The best-laid schemes o' mice an' men
Gang aft agley,
An' lea'e us nought but grief an' pain,
For promis'd joy!
- Robert Burns –
"To a Mouse, on Turning Her Up in Her Nest with the Plough"
Yeah, there’s a whole bunch of CEO’s running around muttering those words, or something akin to them, as the year draws to a close, because under their watch some of their biggest product launches landed with a thud.
President Obama probably sits at the top of the roost, still agonizing over the launch of healthcare.gov, which was far and away the most catastrophic failure of them all. But as a governmental entity and not a commercial product in the strictest sense, we’ll assign it a special purgatory not included in tangible and tactile products.
Blackberry could be on the next rung. The editors at 24/7 Wall Street took a look back at the entirety of 2012 and compiled a list of the biggest stinkers. The Blackberry Q-10 came in at number three leading a list prolific with IT blunders. A shopkeeper in the Midwest returned the entire product supply he had ordered with a note that there was “virtually no demand.” The amount of unsold returns kept the mailroom busy, while Apple products were raking in the dough. Rob Weiner, Associate Humanities Librarian/Pop Culture Librarian at Texas Tech says of Apple, “They were making products that the general person on the street could use, that were simple, and that didn’t need a lot of navigation. Blackberry was a little more complicated.” When the dust had settled, the company was $960 million in the hole, and wasn’t able to recover as a brand.
Number two on the list was Lululemon Yoga Wear. Surely given the faddish popularity yoga gained in 2012 a line of very upscale yoga clothing would fly off the shelves. Or not, as it turned out, when early purchasers found that the sheer fabric was so sheer that anyone could see right through it. You have to picture in your mind some of the peculiar gyrations and provocative poses struck in the practice of yoga to appreciate what a monstrous miscalculation had been made. In a world of social media, you can’t make those kinds of mistakes and last for long.
It might be tempting to put the Disney/Jerry Bruckheimer movie “The Lone Ranger” high on the list, costing in their neighborhood of $250 million and returning less than half of that. “Disney’s had a spate of big failures!” Weiner says. “Let’s not forget John Carter, too!” However the Lone Ranger did not make number one.
The Wii-U is given the honor of shame. Though technically introduced in late 2012, it had a remarkably unspectacular 2013. Between November ’12 and September ’13, four million units had sold. When the Xbox One and Play Station Four came out, they each sold one million units, in one day. And skyrocketed from there. It wasn’t that there wasn’t a viable consumer base with expendable income; it was that they had completely misread the room of what those consumers wanted. Nintendo lost $81 million in the gamble, and in the last seven years have seen their stock value lose three-quarters of its value.