Failure Is A Success!
The Edsel? Swedish Fish Oreos? Betamax? Colgate Beef Lasagna? There are failures…and then there are FAILURES, and you can see more than 100 of them at a pop-up museum aptly titled The Museum of Failure located in the Arts District of Los Angeles.
The Museum of Failure is the interesting and unusual conception of psychologist and innovation researcher, Dr. Samuel West, who came upon the idea while researching corporate success and innovation. The compilation of products was first displayed in Sweden. As the sign says when you enter, “Come on in and feel better about the bad decisions you’ve made and find humor in the failures seen ‘round the world.”
Tracy and I, along with friends Dan and Linda, were successful in purchasing our tickets online to see “Failure” up close, so last Saturday we headed to downtown L.A. to see what the commotion was all about.
The museum is actually tucked inside another museum, the A+D Architecture & Design Museum, which was inspired by a museum in Helsinki, Finland, so Scandinavia was well represented. You can wander around it after visiting the Museum of Failure.
There are no timed entries, and we were advised by the hostess that we would have to wait for about 15 minutes to give those inside an opportunity to leave (we surmised the fire marshals gave them a limit of people who could be in there).
Finally, after about 20 minutes and a dearth of people entering, I asked a guy if we could go in. He asked my name (why, I don’t know…they had never taken it). Then he looked at the hostess. The hostess looked at him. They both looked at me. I thought for a moment I was in the film Cool Hand Luke.
After taking our photos in front of the Failure sign (and failing to get the “F” in our photos…apropos indeed)…
…we headed to the first exhibit, a famed automotive failure from the late 1950s. The sign below displayed a foreshadowing comment by the man who founded the company that developed this car.
And what a failure it was … not Dan … but the Edsel, which lasted from 1958 – 1960. Although the Edsel was technologically advanced for its time (electromechanical Teletouch transmission with buttons in the middle of the steering wheel), similar to today’s technology,it often didn’t work. Marketed strongly, the Edsel was a dismal failure and “mocked in newspapers.” In the end, Ford lost $350 million dollars on the Edsel, but Dan and I had to admit, it would be cool to have one now.
Next we moved on to a case containing a red and black football with the letters “XFL.” The XFL was a co-venture of NBC and World Wrestling Entertainment that promised to be more fun than the NFL, with fewer rules. What could go wrong? According to NBC sportscaster Bob Costas, the XFL was “a combination of average high school football and a strip club experience”… and it was shown on his network. The league folded after a year, but one looks back fondly at some of the players names, including the never to be forgotten “He Hate Me.” (photo of Rod Smart … aka He Hate Me … is from internet).
Nothing says cookie enjoyment more than a Swedish Fish Oreo, just one of the flavors that didn’t quite make the cut. Staring at that package, I had to mullet over why they would choose fish as a filling for a cookie, but I decided not to carp about it. I found out later that Swedish Fish is a fish-shaped chewy wine gum candy developed by the Swedish candy producer. It didn’t sound any better than mullet.
In front of us was a Wall of Oreos (check out the yellow “F” created by the packages), and although these flavors were widely dissed, some of them looked intriguing (like Red Velvet). I guess food critics and consumers can be tough cookies.
The Monoski had its moment in the snow in 1981, but snowboards quickly put the Monoski (as the sign said at the museum) “on ice.”
…we meandered through the crowd to the next exhibit. Ever heard of the movie Zzyzzyx Road? Neither it seems did anyone else. It has the distinction of being the biggest box office failure ever. The movie’s budget was purportedly $2 million dollars, and it raked in an astounding…$30 (I kid you not). At 10 bucks a ticket that means that only three people ever saw this movie in a theater.
Below that was the sad tale of Blockbuster, a store most of us frequented at one time (I still have my Blockbuster card for some bizarre reason, maybe we should donate it to the museum). Sadly, it didn’t keep up with the times, and Netflix eventually wiped all 9,000 stores from existence.
Betamax or VHS? Released in 1975, the Sony Betamax had the market to itself for a year until VHS came along. Although it had higher quality than VHS, it couldn’t record as long and was more expensive. Those and other factors led to its demise. By the mid 80s, Betamax was toast.
Some ideas are truly headscratchers. In the 1980s, while people were gobbling up Walkman, Audio Technica came with the Sound Burger…a portable turntable. You could play records anywhere with one minor flaw, you had to stay still (with the Sound Burger, it was best to sit on your buns), and bring cumbersome records with you when you wanted to play it. Although the sound quality was great, the quality of the idea was stupid.
Rely tampons lasted for a few years in the late 70s, and, as it turned out, you could not rely on Rely. Toxic Shock Syndrome killed some women and others became seriously ill, and the product was removed in 1980.
A popular diet supplement created in 1937, Ayds lasted more than 40 successful years on the market until an epidemic doomed it. When AIDS hit the headlines, they could not overcome its name correlation.
We felt like we had gone Back To The Future when we saw the scale model of the DeLorean DMC-12. The car lasted from 1981- 1983. Inventor and founder of the DeLorean Motor Company was found not guilty of cocaine trafficking in 1984, but by then the sniff of success with this car was over, and his reputation in tatters.
We now segue to the Segway. It was supposed to be the hot, new mode of transportation in 2001. As it turned out, according to the sign, consumers yelled “Seg-No-Way,” citing its slow speed and no “cool factor.” Then, in 2010, the man who had purchased Segway the year before perished while riding his Segway…he drove it off a cliff into a river near his English estate.
Do you ever wonder what your dog is trying to say as it barks up a storm? Then perhaps you purchased a No More Woof a few years ago. No More Woof was “a wearable gadget that strapped on to your dog’s head and translated the dog’s brainwaves into human language.” The dog, supposedly, could now tell you whether he was tired, hungry or had to go outside and pee. Not surprisingly, the product didn’t deliver, so investors realized they had been barking up the wrong tree.
We read about and saw pictures of the Spruce Goose, Howard Hughes 400,000-pound plane built out of Birch Wood to ostensibly transport heavy war vehicles and troops during World War II. Unfortunately, it took so long to build, by the time it was completed, the war was over. If you want to see the real one, it now resides in the McMinnville, Oregon Aviation Museum.
Now it was time to check out some more food items. Dieters were ecstatic when they first heard about the product Olestra. I mean what’s not to like about a product that can create Fat Free potato chips? Well, how about some really nasty side effects. It seems the human body could not absorb the substance, which caused gastric cramps, diarrhea and anal leakage, none of which you want to have while eating chips at the Super Bowl party. It’s three year … ahem … run ended in 1999. We only give you the straight poop here.
When you think Colgate Palmolive, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? Beef lasagna, of course. Yes, in the 1980s the toothpaste company decided to come out with Colgate Beef Lasagna. A classic failure, the Colgate company did not want its product displayed at the Museum of Failure (can’t imagine why). Luckily, Dr. West created a replica for all of us to get a chuckle…and a stomach ache.
Kellogg’s is very successful when it comes to its cereals…usually. However, in the mid 80s OJ Joe was featured on the box of orange-flavored OJ’s cereal, made with 10% real orange juice. The product was an immediate failure, but on the plus side, this OJ didn’t kill anyone.
Also in the mid 1980s someone at the Coca-Cola Company lost their mind in their Cola Wars with Pepsi and introduced New Coke. For the better part of the next three months angry customers revolted…so much so that the product was even booed at sporting events. Just 77 days after its introduction, Coca Cola reintroduced the old Coke as Classic Coke.
The next display would take too much space on the website to talk about in depth, but suffice it to say Donald Trump has had more than his fair share of failure. From Trump University to Trump Vodka to Trump Steaks to Trump Shuttle to Trump: The Game to Trump Ice, each product or idea was kaput in a short period of time. As for his presidency, I’ll leave that up to you.
Hasbro had a not-so-bright idea back in the mid 60s, an alternative doll to the popular Barbie. Little Miss No Name was created to “teach little girls compassion and realities for life for those less fortunate.” In reality, the doll scared the bejeesus out of a lot of kids with those eyes that look like they came directly out of Night Of The Living Dead. It was quickly taken off the market, but is now a sought after collectible.
Our final exhibit we saw was Shared Girlfriend, which is exactly what it sounds like. Created in China, Shared Girlfriend was a “rented sex doll you can rent for $45 a day.” It has “high-quality silicon with anatomy ‘for his pleasure’.” You could choose from nurses, maids, superheroes and more. After each rental “the doll was disinfected” and “damaged parts were replaced.” The doll lasted exactly four days on the market, making the No More Woof seem like a great success.
There were lots of fun ones including “Ate cat crap (I was 3)” and “Sold weed to a Narc.”
As for me, they didn’t have enough note pads for all of my thoughts. I also searched the museum for any of my old report cards, and when I couldn’t find them, I knew it was time to leave.
We all decided the Museum of Failure was an entertaining way to spend about 45 minutes to an hour reliving the failures of some companies. But as Dr.Samuel West wrote, “It’s through our struggles, which push us to try again, that we find the will to succeed.”
The pop-up exhibition will be in Los Angeles until February 4, and there are discussions it might travel to other U.S. cities. The permanent collection is located in Helsingborg, Sweden (hmm, Swedish Fish Oreos…now it makes sense). In our opinion, it would be a failure for you not to go while its here or when it comes to a city near you.
Museum of Failure
A+D Architecture and Design
900 East 4th Street
Los Angeles, CA 90013
Hours: Wednesday 2 p.m. – 6 p.m. • Thursday/Friday: 2 p.m. – 8 p.m. • Saturday/Sunday 12 p.m. – 7 p.m. Closed Monday and Tuesday
Cost: $15 (Seniors $8 and children under 12 are free…buy tickets online or at museum, which could cause a longer wait)
Parking: Paid street parking available (free on Saturday and Sunday)