Do you remember Pepsi Clear? EZ Squirt by Heinz? Google Glass? Have you ever wondered what happens to consumer products that end up being a failure? As it turns out, there's a warehouse full of them in Ann Arbor.
Walking into NewProductWorks can be reminiscent of walking into a grocery store. However, you won't find your tried and true favorites here. Instead, like a museum to things that feel slightly familiar, NewProductWorks is home to products that, whether due to poor marketing or design, failed.
According to a 2010 article from Ann Arbor News, NewProductWorks holds over 110,000 items (which has surely grown since 2010) and is the only collection of its kind in the entire world.
NewProductWorks is part of a larger company called GFK. GFK, or Growth From Knowledge, is a company that aims to help its clients with sales as well as effective marketing. Part of that effective marketing is studying the failed products that reside at NewProductWorks.
However, those failures are also used as innovations for clients. Take, for example, spray-on sunscreen.
In the above-mentioned article from Ann Arbor News, Elizabeth Lawrence, senior director of NPW, was quoted saying,
There were SPF wars. But you can only go so far. If you’re at 100, 110 doesn’t make much difference. By looking at other products whose delivery systems were more advanced - hair spray and house paint, for example - it was logical that the next big thing for sunscreen was the continuous spray containers now on the market.
By studying the products stored at NPW the idea for spray-on sunscreen was able to be born.
Similarly, the idea of having a twist top for orange juice came from NPW. We all remember how annoying it was trying to peel apart the carton to get to our juice, right? Well, after Citrus Hill, a juice company, was struggling to compete with other juice companies they decided to visit NPW to see if their marketers could gain any new ideas. A carton of Korean laundry soap, with a twist top, inspired Citrus Hill's marketers to try the same thing for cartons of orange juice.
Now, you'd be hard-pressed to find a carton of orange juice that doesn't have a twist top. That's the power of innovation...even if it was inspired by something else that failed.
Unfortunately, as fun as it would be to browse the thousands of products at NewProductWorks, it is not open to the public. Since they're part of a marketing firm that privilege is saved for their clients.
However, if you're a fan of buying random things for cheap there's a liquidation center in Grand Rapids that sells returned or overstocked Amazon items for $0.25 - $6. Read more:
If you love random finds, whether it's a failed product or not, you'll love this list. Check out these crazy and sometimes weird 2nd hand finds in Michigan: