Publisher’s Toast: My Wall of Infamy – A Cautionary Tale

Whenever someone visits my office in the city, their eyes and attention immediately turn to the beverage display over my desk. It is an impressive array of a few hundred brands. In my old office I actually had a collection three times my present offerings. My visitor always asks if their brand can be included, and I answer the same way every time: You don’t want to be there, as it’s my shelf of failed brands. I keep it as a cautionary tale of how and why things go wrong. So, I decided to re-visit some of them to educate and entertain.

My favorite brand to show is Virgin’s feeble attempt to enter the CSD arena in the U.S. You remember the great fanfare as Richard Branson rode a tank through Times Square. What he forgot was to create a tasteful product. It was awful, and the packaging was equally bad. The two PET bottles I have cratered and collapsed. It was symbolic of the abject failure.

Next, I turn my eyes to my chocolate entries. One was fun and meant to go nowhere and the other was a sincere attempt by Coca Cola. Liquid Cereal, by the always creative and entertaining Larry Trachtenbroit, had no reason for being, a silly one trick pony. Coke’s entry was Swerve, a failure by any measure, with bad taste and no real position.

I also have fond memories of Fruitopia. Wrong imagery, wrong generational appeal, and right to fold.

There are many reasons for failure, some logistic. I was a great fan of Equa Water. It was from the rainforests of Brazil and the best water I ever sampled. Sadly, their execution couldn’t happen. They tried to build a bottling facility in the forest. There was no way they could bring the equipment in from Germany to construct the plant. It was doomed from day one.

Another mind boggler was Prometheus Springs. It’s great to come up with a unique brand, but it was not drinkable. I tried to be polite when they visited, but my gagging motions overcame my politeness.

Then there were the allegedly serious functional brands. I look at the Real Pain be Gone, Purple, Dox, One, Body Works, Drank, Beauty Sleep, Fever. etc. There are too many to mention, but you get the idea. The claims were dubious, the tastes were blah and the consumers were too smart. May they rest in peace.

Lastly were the myriad of energy drinks. My favorite was Pissed Off, but there are so many that I relished, all doomed to failure. Rox, Mercury, Plutonium, Radioactive, Recon, Vegas, BetaNox, Burn, Slap, Sentinel, Grobomb. The list goes on. You’ll see many of them if you go through our archives of our back issues library.

There are so many brands to list, and so little time and space. If you have the time or inclination, next time you’re in New York, give me a call and visit.