Sweden’s Museum of Commercial Flops

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Sweden’s Museum of Commercial Flops

51 commercial failed products will be exhibited at ‘Museum of Failure’ in Helsingborg, Sweden, when it opens 7 June. Collector and innovation researcher at Lund University, Samuel West, is the museum’s curator. Today West is an organizational psychologist.

The museum will showcase failed products like President Trump’s Monopoly-style board game, an electric face lifting mask and Purple Bic for Her. Visitors may also get reacquainted with more familiar names like Betamax and Blockbuster.

Sweden’s Museum of Commercial Flops
Apple’s Newton

“Everybody in the innovation business knows that 80 to 90 percent of projects fail,” West, told The Washington Post. So where are all these failures? Do you remember that Harley Davidson launched the Hot Road perfume. Or the Crystal Pepsi and MacDonald’s Arch Deluxe?

Sweden’s Museum of Commercial Flops
Electric face lifting mask

West admits that the project has been a labor of love given that the items in his collection all have been discontinued and difficult to secure. He started buying failed products online, at first for his own amusement. However, it quickly turned into an obsession.

Sweden’s Museum of Commercial Flops
Harley Davidson perfume

“Businesses are afraid of failures,” says West and continues: “But innovation requires failure, and I believe that the Museum of Failures sort of helps to show that failures are an important part of success.” Now, his one-of-a-kind collection of flops is getting a permanent home.

Sweden’s Museum of Commercial Flops
Nokia combined the smartphone and gaming devices on its co-called Nokia N-Gage.

In the coming weeks, West is set to open the Museum of Failures in Helsingborg, Sweden, celebrating some of the corporate world’s most extreme misfires. The goal, he said, is to show that innovation requires failure. Every exhibit offers “unique insight into the risky business of innovation.” In other words, we can all learn a lot from bad ideas, so we should stop pretending they never happened.

Many of the products on display lasted only a few years. Nokia combined for instance the smartphone and gaming devices on its co-called Nokia N-Gage. It was on sale only from 2003 to 2005. It was great technology, but the company misinterpreted the demand from consumers.

Sweden’s Museum of Commercial Flops
Pink Bic – for her

Nokia tried to upgrade with the redesigned N-Gage QD in 2004, but ultimately sold only a few million units before discontinuing the device altogether.

Sweden’s Museum of Commercial Flops
Sony Betamax video cassette player lost the war over videotape formats to its rival, VHS

Further back, before iPhone and iPad, Apple’s Newton ran a bit longer, from 1993 to 1998. Poor handwriting software and high cost contributed to its demise.

Sony Betamax video cassette player lost the war over videotape formats to its rival, VHS. This has become a case study in marketing defeats.

A lesser-known flop is the CueCat, a barcode reader launched in 2000.  The idea was to direct people to a website — via scanning a magazine, for example — rather than typing in the URL. Few consumers found any use for this product.

If it doesn’t fail, the Museum of Failure will open June 7 in Helsingborg.

Sweden’s Museum of Commercial Flops, written by Tor Kjolberg

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