The world today is full of some of the most amazing innovative ideas, from the iPhone through to self-driving cars. The past 100 years has seen the number of world changing creations and technologies see the average standard of living rocket upwards - life expectancy in the US in 1917 was 48.4 for men and 54.0 for women, today it’s 79.3 for males and 81.6 for females, a 63% increase for men and 51.1% for women. This is just a small example of the positive impacts that world-changing innovations have had, but not all innovative ideas are created equal.
For every brilliant new idea or product, there are several that fail to materialize, or are simply too bizarre or unrelated to have an impact. So we decided to take a look at a few of the strangest innovations in history.
There is little doubt that Snapchat has been one of the most impressive innovative companies of the past 5 years, but when they launched Snapcash towards the end of 2014, eyebrows were raised. At the time the app was not near the same level as it is today in terms of challenging the likes of Instagram and Facebook. They were known as being a little shady because of the controversial aspects of the app, such as deleting images within a certain amount of time.
It meant that the feature hasn’t taken off, never making it beyond the US and even then never really catching on there. In fact, one of the only stories of its use is that sex workers have been using it to send NSFW content to customers and receiving payment through the platform. The New York Times reported on the story in February 2015 noting that ‘Strippers and porn stars have started to use Snapchat to send videos and photos of themselves naked for a small fee. Some transactions are as inexpensive as $1 to $5 for a few personalized photos. The prices can reach double digits for personalized sex shows.’
It’s safe to say that this wasn’t what Evan Spiegel had in mind when the idea was originally flaunted.
Trader Joe’s Puffdogs
Innovation is about finding new ideas and putting them into practice, creating new products and producing something that will hopefully change the world. So when Trader Joe’s claimed that they had changed hotdogs forever by saying ‘Trader Joe’s Puff Dogs takes this classic dog-meets-dough pairing to the next level: each uncured, all-beef dog is instead swaddled in a perfectly flaky-when-cooked puff pastry. We don’t mean to hot dog here (see: definition 3), but this marriage of beefy and buttery is pretty genius.’ they expected the world to stand up and take notice.
However, the world had already stood up and taken notice of this exact product. In the early 1800’s. In France. The sausage roll is one of the most enduring and beloved snacks in Northern Europe, which is an identical concept - a sausage wrapped in puff pastry. Cue thousands of people from the UK mercilessly mocking Trader Joe’s on social media and much embarrassment from the US supermarket.
Trump Vodka and Trump Steaks
Regardless of some of the highly publicized failures of Donald Trump, he has had some successes. For instance, the Apprentice was one of the most successful reality TV shows of the last decade and his real estate business and hotel business has been relatively successful. However, this success in real-estate doesn’t really translate into fine drinking and fine dining.
Trump is possibly the world’s most famous t-totaller, meaning that this vodka that he’s promoting has never once crossed him lips. He has also been consistently mocked for destroying some of the world’s best steaks by having them cooked well-done and then eating them with Ketchup. It therefore meant that these ‘innovative products’ were not popular, they were expensive, and ultimately they were an abject failure.
The big question is why a company known for hotels and buildings run by a man famous for destroying steaks and not drinking alcohol thought that moving into steaks and Vodka was a good idea. As J.Patrick Kenny, who created Trump Vodka put it, ‘The company cratered.’