Biz Features

15 “Worst” Products To Ever Become Successful — And Why They Made It

by . April 18th, 2015

‘Awful’ is a relative term. Can something be all that bad if it made a ton of money?

We actually had a bunch of options for this listcicle, but we decided to keep it to products and concepts that actually made money and continue to make some today.

Unlike other listcicles that just use the “Worst product” cachet to bring on the clicks, we’ll actually explain why they actually succeeded in the market.


15.) Crocs Accessories


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Wikimedia Commons

While Crocs are no longer as popular as they were back in the early and mid-2000’s, hatred for these iconic pieces of foam footwear is as chic as ever. Though no longer as fashionable, Crocs and their imitators however, still continue to be immensely popular as purely orthopedic footwear and as a de facto standard in the medical industry.

As ugly as they were, Crocs are a pretty good piece of engineering and marketing, and they functioned mostly exactly as advertised.

Croc accessories on the other hand, the most popular brand being Jibbitz, only became successful because they made it to market at the right time. They aren’t even that well designed, and constantly fall off, but they filled a niche.


14.) Power Balance Bands


People will pay good money to help remove doubt and uncertainty. Simple as that. There is absolutely no way these bands can help anyone except perhaps to give them peace of mind. But if you think about it, is that such a bad thing?


13.) Shake Weights


Borderline obscene to use and unbelievably ineffective, the Shake Weight was able to garner a huge following and turn a profit mostly from being hard to ignore. Not a lot of people who knew about it took it seriously, but nonetheless by August 2010,  two million Shake Weight units had been sold, earning inventor Johan Verheem $40 million in sales.


12.) Candy Crush/Farmville/Angry Birds etc


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“I’ll explain… it STARTS Free…right? Then you visit your friend’s game, and he’s got this awesome candy mansion, and your like…99 cents! I’d like one! And that’s why I owe Clash of Candies $20,000!”

–Homer Simpson

People enjoy these games more or less the same way they enjoy gambling. It’s only kind of fun at first, but the creators are counting on the impulsiveness and insecurities of their audience to carry their product through. These games are almost purely a construct of crafty social engineering in the same way casinos are.


11.) Pet Rocks


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Wikimedia Commons

Stoner humor (forgive the pun) was alive and well way before we had video games and the internet. Pet Rocks are perhaps the quintessential “useless” product. But when you bought the “original” Pet Rocks, you actually got far more than just a rock. They came with a funny certificate and a humorous 32-page booklet with instructions on “pet rock tricks” and how to care for your pet. When you pay for a Pet Rock, you aren’t just buying a rock, you’re buying a joke book, and a piece of pop culture.

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And you can still buy them today! There’s even a USB variant. Is it a flash drive or a card reader? Nope. That would ruin the joke.


10.) Gay Conversion Therapy


It simply doesn’t work, and may even be outright dangerous. But a cultural climate that continues to be hostile to LGBT’s and families that can’t cope with the idea of their children not being straight continue allows “de-gaying” programs to continue, no matter what the data and the human costs tell us. Simply put, you can’t argue against faith and wishful thinking with logic.


9.) Snuggies


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Wikimedia Commons

Just wear a bathrobe backwards, and voila — a Snuggie! Of course, they aren’t really the same thing. Just because you can use a beach towel as a blanket, doesn’t mean you would, or that it would occur to most people. But in the context of how we spend our increasing indolent leisure times, the Snuggie totally makes a lot of sense.

Seemingly obvious things like the Snuggie can often be developed way later than expected. For example, wheeled luggage wasn’t even invented up until after the Moon Landing, and doorknobs were developed thousands of years after doors.

Even when you think “it’s all been done”, sometimes if you look really carefully, simple ideas like the Snuggie could be found hidden in plain sight.


8.) Aftermarket car spoilers (most of the time, anyway)


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via Jalopnik

Spoilers were originally intended to alter the aerodynamic qualities of a car body for better performance. In the case of purpose-designed racing cars, this is still true. But in most cases, such as probably most Honda Civics you’ve seen, they are likely to generate far more drag than useful downforce. They may even exaggerate understeer, creating safety issues.

Even when they are installed correctly, it’s pretty rare that they could be used as intended as you’d have to bring most vehicles up to a significant speed before you could take advantage of the downforce a spoiler provides.

But they look cool. And that’s all that matters. There’s a limit to how reasonable people are when it comes to these matters. The heart wants what it wants.


HeadOn


Of course it won’t cure headaches, at least not any better than a placebo. It’s literally just paraffin wax. True, the manufacturers add  iris versicolor (a toxic flower), white bryony  (a type of toxic vine), and potassium dichromate (a known carcinogen), but these other ingredients are diluted to such small quantities according to hokey homeopathic principles, it doesn’t even matter.

Crucially, HeadOn never claims to cure headaches at all. If you watch the ad, it never explicitly states that claim.

It’s awful to have a headache and not be able to do anything about it. But HeadOn does give you something to do. We all want a sense of control, and that is effectively what HeadOn offers.


7.) Magic 8 Balls


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These classic toys can’t actually help you tell the future, but they sure can help you with minor decisions, such as where to eat for example.

Plenty of studies now suggest that willpower is finite, or at least the ability to manage it is. Probably not a surprise for those who binge after a tough day at work.


6.) Doggles


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via HiConsumption

These aren’t as dumb as they look. They actually fill a very real need. Working dogs in particular, are often out in the sun for extended periods of time and their eyes can suffer from the effects of UV radiation just like ours.

Doggles also help dogs with eye injuries heal by preventing them from rubbing their eyes against other objects. With dogs such an integral part of our lives, it actually seems kind of inexcusable no one has come up with these sooner.


5.) 1:1 Simple Syrup


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We’re not talking about maple syrup — pancakes would be terrible with this. But baker and bartenders alike would be lost without this simple mix of water and sugar. Because that is exactly what store-bought simple syrup is: sugar and water in a 1:1 – 2:1 ratio, heated in a saucepan. It’s an essential component for many types of sauces, cocktails, and marinades.

While anyone can make simple syrup, buying it off a store frees up a burner on your stove and can save you a ton of time. You aren’t really buying syrup, you’re buying convenience.


4.) Koosh Balls


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While they seemed pretty useless — and actually are for most people, Koosh balls were designed specifically for the creator’s 5-year old daughter and 8-year old son to hold and throw. They work so well in this regard that they are currently used to help children develop motor skills for sports such as tennis.

The real genius was in how it was packaged for people who didn’t actually need them. It was simple enough to anthropomorphize variants and give them quirky personalities and backstories, as well as a tie-in with Archie Comics. The rest is 80’s Christmas toy history.


3.) Plastic Wishbones


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Wikimedia Commons

Breaking wishbones is a practice as old as the Etruscans, the early inhabitants of what would later become Rome. The Etruscan legacy of divining the future with animal parts doesn’t really make any sense but it’s fun. So fun that generations of American families bickered over the single wishbone at most Thanksgiving dinners.

But we can finally rest assured that buying more turkeys isn’t the only solution to placate our more unreasonable kinfolk. Plus, vegans can join in the fun too!


2.) Big Mouth Billy Bass


The animatronic toy so clever and charming, an Indonesian death squad leader on Joshua Oppenheimer’s The Act Of Killing  found it impossible to resist. For those who’d never encountered Big Mouth Billy Bass, the vinyl fish could actually pass as a convincing trophy, and if you’re honest with yourself, you’d probably find that the joke was actually a good one.

But like all jokes, it got old pretty fast, but not before it made a mint.


1.) icanhascheezburger.com


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Though the term has only been around since the 1970’s, memes, have been around since we’ve started sharing information. Animal memes have been around since at least the Victorian era.

But two friends from Hawaii, Eric Nakagawa (Cheezburger) Kari Unebasami (Tofuburger) created the site that helped memes become a part (and occasional bane) of our online lives. The fact they made a few million off it didn’t hurt either, considering they didn’t even create most of the content themselves.

They were basically in the right place at the right time. That wasn’t enough however. They pioneered a model that meshed community development and facilitating the creation of user-generated content — a model that persist to this day.


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Disclaimer: YouTheEntrepreneur is not affiliated any of the authors or companies mentioned.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Arthur Piccio manages YouTheEntrepreneur and has managed content for major players in the online printing industry. He was previously BizSugar's contributor of the week. His work has appeared multiple times on The New York Times' You're the Boss Small Business Blog. He enjoys guitar maintenance and reading up on history and psychology in his spare time.

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