When it comes to figuring out what makes for the most relevant selling to customers, you have to consider more than just price. There are endless beliefs, opinions, needs and wants that customers factor into the relevancy equation. Rather than presenting long lists of how to use information that you should be collecting from customers, I thought it might be interesting to present the latest examples of products that failed due to irrelevance. I call it the “Irrelevant Selling Hall of Shame,” and this first edition will cover three of the top product flops from 2012, originally identified by 24/7 Wall Street.

1. Apple Maps. Apple may be the envy of both the tech and business worlds, but even an iconic giant like Apple can come up with a flop, and Apple Maps was a flop in spades. Mislabeled buildings, images of melting bridges, missing national capitals, utterly wrong directions –  the list of flaws that accompanied this app seemed never-ending. From a relevant selling perspective, if you’re going to invest the time to create a product and hype up its relevance, which Apple did quite aggressively, you’d better make sure you’re delivering what your customers actually want…not to mention that it actually lives up to the promised excitement. Instead, Apple Maps was voted three times more likely to get you lost then Google Maps, and had a stunning 30% error rate in the UK, compared to less than 5% for its competitors (for more information comparing Apple Maps to other mapping services, visit Digital Trends).

Fallout from this flop:

  • An apology letter from Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO, that pointed customers towards competitor products
  • Senior Vice President of iOS software, Scott Forstall, losing his job
  • According to Forbes, a $30 billion loss in stock market value.

2. Dodge Dart. With continued volatility in gas prices, fuel-efficient smaller cars have become top sellers in the auto industry. Chrysler wanted to get in on the trend by offering Dodge’s first compact car since the Neon. Over 18 months, the company spent $1 billion to develop the Dart and spent a fortune on the ads constantly airing on television. Unfortunately, the Dart appears to be missing the bull’s-eye by a rather wide margin. Initial sales were as low as 200 cars in some months, and although it rallied to sell 4,500 in November, rival cars such as Honda Civics and Toyota Corollas sold more than 30,000 and  22,000 in the same month, respectively.

Notable irrelevant selling points:

  • Most Darts have manual transmissions, clearly not so appealing to the smartphone-addicted generation-Y crowd that generally makes up the market for cars of this caliber.
  • The Dart failed to achieve the most influential recommendation for the American car-buying public – Consumer Reports – who cited power train deficiencies in its reviews

3. John Carter. When Disney films hit their mark (and they often do), they spawn huge supplementary revenue streams in merchandising and themed rides in their amusement parks. Have you seen John Carter in theaters? How about commercials? Me neither. Don’t expect to see any John Carter rides the next time you head to the nearest Magic Kingdom. My guess is that irrelevant selling contributed to the $350 million flop of this 2012 Disney film. Part of the problem here is that the material comes from a classic science fiction epic, an 11-volume series of novels by Edgar Rice Burroughs in the early part of the 20th century. Disney’s film is based largely on the first book of the series, A Princess of Mars – but who has ever even heard of that? Disney foolishly let director Andrew Stanton run up a $250 million budget and spent $100 million on publicity, all to have the film essentially pronounced as dead on arrival. The opening weekend box office for John Carter racked in an anemic $30.6 million, and Disney took a $200 million write-down, making the film the biggest box office flop in history.
An app, a car and a film – widely divergent products that all marched into the “Irrelevant Selling Hall of Shame” because they failed to discern what customers really wanted.

Key Takeaway: Before wasting valuable time and resources on a new product, make sure it will ignite the same excitement in your customer base as it does in top management.


  • What product flops have you seen that you think should be included in the “Irrelevant Selling Hall of Shame?”
  • Have you been involved in any product flops that you felt could have been prevented if companies would have just called on the customers voice prior to production?
  • How does your company engage its customers to learn what will be most relevant to them?

Please share your own answers to these questions in the comments area below.

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