10 Epic Fails That Turned into a Business Success

10 Epic Fails That Turned into a Business Success

How These Products Took a U-Turn from Flop to Phenomenon!

Ever heard the saying, “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade”? Well, it turns out that the same golden rule applies to the world of business. Having business success is never easy, 90% of businesses fail within the first year. Understandably, many would think these 10 businesses I’m about to talk about will go into ruins.

Fail in order to Business Success

I’m about to take you on a rollercoaster ride through some of the most mind-boggling failure-to-success tales that will have you thinking twice about tossing in the towel on that project you’ve been avoiding.

1. Listerine: From Surgical Antiseptic to Breath Freshener

Imagine this: Listerine, the mouthwash staple we know today, was once a humble surgical antiseptic. Yeah, you read that right!

ready tabs introducing GIF by LISTERINE®

But hold onto your hats, because Listerine decided to reinvent itself by capitalizing on our collective dread of bad breath. That’s right, a simple shift in positioning turned them from a sterile solution to a minty-fresh superstar.

2. Barbie: From Adult Collectible to Kid’s Playtime Hero

Believe it or not, Barbie dolls were initially conceived as collectibles for grown-ups. On a trip to Europe, Ruth Handler became fascinated with a buxom doll that was based on a female German cartoon character, named Lilli.

Video gif. A closeup on a Barbie doll with its hair up as its hands move to its mouth in "surprise".

The German doll was an adult collectible item based on a character who used sex to get what she wanted. Fate had a different path for this inspiration.

Handler, observed her daughter playing with paper dolls, and voila! Lilli became Barbie and was morphed into a childhood companion, reminding us that a change in perspective can redefine an entire market.

3. Post-It Notes: An Accidental Office Hero

History is filled with scientific experiments that went from being so wrong to being oh, so right. I bet you didn’t know they began as an experiment gone awry while trying to create an uber-strong adhesive.

information sign on paper

However, embracing its “weakness,” 3M transformed this blunder into a must-have office staple by branding it as the ultimate temporary note solution.

Let face it, you would probably at some point in your life used this to help you take notes.

4. Tetris: When Soviet Hardware Testing Births a Legend

Back in 1985, Alexey Pajitnov, a Soviet software engineer, developed this video puzzler. The addictive video game took the world by storm.

tetris GIF

But guess what?

It was actually developed to test Soviet computer hardware. Talk about a happy accident! This tale reminds us that sometimes the most unexpected outcomes can lead to extraordinary successes.

5. Happy Pills: Viagra

white and blue medication pills

Meet British Pfizer scientists Peter Dunn and Albert Wood, the unsung heroes behind the curtain. They set their sights on a new drug, sildenafil citrate, intended to combat high blood pressure and angina, that pesky chest pain linked to coronary heart disease. They named it UK-92480, and it was destined to make waves.

Fast forward to the ’90s, when Pfizer, the pharmaceutical giant, envisioned the potential of their creation beyond its intended purpose. A daring move led to clinical trials exploring its effect on another matter altogether: erectile dysfunction (ED). The results were…unexpectedly exciting.

6. Bubble Wrap: From Wallpaper Flop to Packaging Star

Bubble Wrap, the ultimate stress reliever, has quite the origin story. Initially designed as 3D wallpaper (who knew, right?), it found its true calling as a packaging material.

That pop-filled satisfaction during unboxing? All thanks to a rebranding twist that turned a quirky idea into a shipping essential.

7. Crayola: Unleashing Childhood Creativity

Ever wondered about Crayola crayons’ origins? They started as industrial pigments!

It wasn’t until they shifted gears and embraced their potential as a tool for kids’ creativity that they truly captured hearts. This shift proves that understanding your audience’s needs can turn a product from mundane to magical.

8. Marlboro cigarettes: The Ultimate Macho Brand

photo of a man sitting on wooden bench
Photo by Anastasiya Lobanovskaya on Pexels.com

Now, here’s a brand that took a wild ride from the Victorian era to the mid-20th century.

Back in the day, they were selling Marlboro as the ultimate ladies’ cigarette, with catchy taglines like “Marlboro — Mild As May.” But hold onto your hats, because in 1955, two game-changing moves took place that rocked the industry.

First, they slapped on an integrated filter, giving the product a modern twist. And then, here comes the real game-changer: the birth of the iconic “Marlboro Man” campaign.

Imagine a parade of rugged men from all walks of life, flaunting their independence while puffing away. We’re talking cowboys, lifeguards, sailors, and more, all channeling that masculine spirit.

But wait, there’s more!

Fast forward to 1963, and boom — the “Marlboro Country” campaign sweeps in, painting a picture of free-spirited adventure in the great outdoors. Talk about a brand makeover!

Marlboro went from a women’s cigarette to a symbol of rugged individualism, and they owned it.

This story teaches us that with a dash of creativity and strategic repositioning, even a brand that seemed destined to fade away can blaze a trail to success.

It’s all about finding the right angle, tapping into the zeitgeist, and rewriting the story for the ages.

9. Rogaine: A Hairy Business Transformation

You won’t believe this: Rogaine, the hair loss solution, began as a blood pressure medication. Talk about a twist of fate!

By rebranding its purpose, it sparked a revolution in the hair restoration industry, showing us that sometimes a product just needs a fresh perspective to flourish.

10. Vaseline: The Battle of Skincare

Vaseline Hml407 GIF by truTV’s Hack My Life

Let’s take a little trip back in time to 1859. We’ve got Robert Chesebrough, a curious chemist straight out of New York, venturing into the oil fields of Titusville, Pennsylvania.

This guy’s on a mission, trying to figure out what goodies he can squeeze out of that fuel goldmine. It took a lot of work, effort, and patience to think anything good was coming out of this mad experiment.

Fast forward a bit, about ten years, and guess what? Robert’s cracked the code! He’s like the wizard of petroleum jelly, nailing down that Vaseline formula like a champ. And by 1870, he’s open for business, ready to share his slick creation with the world.

A Taste of Business Wisdom

So, what’s the takeaway for you, the astute marketer? It’s a lesson in repositioning that’s as timeless as the act of cooking over open flames.

Just like the shift from marketing to women to appealing to men’s primal instincts, your business can also benefit from a fresh perspective. Consider who your product or service resonates with on a deeper level.

Delve into their motivations, desires, and aspirations, and reposition your offering to speak to those profound connections.

Remember, my entrepreneurial friend, sometimes a strategic pivot is all it takes to set the world ablaze. So fire up your imagination, take a page out of barbecue history, and let your business sizzle with a rebranding that’s as irresistible as the aroma of smoky goodness wafting from a grill.

I often write about ways that content creators can generate income through side hustles or build their businesses. I cover marketing, content creation, and how to write for a living.

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