Samuel West’s “Museum of Failure” is an act of celebration that commemorates the product disasters that drive the success of later innovations. On June 7, West, a collector and innovation researcher, will debut 51 failed products in a museum exhibition in the Swedish city of Helsingborg, all in the name of honoring the creative process.
“Even the biggest baddest most competent companies fail,” West tells Business Insider. “The trick is to create an organizational culture that accepts failure so that you can fail small … rather than failing big.”
Visitors will get reacquainted with familiar names like Betamax and Blockbuster, and perhaps meet lesser-known flops — like Twitter Peek — all of which West has been collecting for the past year.
Here are some of the featured products:
The hybrid smartphone and gaming device Nokia N-Gage, for instance, was on sale from 2003 to 2005. Nokia released the device as a challenger to the Nintendo Game Boy, but critics quickly took issue with its odd design and button layout.
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.
The Apple Newton was an early tablet that, according to West, “simply didn’t work.” It ran from 1993 to 1998, but the poor handwriting software and its high cost contributed to its eventual demise. The Newton first retailed for $699. Adjusting for inflation, the device would cost $1,178 today.
Hospitals made brief use of it in the mid-1990s, but ultimately Apple struggled to capture market share from the Palm Pilot — another digital assistant of the time.
A lesser-known flop is the CueCat, a barcode reader launched in 2000 that few consumers found any use for. The idea was to direct people to a website — via scanning a magazine, for example — rather than typing in the URL.
Back in 2009, when Twitter was still relatively new, a company called Peek released the TwitterPeek. It was a $200 device that only accessed Twitter — something few people decided was important enough to buy.
Peek Inc., the parent company of the device, launched its first product in 2008. The device, also known as the Peek, solely sent emails. Since 2012, the company has shifted away from personal devices to focus on cloud technology.
Kodak’s DC40 digital camera was among the first of its kind when it was released in 1995, but it’s considered a failure largely because of Kodak’s eventual bankruptcy in 2012. The company failed to consider how big online photo-sharing would get.
In the 1970s, Sony’s Betamax was viewed as the superior choice to VCR. It was faster and offered a clearer picture. But Sony’s failure to capture the video-rental market sent it scrambling for market share. The so-called “Format Wars” ended soon after JVC began gobbling up market share. However, Sony didn’t officially stop manufacturing Betamax players until 2002.
As Netflix began shipping movies directly to people’s homes (and as streaming video became more popular), Blockbuster found itself struggling to entice buyers. It went bankrupt in 2010.
Beverage companies are known for creative (and sometimes puzzling) innovations. One casualty was Coke II, or New Coke as it was first branded, which replaced Classic Coke on shelves in early 1984. Within months, customers demanded that Coke begin selling its original formula again. New Coke was eventually discontinued in 2002.
The coffee-flavored soda Coke BlaK was released in 2006 and promptly discontinued in 2008 after complaints about the poor taste combination and excessive caffeine.
n the 1980s, Colgate produced a line of frozen dinners, encouraging people to eat a branded dinner before brushing their teeth with Colgate toothpaste. West describes the flop succinctly: “Brand extension failure.”
Speaking of brand extensions, the motorcycle company Harley-Davidson released its own line of perfumes and colognes in 1996. They were called “Hot Road” and contained woody notes with hints of tobacco.
Trump: The Game was released in 1989, based on buying and selling properties.
Samuel West described the BIC pen designed for women — and widely ridiculed on its release — as “just stupid.”
But perhaps the most unsettling failure in West’s collection is the Rejuvenique facial mask, which delivered mild electric shocks to the wearer’s face. The electricity would contract the facial muscles in an effort to lift and tone. It was released in 1999 to less-than-enthusiastic reviews.