If you think about it, most huge companies specialize in one type of product. McDonalds does American-style food. Microsoft does computer software and hardware. Whoever makes edible underwear, sticks to edible underwear.
Which makes sense! If you’re the best at something, you can make a ton of money selling it.
But companies are always looking for ways to make new money. So what does a company do when it’s thoroughly dominated a market? It branches out into new markets. Usually these markets are similar to the ones they’ve already cornered…but once in a while a company tries something so strange, you wonder how in the hell they ever came up with the idea in the first place.
And what’s really weird is, sometimes these unusual new products actually worked.
Here are 15 times companies decided to go in a whole different direction.
1. Lamborghini Vodka
Yeah, no mixed message there.
Lamborghini vodka is the brainchild of Tonino Lamborghini, son of founder Federico Lamborghini. The company actually makes a few other beverages, like an energy drink, espresso, and hot chocolate.
2.Wine For Dummies
We’re not talking about a Dummies book that teaches you how to drink wine. That’s currently in its 6th edition. No, we’re talking actual wine made by the Dummies people. The idea was to offer wine noobs a user-friendly wine that teaches them how to become a wine snob–hence the pronunciation guide right on the label.
This one actually makes sense. If you’re already teaching people how to drink wine, why let them buy the wine from someone else? That’s why the Dummies people offers several other licensed products, like electronics and tools.
Clearly they’re way better at making money than me.
3. NASCAR romance novels
Hot asphalt. Beer sweat. Being in Talladega, Alabama. What’s not sexy about a NASCAR race?
But hey, they’ve done 44 books so far, so there must be something to this idea.
4. Chicken Soup for the Soul dog food
If you heard the people behind the Chicken Soup for the Soul books also made food, you’d think that food was…dog food. Why not?
5. KFC scented candles
You know what this room needs? The scent of savory food that’s been sitting under a heat lamp for a while!
This one might seem like an April Fools joke, or the product of a CEO’s sleep-deprived brain, but it’s real. Unfortunately it was only made available in New Zealand for a limited time.
But that’s not the only time the Colonel branched out. KFC also offers fried chicken scented sunscreen, and…
6. KFC edible nail polish
Yup. In the past, you could only get the delicious taste of fried chicken on your fingers by eating fried chicken. Not any more. Where’s KFC’s Nobel prize?
7. Smith & Wesson bike
That’s right, the gun manufacturers also makes bikes! At first glance it might seem guns and bikes are completely different, but S&W got into the bike game because of law enforcement. In the 90’s, as police departments began adding bike cops, they needed specialized bikes for police operations. And since S&W was already making several law enforcement-related products, they began making bikes.
8. Cosmopolitan yogurt
Back in the 90’s, Cosmo was known for two things: having 10,000 sex tips per issue, and urging the health benefits of dairy. And in 1999, Cosmo decided, hey, why tell people to go buy yogurt when we could be selling it to them directly Noticing a theme on this list?
Anyway, maybe this one could have worked, but the execution is where it all went wrong. Cosmo sold their yogurt at higher prices than the yogurt heavy hitters and after 18 months, they bailed.
9. Levi’s car
We go back to the 1970’s for this one. The AMC car company, (which is now defunct, and unrelated to the AMC channel), was introducing a new line of cars, and decided to team up with existing brands to drum up excitement. Enter, the Levi’s Gremlin. Not only was it the same blue color as the iconic jeans, the seats were upholstered with denim and, not kidding, brass buttons.
And when you look at the placement of these buttons, and then imagine getting into this car on a hot day, you might see why it didn’t take off:
10. Soda flavored BBQ sauce
I can get behind root beer-flavored BBQ sauce because I’ve tried it, and it was great, but 7-UP? Were they trying to piss off the entire American south?
11. Virgin brand wedding dresses
Because Sir Richard is crazy, is why.
Wedding dresses are just one of the bizarre products he’s tried over the years. He’s also gotten into everything from soda to lingerie to digital music. Sure, many of them failed, but he hangs out on an island with the Obamas, and I’m writing this from an apartment in the San Fernando Valley.
12. The ESPN phone
This is going to sound nuts, but bear with me. There once was a time when phones were used for…making phone calls. And not for every other human activity besides phone calls, like they are today.
But back in 2006, in the heyday of the flip phone era, ESPN decided to change that with The ESPN Phone, a flip phone that also gave users all the latest sports news. Which, to us in 2017, might not sound crazy, but at the time it was a novel concept. Unfortunately, The ESPN Phone was expensive and unwieldy, and the company lost $150 million. Steve Jobs even told the guy in charge of the phone that it was “the dumbest f*cking idea I’ve ever heard.” Which, to be fair, is how Steve Jobs talked to everybody, even puppies.
13. Colgate kitchen entrees
Here’s the “We’re great at X, so we must be great at Y” mindset taken to its absurd conclusion. In 1982, Colgate was the market leader in toothpaste, so naturally their attention shifted to the thing that makes your teeth dirty: food. It was a flop.
14. Kellogg’s “Urban” Wear
So, you know how a surefire way to offend a lot of people is to try and sell something you call “urban”? I guess Kellogg’s didn’t know that. What a zeppelin crash of an idea.
15. Evian’s water bra
Yes, Evian came out with a bra. And yes, it could be filled with water. The Evian bra was meant to give ladies water on the go and to cool them off. Because if you’ve already cornered the market on bottled water, your next logical focus would be lowering breast temperatures.