10 Successful Product Launches to Inspire Product Innovation

Written by
Frederik Bussler
June 1, 2021

Out of roughly 30,000 new products released each year, a whopping 95% fail, according to Harvard University professor Clayton Christensen.

We’ve explored how you can boost those odds by using AI for successful product innovation, and ensuring that you target the right markets at the right time with the right products and features. After all, this is how wildly successful companies like Unilever are creating winning products.

Now, let’s take a look at 10 famous product launches to inspire your product innovation efforts. These are incredible examples of product innovation, which brought true out-of-the-box thinking to dominate their launches.

1. The Original iPhone

Apple's iPhone is one of the most successful product launches in history. With one million units sold within 74 days of its launch, the iPhone blew its competition out of the water, and has set the bar for what consumers expect from a device. Ultimately, over 6 million units were sold in just over a year, compared to just 1 million after a year and a half by the LG Prada, a leading competitor. 

Under CEO Steve Jobs, Apple created a device that combined cell phone capabilities with a full-function computer operating system. The first-generation iPhone was unveiled on January 9th, 2007 and had an initial price tag of $499.

Ultimately, the iPhone is a classic example of product innovation, as it ushered in the age of the app, by changing the focus in mobile phones from hardware to software. Rather than try to merely iterate upon the latest phones in the market, Apple revolutionized the game by making a leap to a true smartphone.

2. The iPod

When the iPod was released in 2001, it became the first highly-portable, digital MP3 player to be able to store 1,000 songs. 

At a time when space was at a premium, the iPod simplified access to music and data storage. From there, the iPod line only grew bigger and bolder, offering massive storage, cameras, gaming features, and more. 

In 2010, Apple announced that they had sold 275 million iPods worldwide. As INSEAD writes, the iPod is a powerful example of the importance of proper timing, as it was released as soon as both MP3s and broadband were widely available, allowing it to ride technological trends to success.

3. Coca-Cola

In 1886, when Coca Cola was first introduced, just 9 bottles were sold a day. Today, around 2 billion Coca Cola beverages are enjoyed every single day.

From Coca Cola’s trademarked contoured bottle to its beloved secret recipes from Coke Zero to Coke Lime, and its world-class advertising campaigns, Coca Cola is an innovation expert.

Today, Coca Cola is a Commerce.AI customer, using AI to scan massive amounts of product review data online, and fuel new product innovation.

After all, traditional product innovation is hard to get right. When Coca-Cola introduced New Coke to the world in 1985, the reception was so overwhelmingly negative that they re-introduced the original formula in less than 3 months.

4. Google Maps

Google Maps is one of the most revolutionary products ever released and is often credited with changing how we think about geographical space. Google Maps offers users detailed maps and directions, satellite images, traffic information, and street views all in one app. The service is now used by over one billion people each month worldwide.

Google has mapped almost the entire world, and has consistently released innovative features like real-time traffic, eco-friendly routes, using data from its one-billion-plus users to boost accuracy, indoor maps, and more.

5. Nike's Air Jordan 1

When the Nike Air Jordan 1 arrived in 1985, it was a true example of innovation. The shoe’s black-red colorway violated the league’s uniform policy - resulting in a $5,000 fine from the NBA every time Michael Jordan wore the sneakers, creating a legacy.

Nike's Air Jordan 1 was designed by Nike shoe designer Tinker Hatfield and Michael Jordan with input from Nike's CEO Phil Knight. The shoe became an instant hit with consumers who loved that it looked cool but also came with a comfortable ride thanks to its Nike Air technology cushioning system. Today, Air Jordan is still one of Nike's most popular lines of shoes and generated $126 million in sales in its first year alone, more than 35 years ago.

The Air Jordan 1 has been so wildly popular that it has seen at least six re-releases.

6. Facebook Messenger

Facebook Messenger is a mobile messaging app that allows users to chat with friends by sending texts or using emojis while also being able to share photos or videos. 

Even though it was first released ten years ago, Facebook Messenger continues to grow rapidly, and is soon expected to have nearly two-and-a-half billion users.

Facebook Messenger’s innovations are numerous, from being the fastest-loading product of its kind to introducing stories early on.

7. Instagram

Instagram is a social networking platform that allows users to share photos and videos. It was first released in October 2010, racking up 25,000 users in one day, and now boasts more than one billion monthly active users. 

It is especially popular with teenagers and young adults, who use it to post photos of everything from their daily meals to the latest fashion trends.

Instagram succeeded as the result of deliberate, bold, and consistent product innovation, from video editing features like Boomerang and Rewind, to creative interactive features like face filters and polling. As visual marketing and advertising has taken off, Instagram only continues to grow.

8. Amazon's Kindle

Amazon's Kindle is one of the most successful product launches in recent history because it revolutionized how readers consume media. 

Amazon used its positioning as the “world’s largest bookstore” to dominate the eBook market practically overnight. The Kindle format also runs on practically everything, instead of opting for lock-in, which has created millions of loyal fans over the years.

9. Nintendo's Wii

Nintendo's Wii was released in November 2006 and sold like hotcakes during the holiday season that year. 

It sold so well that it became one of the best-selling consoles ever made with over 100 million units sold worldwide since its release. 

The Wii was revolutionary because it gave players a unique gaming experience thanks to its motion-sensitive controllers and interactive gameplay that allowed users to get up off their sofa and use their whole body as part of the game itself.

Since then, many consoles have adopted this style of gaming, but Nintendo Wii was the first major device to do so.

10. Toyota Corolla

Product innovation doesn’t need to be exciting to be wildly successful, as demonstrated by the Toyota Corolla.

Since 1966, the Toyota Corolla has offered simple comfort, practicality, and reliability at a low cost. In short, it’s no Cybertruck or Ford Mustang, but it’s a highly-reliable daily driver, which is exactly what tens of millions of people want.

Tapping into that consumer desire has been Toyota’s big innovation win, and the Toyota Corolla now boasts over 40 million sales.


Innovation doesn’t need to be exciting, revolutionary, or complex to be successful.

The Toyota Corolla shows that simple reliability can create a category-winning product. Coca-Cola shows that being distinct and listening to your users can lead to massive product success. Google Maps shows the importance of data collection.

Ultimately, there are many roads to product success, but innovation is at the heart of them all.

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