There are eight stages in the product development cycle. At each stage, it is the duty of all parties involved to create a plan — a roadmap — that will guide their product towards success. It is their duty to encourage the most direct route and to avoid overly lengthy excursions or deviations from that route.
Of the eight stages, the first four are devoted almost entirely to whittling a large pool of average ideas into a smaller pool of good ideas.
In the first stage, idea generation, a product’s basic features are solidified and implementation methods are brainstormed. The second stage, idea screening, is where poor concepts are removed from the idea pool. The third stage, concept development and testing, is when the ideas are explored, stressed and critically analyzed. During the fourth stage, business analysis, the viability of the idea as a commercial product is determined.
At every step along an idea’s journey, there are opportunities for bad concepts to be retooled, reshaped, or utterly rejected from the pool. With the number of safeguards in place, you would think that unsound ideas would be ferreted out, locked away, thrown into a cellblock populated by similarly bad ideas and left to rot.
This is not always the case.
Like Andy Dufresne in The Shawshank Redemption, sometimes a bad idea crawls through eight stages of development and comes out clean on the other side. Whether it’s a poor overall concept, such as the now infamous Crystal Pepsi, or something as simple as an ill-advised name, sometimes a terrible idea finds a way and slips right between the bars intended to restrain it.
So, from a medicinal candy doomed by medical advances to the world’s most racist MP3 player, we honor a host of ideas that — while, perhaps not entirely bad — left the gates immediately shackled with an impossible burden: an unfortunate name.
In the mid- to late 1980s, the Campana Company started to realize it had a problem with its Ayds Candy. Sale of the candy — an appetite-suppressant intended to be used as a diet aid — had plummeted almost 50% due to increased public awareness of the disease AIDS.
With wary consumers hesitant — or unwilling — to be seen eating a handful of Ayds, the Campana Company hatched a plan: it would rename the product to assuage nervous customers and assure the public that the candy was in no way related to the disease. In a less-than-effective half-measure, Ayds Candy became Diet Ayds and — to nobody’s surprise — was soon withdrawn from the market.
(Not A Real) Shredder Hand
A better name for the Shredder Hand would be something like, “Five Scissors, One Handle,” or “Multi-Scissors.”
Basically, anything that describes the product without implying that it turns the user into an ancient, vindictive cybernetic samurai. Or affords the user the tools necessary to adequately pretend to be the aforementioned cybernetic samurai.
Furthermore, the Shredder Hand boldly overlooks — or chooses to ignore — the fact that it is a tool designed for a problem that normal people can already solve. The benefit that a paper shredder offers is that it allows user to shred documents in bulk. It’s a safe wager that nobody in the history of the world who has needed to shred a single ticket stub has thought, “This would go so much faster if I had a $30 tool designed solely for this.”
Green Giant Steamers
If you’re going to link your brand and your mascot by name and then personify that mascot, you have to be exceedingly careful about your product names. We’ve all seen the jolly Green Giant, that gargantuan, forest green Adam shaded from the world by a tunic of foliage.
There’s a reason that tunic is there. There are certain… appendages and… functions that people don’t usually want associated with things they put in their mouths. Chief amongst those functions is the production and excretion of waste. So, when Green Giant (the company) chooses to market Green Giant (the mascot’s) Steamers, it’s got to be like shooting yourself in the foot before running a marathon. It’s just hard to imagine that being an easy sell.
McDonald’s Big McStake
With so many irons in the fire, it’s no surprise that McDonald’s usually lands a spot on the average “Most Unfortunate X Ever” list but in 2002, the company made an error so inherently tactless that its tastelessness could’ve served as the recipe for a new line of McNuggets. That error was called “The McAfrika” and it came just as a deadly, tragic famine was sweeping across southern Africa.
“It’s inappropriate and distasteful to launch a hamburger called McAfrika when large portions of southern Africa are on the verge of starvation,” said one aid worker. With press like that and in the face of 12 million starving in Africa, you’d think that McDonalds would, peel out, twist sideways and throw it into reverse faster than Jason Statham trying to shake a tail.
You’d be wrong. McDonald’s continued to offer the burger for the duration of the promotion and even relaunched the sandwich in 2008 to an all-too-familiar round of head shaking.
tugh chev qoH ‘ej G’zOne
The Casio G’zOne, released in 2011, is what happens when you let Worf name your product. A seemingly random, nearly incoherent string of capital letters and apostrophes, the Casio G’zOne was not forged by Kahless the Unforgettable and has nothing to do with the apricot-like Zlim’kach. Instead, the G’zOne was an ultra-durable Android flip phone saddled with an unfortunate name and — according to Cnet — a healthy amount of bloatware.
Making matters worse: the G’zOne’s default search engine was Bing. While the marketing materials made clear the fact that “G’zOne” is intended to be pronounced “Go Zone,” what is unclear is why the phone wasn’t just called the Go Zone in the first place.
The Devil’s Expectorant
666 Cold Preparation might have gotten a pass considering the brand was founded long before there were entire schools designed solely to teach people not to act on bad marketing ideas. Might have, except for the fact that they chose what is probably the most ancient and polarizing number in human history as their product name. Sure, they were simpler times. Of course, they didn’t have access to the dearth of market research we enjoy in the 21st century.
But come on… it’s a tough pill to swallow that not one person in the formulation, design, packaging, manufacturing or distribution chain took a look at 666 Cold Preparation and said, “Wait a minute. Wait just a minute. We might be making this a bit more difficult than it needs to be.”
Trekstor’s Racist MP3 Player
Companies looking for a surefire way to distinguish themselves, take note. In 2007, during the MP3 player boom, fledgling manufacturer Trekstor needed a way to separate themselves from the crowd. While reviews for its MP3 player were largely positive, with reviewers saying, “this thing can certainly hold its own, sporting 2GB or 4GB of internal storage, a built in FM tuner, mini-USB jack, and a pretty sweet design aesthetic” the body of most reviews focused on the unfortunate direction the firm took in naming their product.
The product’s name? i.Beat. Blaxx. In the pantheon of tragic decisions, Trekstor’s decision is the Hamlet of bad decisions. It is the decision by which all other bad decisions are measured.
The company — alerted to the scope of their error — swiftly renamed the product, dubbing it simply, “Blaxx.”