Industry Market Trends

Holiday Invention and Design Successes and Failures

Dec 11, 2012

Every year, there's a new "It" product that everyone has to have. However, there are also countless holiday duds: ideas that seem to miss the mark but remain memorable for years. Here are some of history's best holiday season successes and failures.

We can remember - some of us with embarrassment - the holiday "It" presents of Yuletides past.  Let's take a look at some of these Ghosts of Christmas Past and try to sort the bad from the good.

Candy Cane Menorah

Your friends are throwing a holiday party and you want to bring a seasonally appropriate gift but you're not sure how far to lean either way - is it a Christmas-Hanukkah party or a Hanukkah-Christmas party? Why not split the difference and be offensive to both sides? This candy cane menorah is sure to win you no friends and star in an embarrassing story told for many years to come. (via TruTV)

Verdict: FAILURE. Don't even buy this as a joke.

Wrapping Paper

If you're like me, the implementation of the gift bag as an acceptable substitute for a beautifully wrapped package was nothing short of a miracle. But if you're old school, you probably take pride in every fold and perfectly curved bow on Christmas morning. But where did wrapping paper come from? Turns out folks have been wrapping presents since A.D. 105, according to Biz in a Box. The practice became commonplace in the 1920s, once Hy-Sill Manufacturing Inc. began producing brightly colored paper intended for wrapping, at the low price of $0.10 a sheet.

Verdict: With almost 2,000 years of continued use, we'll say it's easily a SUCCESS.

Cabbage Patch Kids

Any parents raising a young girl in the early 1980s must have tragic flashbacks at the mention of the Cabbage Patch Kids. In 1978, Xavier Roberts created Little People, a series of dolls he marketed as being "adoptable," including a maternity ward where new "moms" could pick out which baby they wanted to bring home. In 1982, Coleco Toy Company licensed the dolls, renamed them Cabbage Patch Kids and America lost its collective mind. As InventHelp explains, "It seemed there were only two kinds of people in 1982-83, those who owned a Cabbage Patch Kid or those that wanted one." By 1983, Cabbage Patch Kids were on the cover of Newsweek and by 1985, there was a Cabbage Patch Kid in space.

Verdict: For the kids of America who were fortunate enough to get a Cabbage Patch Kid, HUGE SUCCESS, but for the poor parents who braved jam-packed malls near and far, we'll call it a FAILURE.

BB Gun

"I want an official Red Ryder carbine action 200-range-shot model air rifle!"

This was the mantra of American children during many a holiday season (as immortalized in the 1983 movie A Christmas Story) until parents eventually frowned on the idea of giving fake guns to children. The story of this invention is actually pretty interesting. According to InventHelp, the Plymouth Iron Wind Mill Company was trying to generate a marketing idea, as prairie farmers disliked the prospect of switching from common wood windmills to the newfangled iron designs. Clarence Hamilton decided to offer customers an air rifle, prompting company president Lewis Cass Hough to exclaim, "That's a daisy!", the Gilded Age equivalent of "That's cool!" Soon, air rifles were outselling windmills and the company changed its name to the Daisy Manufacturing Company.

Credit: Daisy Outdoor Products

Verdict: I wanted to say this was a win, but then my mother reminded me I might shoot my eye out. FAILURE.

Holiday Pasta

The key to American holidays is celebrating them in your own way. There are vegan Thanksgivings and seafood Christmas dinners. If traditional goose and figgy pudding aren't your thing, maybe you can make do with holiday pasta. Don't worry, the genius behind this 1990s food item made sure to protect his intellectual property: candy-cane-shaped pasta proudly bears U.S. Patent Number 352,372. Note: pasta does not taste like peppermint. (via TruTV)

Verdict: I'd rather have the standard Christmas dinner, so FAILURE.

Fake Christmas Trees

The Germans have been decorating their Tanenbäume (Christmas tree) with candles since the days of Martin Luther, or so the legend goes, but they are also the originators of constructing fake fir trees to celebrate Christmas. The first artificial trees had a wire skeleton upon which green-dyed goose, turkey, swan and ostrich feathers were glued. In the 1930s, toilet brush manufacturer Addis Brush Company decided their product could easily pass for pine needles, and began marketing the fake plastic Christmas tree. (via Biz in a Box)

Verdict: Although some might protest a fake tree as selling out, it definitely cuts down on the mess of buying the real thing. SUCCESS.

3-D Printed Ornaments

Finally, as the current "It" process of the manufacturing world, 3-D printing is making its holiday spirit known. Juan Pablo Cilia, a rapid prototyping specialist in Additive Manufacturing Labs at GE, and his team are using 3-D printing to make some pretty interesting ornaments. Because 3-D printing involves binding powders, it can create structures that are impossible for other manufacturing processes to reproduce. Check out some of the cool designs the team made. Maybe they'll be on your tree this year.

Verdict: Jury's still out. What do you think?