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Uni Watch Field Trip: A Visit to the Museum of Failure

Did you know that Colgate, of all companies, once tried to sell a line of frozen dinners? I learned that yesterday while visiting the Museum of Failure, a fun traveling exhibit that’s currently at Industry City in Brooklyn. It’s filled with over 150 product flops — some that were misguided from the start and some that fell victim to bad timing or just bad luck. There are a few sports-related items (including the original XFL, Fox’s glowing puck, and a urinal shaped like a golf club), but I feel like even the non-sports items will be of interest to Uni Watch readers.

I took a bunch of photos. In each case, the photo of the product is followed by a shot of its accompanying informational placard. Enjoy!


Comments (38)

    There was a great “Stuff You Should Know” podcast regarding John DeLorean, highly recommend.

    Coca-Cola hasn’t given up on the cola/coffee concoction. They have given it another try starting in 2021. I have tried it out of curiosity and not a fan. Like both cola and coffee, but not together.

    I tried a few cans of the Coke+Coffee that’s still on the market. They come in a slimmer can that kind of evokes an energy drink design. It’s not bad. It simply tastes like half cola and half coffee. Nothing earth shattering.

    I have tried many of those Oreos, including the Japanese wasabi and hot wing (?) flavors.

    Some are good – others – not so much.

    Our neighbors had a DeLorean when I was very young. Thought it was the coolest thing ever when they would stop at the mailbox to get their mail.

    I also still have my Atari 2600 and it still works. And, yes, I have the E.T. game. It was pretty bad. Almost as bad was the Raiders of the Lost Ark game I have as well.

    Fascinating exhibit! And something like it should really be a permanent part of either the Smithsonian American History Museum or a display at the Smithsonian Arts and Industries Building. But such an exhibit should not include the Oreos flavors, since alternate Oreos flavors have been, collectively, a huge success for Nabisco.

    I also played E.T. long before I got on the internet and found out about its notoriety. At the time I thought it was just another unremarkably bad and inscrutable game.

    I actually liked the Raiders of the Lost Ark game, which was very similar to the E.T. game (which I might have played once on a store-demo console), although in retrospect it was tedious, really hard to figure out/solve, and a lot of the elements/objects didn’t make sense or serve any real purpose. The fact that you needed both joysticks to play it was simultaneously ingenious and highly irritating.

    The Mets uniforms with the tail under the team name? They should be in that exhibit!

    On another note, is there a way we can block the mojo videos that are in the feed? The shrink a little before you are able to get rid of them. But it’s getting to be like whack-a-mole.

    I wondered if I was the only one. I get bombarded with those Mojo videos. And to be honest, some of their topics/categories are somewhat inappropriate.

    I have a set of Jarts in the box. Makes me feel kind of daring and illegal when I look at them.

    ESPN Mobile. I still have those ads seared into my brain.

    I could be wrong but I think every time you see Dog the Bounty Hunter, he is wearing Oakley Thumps. There was a DtBH version made available for sale and I imagine her wore them to make it look like he was equipped with high tech communications gear.

    Audio-Technica resurrected the Sound Burger last year, and it sold out everywhere immediately. Looks like they’re doing/recently did another release run.

    The newest product that I think will end up in the Museum of Failure is the Sutro pool water testing monitor. You have to pay for the device and then pay for the testing cartridge subscription. Then it will tell you what chemicals you need to buy from the store.

    Or…every pool store by me does free water testing and you just buy the chemicals there.

    MiniDisc may not have been commercially successful, but its compact, recordable format made it a staple for sports reporters and broadcasters.

    Also, the lawn darts hold a special place in my heart since I have a scar on my head courtesy of one.

    I used MiniDisc for broadcasts for years, to record and cue-up highlights. Although the controls were rather cumbersome to use it was a huge upgrade over cassette tapes. I used it for other recordings as well, like music demos, some of which I still have.

    This is a very good exhibition. As a teenager on holiday in France I was so impressed with Minitel, many years before the advent of the internet. Billboards and magazine ads would feature these mysterious Minitel numbers that you could dial for additional information. The signs with the exhibited objects are very well written, totally funny!

    Worth noting that the Colgate lasagna, which for whatever reason seems to be the one that strikes the biggest chord with a lot of people (including being used as the top photo here), is the one item in the Museum of Failure collection acknowledged to be inauthentic. There is no evidence that Colgate ever made lasagna or any frozen food in the ’80s. There is some evidence to suggest that in the *’60s* Colgate did briefly experiment with some frozen foods (not lasagna as far as is known), but might have only been test marketed in a single location (Madison, Wisconsin).

    I was confused by this. The MoF’s placard essentially says “Colgate says it never existed, so here’s something we made up.” Seems like they should probably explain in greater detail why they opted to mock up their own product that likely never existed.

    I remember liking Crystal Pepsi, and was disappointed when it went off the market. I was only 12 at the time, I wonder if I would like it now.

    A failed brand that managed to be a favorite was OK Soda. Tasted like Fresca with a splash of cherry!

    The Museum of Failure was near my house for a few months last summer, in an abandoned Sears (twist of irony). It was great, especially if you’re old enough to remember some of the stuff. My kids (young teens were amazed at some of the stupid ideas even without the nostalgia.

    If you like this post, track down a copy of the 1995 book “Complete & Utter Failure” by Neil Steinberg, which includes a chapter on failed consumer products. (And the whole book is full of Uni Watch-esque details.)

    “There are a few sports-related items (including the original XFL, Fox’s glowing puck, and a urinal shaped like a golf club)”
    But not this?

    Some of those ridiculous Lays potato chips flavors (cappuccino, anyone?) could be part of the exhibit like the Oreos.

    Did they sell any swag? I feel like a Museum of Failure T shirt might be worthy of adding to my wardrobe!

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