Spoofs & Satire

Photograph by Zabowski

The Biggest Spinoff Product Failures of 2010

Every year, brands leverage themselves to monetize potential revenue streams—and this year was no different.

Anyone who recalls the iSkillet, Pepsi Aspartame, or Honey Bunches of High Fructose Corn Syrup is already familiar with a few of 2009’s unsuccessful spinoff products. As industry insiders will attest, launching a new product during a recession can be tricky. Still, troubled economic times can catalyze invention and experimentation as companies try to find new ways to capitalize on products that have already proven profitable.

Some spinoff products, like the Gillette Mach 15 Turbo, are huge successes—remember how those 15 pivoting razor blades with fusion-activated sensor gels revolutionized the now laughably primitive 14-blade technology of the Schick Hydro 14? And then there are the flops—did Campbell’s manage to sell even one can of their Periodic Table of Elements Soup? As the quarter draws to a close, let’s take a look back at the spinoff products we’d rather forget.

DawnQuil & DuskQuil

Time-specific alternatives to Vicks’ popular DayQuil and NyQuil brands for those days when you want your cold and flu medications around the clock. Executives at Vicks are hopeful another spinoff, the NyQuil 40 oz, which comes pre-wrapped in its own brown paper bag, will do better when introduced in 2011.

Cap’n Chewy

A spinoff of the popular Cap’n Crunch cereal line for those who prefer their sweetened corn and oats with more chew than crunch. As it turns out, nobody did.

Grand Theft Auto: Burlington, Vermont

The follow-up to Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas featuring a stolen Toyota Prius, with character voices provided by Alan Alda, Terry Gross, and Bill Moyers. In this family-friendly spinoff, the guys from Car Talk helped thieves troubleshoot problems they encountered with their stolen hybrids while trying to convince them to turn themselves in. Players missed the carnage.

Violin Hero: Legends of Rock

A Guitar Hero sequel for fans of Kansas and, well, Kansas. A similar ill-conceived game, Flute Hero, featuring the music of Jethro Tull, was discontinued in 2009.

Omega-3 Water

Fruit-flavored Vitaminwater with cholesterol-fighting fatty acids and fish oil. Despite the maker’s attempts to camouflage them with blue food coloring, most consumers found the fishy, floating oil globules a tad distasteful.

Toyota Deciduous Sawtooth Oak

A slightly more compact and fuel efficient alternative to that other car that has a powerful tree as its namesake, the Toyota Sequoia.

The Mike Tyson Oven

Mike Tyson’s unsuccessful attempt to compete with the George Foreman grill. In the accompanying infomercial, the tattooed former heavyweight champ joked in his trademark high-pitched lisp about how much tastier Holyfield’s ear would have been roasted at 350 degrees with a touch of rosemary. Most were not amused.

Dora the Offshore Driller: Oil Rig Dollhouse

BP partners with the creators of Dora the Explorer in a misguided attempt at public relations. On this ill-fated show, Dora, Boots the Monkey, and Arthur the Oil-Covered Pelican have adventures on an oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico.

Taiwanese Rayon

English Leather cologne attempts to extend its brand in Asia and break with its Anglo-centric tendencies, but the cheap shiny fabric didn’t evoke the same allure.

Papaya Angelou and Citron Kundera

Following the success of their music-themed Cherry Garcia and Phish Food ice creams, Ben & Jerry’s introduces a literary line of flavors. Its makers forgot to consider that people under the age of 35, by far the largest consumers of their product, don’t read books.


Like Smartwater, only better.

Gibson’s Own Salad Dressing

Perhaps it was the tagline—”You look like a f***ing b*tch in heat, wouldn’t some tangy vinaigrette be refreshing?”—but this short-lived salad dressing line, whose proceeds would have benefitted the National Coalition of Whorish Broads and Money-Grubbing Jews Who Love Someone with Tourettes Foundation, never took off.

Robert Lanham‘s writing has appeared in the New York Times, the Washington Post, Maxim, Radar, Nylon, Playboy, Salon, Time Out New York, McSweeney’s, and Street Boners, among others. He is the author of the satirical anthropological studies The Hipster Handbook, Food Court Druids, and The Sinner’s Guide to the Evangelical Right. Lanham is the founder and editor of FREEwilliamsburg.com. More by Robert Lanham