crime show, and it featured an assassination via a rigged Poo-Chi. A drug dealer received a chrome-painted electronic dog in the mail and put three D batteries inside, completing the circuit, thereby triggering the explosive device which killed him because he stole a bunch of cocaine. Really makes you think,” one Redditor added.
6. Google Glass
A Redditor shared, “Google Glass, I remember when people were talking about how it was gonna be the next ‘big thing,' and it failed.”
Another user added, “I think the timing coinciding with Google purchasing YouTube really had more backlash than they were anticipating. I was a massive consumer of YouTube back then (okay, still am), and I should've been in the target demographic for Google+, but the fact that I was forced to have a Google+ account connected to my YouTube account hit me right in my angsty teen, “You can't… tell me what to do! You're not my real dad!” instinct.”
“I think the technology just wasn't there yet; I think in maybe a decade's time, something similar could be successful,” one user replied.
Another Redditor stated, “And they somehow buggered that up now, too. I had to switch to Bing. Google gives me ads and content farms for the first page or two of results. It's a nightmare finding anything remotely useful.
“Regarding Google Glass, one thing I noticed around the time it came out was there were some high-profile cases of creepshots and other very unpleasant public behavior. In some segments, the product was latched on to as basically a tool for privacy invasion and harassment. Since it was far from feature complete, Google didn't have much to argue in favor of its actual value.
“I think it could be a useful thing for people in certain situations to always keep tabs on particular data points, emails, etc.—and I imagine it'd be a great alternative to a teleprompter to allow people to make dynamic speeches without needing a lot of set-ups. Plus, it has great potential for individuals with disabilities and language translation. But they just seemed to want to sell it as ‘here's a thing that lets you take pictures of everything you look at.'”
7. Market Garden
“Market Garden,” one Redditor shared.
Another user replied, “I mean, it was a tactical defeat but a strategic win for the Allies. The Germans had to withdraw to safer lines even though they technically defeated the combined airborne/ground invasion. So if it had been a tactical victory for the Allies, I wonder what really would have changed. I mean, except for less fallen soldiers, of course.”
One user also commented, “The ultimate objective was to be able to penetrate into Germany bypassing the Siegfried Line. Monty's idea was that, once he got into the North German plain, he'd be in good tank country and could get to Berlin before Xmas 1944. That didn't work out. The problem was that not even the Allies had the assets to carry out such a mission as Market Garden. Also, dropping lightly armed paratroopers on top of two SS Panzer Divisions wasn't a good idea.”
One user added to the thread, “Carvana—loved the idea of putting more control of the car-buying experience back in the hands of the buyer, but and my wife and I both had a harrowing experience buying through them and their ‘hassle-free' return process was riddled with hassles.”
Another user commented, “Having the title before you try to sell the car would have helped their business as well. When you read about the company, they do so much wrong.”
“I have heard so many stories of Carvana actually buying stolen cars and then turning around and selling them. The buyer had no idea the car was stolen until they either a) got pulled over for something and arrested or b) came home to find the cops towing their car away. It's just ridiculous how poorly executed the thing was,” one user replied.
9. Public Transit in the United States
One user shared, “Public transit in the United States.”
Another user added, “It was actually pretty well executed originally; we just destroyed it because it made the line go down, and we can't have that.”
“The bus system where I live is garbage,” one commenter replied.
10. Nintendo's Virtual Boy
“Nintendo's Virtual Boy,” one Redditor stated.
Another commenter replied, “The prototype for it was amazing, the sensors they used in production weren't as accurate, and it became crap. Kinda a shame, tbh.”
One user added, “Mattel, not Nintendo, made it.”
Another user also shared, “Since we're talking about Nintendo, the Wii U. It wasn't marketed well, but it was my favorite system ever made. That second screen on the gamepad is possibly the greatest feature I've ever seen on a console, but unfortunately, it wasn't used much. Being able to just look down at the map and go through my inventory without pausing while playing Wind Waker was awesome. I thought a second screen was going to become standard for all consoles, but I was wrong.”
11. No Child Left Behind
A user shared, “I think No Child Left Behind was a good concept. But basing school funding on standardized tests just crushed anything good out of it—the rich schools with funding for equipment and higher-end teachers got more money, and the schools that needed financial help got probation and threats of funding withdrawal. As a former teacher, I loved the idea that a kid could move to another school mid-semester and be learning the same concept in each subject as the school they left, but instead, any kid who wasn't immediately grasping concepts was forced to fail upwards. Failing upwards hurts all of us.”
“First, it was Head Start. Now it's No Child Left Behind. Someone's losing ground,” one user stated.
Another added, “I disagree one hundred percent that the NCLB bill was a good idea to begin with. It saddens me that anybody thinks it ever was. It should have been called ‘poor child left behind' because that's what it did.
“I'm still to this day shocked that anyone needed to see the end result to realize it was a really, really regressive idea to tie school funding to student performance. It is literally inverted logic because poorly performing schools are that in large part because they lack funding. The bill should have allocated more funding to poorly performing schools. Because, aside from being the thing to do if you actually give a damn about the actual kids and educators in poorly performing schools and want to help them do better, it's also common f*cking sense.”
12. Fyre Festival
A user shared, “Fyre Festival.”
Another user added, “‘Opulent vacation music festival at Walmart prices' wasn't a good idea for all the reasons it fell apart. It was just brilliant marketing.”
“It was never a good idea. They took the worst aspects of large ‘cool' festivals (e.g., Burning Man, Coachella), weaponized them, coated them in greed, and sprinkled a little bit of fraud on top. Even if it wasn't a f*ck up, it would still have been a sh*t show,” a Redditor commented.
One commenter replied, “I've always thought that it could have worked if it had been planned years in advance. I have to admit, the idea of a music festival on a Caribbean island still intrigues me. The problem is that the island location alone presents major logistical hurdles. By definition, everything on an island is harder to acquire, from food to land. Add to that the issues of promised catered meals and guaranteed luxury lodging, and you have serious mountains to climb to pull off the festival. With enough lead time to construct the bungalows and hire enough food services to prepare the meals, it is feasible, but trying to pull it off in a few months' time made it impossible…
A better approach would have been for Fyre… to start small such as on a beach somewhere with no inclusion of lodging or catering in the ticket packages. Concertgoers would know what to expect, and the festival would have been a lot more successful. If Fyre had done that for a few years,… when the time came for an actual festival on an island, Fyre Festival could have booked enough contractors to build lodging and hired enough vendors to make food for the whole weekend. Unfortunately, Billy McFarland's hubris was enough that he wanted to skip ahead of the build-up and go straight for the opulent.”
Another user posted, “I agree. I've worked at a few minor festivals, one of which is in a pretty remote place. And it takes a lot of work to run properly, even just for an audience of a few thousand who arrange their accommodation. It is not something you can just will into being; it takes a lot of experience and a lot of work. So if they wanted to go down the route of being high-end and exclusive, they really should have started small. High expectations, large audiences, and little experience are a recipe for disaster…“
“I like the original idea that they have the concertgoers stay on a cruise ship docked by the beach and have the performances on the beach. They could partner with any of the cruise lines since they already have the logistics down for food and lodging,” a user concluded.
13. China's Great Leap Forward
One user stated, “China's Great Leap Forward. The idea was to improve the country, but it ended with one of the worst man-made natural disasters in history.” “
Anyone with a basic understanding of agriculture could see it was going to fail terribly, melting down their farming tools to meet Mao's steel goals. But I agree with you; if those 40,000,000 hadn't died, we'd all be talking about Mao's greatest success.”, replied one user.
Another Redditor commented, “The bird killing may be my ‘favorite' part. Birds ate some crops, so killing the birds would stop that, right? Well, apparently, Mao forgot about the food chain, as birds also eat locusts and other bugs that ravage crops. D'oh!”
14. Paper Straws
One of the users shared, “Paper straws.”
Another user replied, “I found it funny how people were raising a fuss about plastic straws but were fine with 64 oz. disposable plastic cups.”
“My understanding was it had something to do with the size/shape of the straws not being recyclable or EASILY recyclable. I'm not entirely sure about the facts on that, but I remember hearing about it,” another user commented.
One Redditor replied, “Also, marine animals get injured because of straws. Like those videos of turtles with straws stuck up their noses. Can't fit a whole cup up a turtle's nose.”
15. 3D Televisions
A Redditor shared, “3D televisions. At this point, if the money/resources continued to go into making it even better, we'd probably have a very passable product that worked great, but this flopped badly. I think the cost was one of the main reasons since ordinary people couldn't afford it when it came out. Also, not a lot of studios were making 3D-capable movies. Imagine if every show or movie, or sports game were shot in 3D; it'd be awesome!! The equipment to do it is expensive, though, so meh. This was one thing I was hoping would really take off. Instead, it just kinda faded away.”
“Another part of the problem for 3D TVs is that the viewers have to be sat in a specific place relative to the TV (pretty much directly in front of it). So they don't work that great when you have multiple people wanting to sit in a standard living room watching something in 3D—especially if you have some of your sofas at an angle to the TV,” one user commented.
Another commenter replied, “I worked in a store that sold big screen TVs when they first came out. They were rear projection; you had to be right in front of the set to see the screen. It was funny on Sunday afternoon to see a line of people about three feet wide and ten feet long watching football.”
Do you remember more ideas that totally flopped? Share them in the comments!
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