Very true story. It became a VERY popular HBS case study, and the first
case study I ever had to do for my Marketing Core class when I got my MBA.
When different MBA schools would get together and invariably folks would
start discussing which case studies we did trying to find overlap, the only
one that every one of us had done was the chicken contact lenses... I'm
sure I still have the case study *somewhere* but I'm not about to dig it
out right now.
>Apparently, some researcher at (I think, or so he said) Texas A&M (no
>Texas jokes, please, even a lot of Texans don't respect A&M ;-) had done
>some study on infection and mortality rates among egg-laying hens.
>Seems they were always fighting, killing, maiming, and even eating each
>other. Nobody knew where the aggressive behavior came from. For
>whatever reason, this researcher decided it had something to do with the
>chickens' eyesight, and did a study which strongly supported the use of
>contact lenses to address the issue. Somebody started a company, and my
>partner's family made a sizable investment. Apparently the investment
>was fairly disastrous, I'm not sure of the details.
Now I really wish I did remember the details... Since it was a "marketing"
case study, I'm sure the disaster revolved around a marketing issue (or at
least that's what they had us believe). Maybe it was just that the lenses
never worked. Who knows...
I also remember the prof brought in a box full of the lenses to prove to us
that they were real, since no one believed it.
Aha. A last minute search of the web turns up:
http://www.hbsp.harvard.edu/hbsp/prod_detail.asp?575072 so if anyone wants
to spend $5 the case study can be yours... The abstract suggests it was a
pricing disaster, though the other articles one finds (1248 matches for
"chicken contact lenses" on Google) suggests that the product never worked
anyway, which is a marketing issue of another sort altogether. Inc.
Magazine apparently ran a story about it (pre-disaster) which is available
and probably covers much of the stuff in the case study: