April 26, 2023
Charlotte Fulcher
6 Product and Packaging Design Failures

What makes product packaging design unsuccessful?

Successful packaging captures the interest and attention of consumers and drives sales. It is iconic, easily recognisable and  immediately sums up a brands’ identity. 

However, sometimes brands can miss the mark. Unsuccessful packaging design fails to communicate its contents, or its brand values and attributes. Often, unsuccessful product packaging is confusing to its target market and is a result of poor market research. There are many examples of packaging design failures, stressing the importance of knowing your market and testing before you launch. 

When you consider your own product design assets, it is useful to learn from others’ failures and be inspired by historical designs. The following is a list of 6 historical packaging disasters:

New Coke

In 1985, Coca-Cola introduced a new formula for its flagship product, which was met with widespread backlash from consumers. The new packaging design was intended to reflect the updated formula, but ultimately confused consumers and failed to win them over.

tropicana packaging design 2009 failure


In 2009, Tropicana decided to take a risk and redesigned their packaging for their most popular product. Unfortunately, the new design was viewed as generic and uninspiring, and became almost invisible to its regular customers. Tropicana had diverted too far from their original packaging, confusing the existing customer base. The brand ultimately reverted back to their original packaging design - at a significant cost.

crystal pepsi packaging design failure

Crystal Pepsi

In 1992, Pepsi introduced a clear version of its cola product, which was packaged in a transparent can. However, the packaging did not successfully communicate its contents. Consumers were skeptical of the unusual appearance and unclear about the flavour profile.

Heinz EZ Squirt

In the early 2000s, Heinz introduced a line of ketchup products in brightly coloured packaging, which was marketed to kids. While the packaging design was eye-catching, the product was ultimately unsuccessful and discontinued. The packaging was confusing, the colours were unappetising for a food product, and the contents was too unclear.

arch deluxe packaging design failure

McDonald's Arch Deluxe

In 1996, McDonald's introduced the Arch Deluxe, a burger marketed to adults with a more upscale packaging design. The product failed to resonate with consumers and was eventually discontinued. Perhaps their target audience were less interested in an upscale burger or the packaging did not resonate with McDonald's brand identity.

bic for her product failure

Bic for Her

In 2012, Bic released a line of pens marketed specifically to women, with packaging that featured pastel colours and a slim design. The product was met with widespread criticism and ridicule for its patronising marketing and unnecessary gendering of a simple writing tool. This design was incredibly uninformed and sparked anger and outrage by some. If Bic had carried out implicit market research for this idea - the results would have been very interesting (and likely very conclusive!).

These are just a few of many examples of packaging designs that failed to resonate. Brands take a extreme risk when releasing new designs and concepts without any research. It is crucial to know your consumer and test your designs before launching. Otherwise, brands take the risk of wasting time, money, and potentially harming their brand positioning. 

At Split Second Research, we recommend a combination of implicit and explicit testing to gain the most accurate insights. Our implicit testing tools are objective and near-impossible to fake. We can help to narrow the truth gap, greatly reduce risk of failure, and give you the confidence to succeed.

Test all your product packaging assets using our market research tools and technology. Learn more about the pack testing services we offer.

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