Causes of product failure – Intro

In this new blog series we will go through those products that aren’t that well know: those that failed. You might think “why?” We want to discover if there were common factors among the reasons of their failure. To be able to discover the reason of their downfall we analysed documents, press and testimonies about the product.

After the research we could detect 11 mayor causes of failure in products. We hope that this research can help you thinking and reevaluating your product to detect if it is following any of the signs that we mention.

We all know that launching a new product isn’t easy. It requires a huge investment and the development of a compelling product that fits the needs of the population.

Logically, the intention is to recover the investment as soon as possible and get some profit, even though this doesn’t always happen. Collins said that more than 50% of the new products will fail [1]. Other put this number in less than 45% for consumer products [2]. What is undoubted is that a lot of them fail no matter the amount of effort made by designers, marketing experts, sales people and so on causing a financial loss.

Photo by Gabriel Freytez from Pexels

There is no thing as science or easy question to know if a product will be welcomed in the market. Even big companies can send out products that won’t have a great welcome.

Even if it seems contradicting, CEO of big companies encourage us to accept this failure as part of the creative process and we shouldn’t see it as a mistake. “Failing is an option here. If things aren’t failing, means that you are not innovating enough” is attributed to Elon Musk [3]. Jeff Benzos said “failure and innovation are inseparable twins” [4] Gwynne Shotwell, president and operation chief of SpaceX, said in one of her talks at TEDxChapmanU that we have to stop fearing failure and it is a concept that needs a new image. She also explained that when you try to innovate or develop new ideas, if they fail during a test, at least you learned [5]. Astro Teller, founder of Google X, explains in a talk that he celebrates failure in his company, so they try to “kill” the projects by looking for the mistakes. The person that finds a problem will be rewarded, so they won’t fear the project failure. “Discovering a big problem in a project doesn’t need to mean the end of it. Sometimes, we can reconduct it into a more productive product” [6].

In this blog series, we will analyse some of the examples of products that didn’t have a great welcoming in the market, and we will find the causes. Our goal is inviting designers and creators to learn about past mistakes to try, as much as possible, not to commit the same mistakes or at least be more critic about the project.

To make this research, first we defined what would be considered as a failure:

  • Obtaining less sales that the expected or bad reputation among the public.
  • Retiring the product of the market in an early stage.
  • The company admitting the failure of their creation.
  • Bad reviews.

We analysed though interviews, reviews and news 50 products that were consider a failure and check which was the main problem. Logically there is more than one reason but we tried to define the main one for this research.

[1] M. Collins, “Reducing the Failure Rate Of New Products.” 2015.
[2] G. Castellion and S. K. Markham, “Perspective: New Product Failure Rates: Influence of Argumentum ad Populum and Self-Interest,” J. Prod. Innov. Manag., vol. 30, pp. 976–979, 2013.
[3] R. Winley, “Entrepreneurs: 5 Things We Can Learn From Elon Musk,” Forbes Entrepreneurs. 2015.
[4] T. Soper, “‘Failure and innovation are inseparable twins’’: Amazon founder Jeff Bezos offers 7 leadership principles – GeekWire,’” GeekWire. 2016.
[5] G. Shotwell, “Engineering America: Gwynne Shotwell at TEDxChapmanU - YouTube,” YouTube. 2013.
[6] A. Teller, “The unexpected benefit of celebrating failure | Astro Teller - YouTube,” YouTube. 2016.


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