From Theory to Practice – The Wisdom of Crowds, Barbie and the Montreal Canadiens

Wisdom” is a word that sounds to anyone ears, more closely related to the Dalai Lama than to hockey fans or Barbie customers. However, I must admit that the marketing team of the Montreal Canadiens hockey team has found an interesting way to take advantage of the wisdom of its own hockey fans by effectively applying the concept of the “wisdom of crowds” while the Barbie marketing team should learned from their now well-known experience.

Wisdom - A word that can be associated in a different manner to the Dalai Lama, Barbie and the Montreal Canadiens fans
Wisdom - A word that can be associated in a different manner to the Dalai Lama, Barbie and the Montreal Canadiens fans

The Wisdom of Crowds Concept

So what is the concept of “wisdom of crowds”? Popularized in the best-selling book entitled “The Wisdom of Crowds” by the journalist James Surowiecki, who is a staff writer for The New Yorker, the concept of wisdom of crowds stipulates that the aggregation of information from a group or a crowd, resulted in decisions that are often better than the ones that could have been made by any single member (expert) of the group. For those who know me well from either my e-marketing class lectures or guest speaker’s presentations noticed that the wisdom of crowds is a concept that I especially like. However, this concept should be applied cautiously, since it can be as powerful as it can be harmful.

For the “wisdom of crowds” concept to be applied effectively, one marketing expert should take in consideration at least the following five criteria:
1. There is a need to have enough individuals that are targeted;
2. Individuals need to have at least a moderate level of expertise towards the product;
3. Individuals need to be the real target of the product, or the ones buying it;
4. The contribution needs to come from as much different people as possible;
5. There is a need for incentives to participate.

The Bad Application – The Barbie Case

One of the weirdest results I know related to the concept of the wisdom of crowds is the “I can be” Barbie contest. The objective of the contest was to choose a new career for the well-know Barbie. To find the new career, the Barbie marketing team launched a four-week online contest from January 11th 2010 to February 10th 2010. The contest was flooded by high-tech women (see the Wall Street Journal article on the topic) who turned the contest into a claim that the new Barbie should be a computer engineer, which was the profession that actually ranked first. Seeing the beautiful results, the Barbie marketing team decided to create two new “Barbie”, the second position being news anchor, they at least save their face with that one, but to me it was an actual failure of a bad application of the “wisdom of crowds” concept, since the criterion 3 and 4 were not respected.

The Great Application – The Montreal Canadiens Case

On the other side, after sending flowers to the Ottawa Senators loyalty team in my post entitled “A Brilliant Use of Automated Emails as an Online Marketing Strategy Made Me Buy a Hockey Shirt”, I must say “bravo” to the Montreal Canadiens marketing team directed by Vice-president Ray Lalonde for their new “Molson Export three stars of the game” selectors which are now “the fans” (See the story) . Thus, for each Montreal Canadiens hockey game, fans can start to vote 90 minutes after the beginning of the game for “Molson Export three stars to the game” by either visiting, or by downloading the Canadiens smartphone application for BlackBerry, Android and for iPhone. For me, that’s a great application of the wisdom of crowds concept since fans: (1) feel more involved with the product/brand (which is the Montreal Canadiens, (2) want to show to anyone their new smartphone application, (3) buy more merchandise, since Montreal is surely a city that lives and dies with its hockey team, but this does not resulted in hockey jerseys sales if I compare to past hockey games I saw when I went to Philadelphia to see the Flyers or to Long Island to see the Islanders. A single drawback of this “wisdom of crowds” application may only be the bias of fans toward their own players, but after seeing the results for the first game, it seems already like a success.


The “wisdom of Crowds” is a concept that can have an enormous potential in marketing. However, applying it to the right situation, the right media and the right people can have an important between a success or a failure. Have a nice hockey season… Any other case related to the concept of the “wisdom of crowds”?


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A Brilliant Use of Automated Emails as an Online Marketing Strategy Made Me Buy a Hockey Shirt

I spent the last few days/weeks computing some R functions for automating a multiple variable selection of linear models using the LASSO and the SCAD penalties. It took me time to create my code, but at the end of the day, it is freshly automated and it is able to perform a statistical task in a few seconds which would have taken me days to run using standard statistical software.

And the Relationship with Online Marketing?

So what is the relationship with Online Marketing? Well, my automated program has allowed me to save time in the future, and that is exactly an objective that should achieve any organization who wants to take advantage of web features. However, these organizations should do even more than only saving time, they should also build online customer loyalty through automated programs. My latest example is related to a sport that I cherish, which is hockey. Living in Montreal, I have the chance to live in a city which is home to the team with the most Stanley Cups in the NHL history, the Montreal Canadians who played their home games at the Bell Center. I also have the chance to be 2 hours away from Ottawa (Ontario) where the Ottawa Senators play their home games at the “Scotia Bank Place” in Kanata, which is a few miles away from Ottawa. Over the last week, I attended a game in both of these arenas. This was the third time I went to Kanata to see a hockey game during this hockey season, and every time, a day before the game, I always receive an email similar to this one presented below.

“Dear Jean-Francois,

We are looking forward to seeing you on Game Day to watch the Ottawa Senators vs. Toronto Maple Leafs on March 6th, 2010 at 07:00 p.m.

Doors for Ottawa Senators games open at 5:30 p.m. for evening games, 11:30 for 1:00 p.m. games and 12:30 for 2:00 p.m. games.

Here’s everything you need to know to make your game day run smoothly.

• Scotiabank Place is a quick 15 minute drive from downtown Ottawa. Click here for directions and a map.
• Scotiabank Place Parking Tips
• Public Transportation


Before the game:
If you haven’t already received your tickets by mail, printed them on-line or picked them up, tickets can be picked up with the credit card used for purchase and photo ID matching the credit card at any Sports Experts location in Ottawa.

Paperless tickets:
If you selected paperless delivery, your tickets have been delivered to the credit card used for purchase. Bring your credit card used for purchase and your photo identification matching the credit card to the game. DO NOT visit the box office. Go directly to the ticket taker. They will swipe your credit card, verify your identification and print a receipt displaying your seat location.


At the game:
Express Ticket Kiosks are located at Gate 1. Tickets may be picked up at the kiosks by swiping your credit card used for purchase or at the box office windows with credit card and photo ID. Wait times can be in excess of one hour so we recommend, when possible, picking up in advance!

Scotiabank Place – the place to eat. Six restaurants to suit every budget from stone-fired thin crust pizza to chef attended food stations featuring prime rib. Eat dinner then walk to your seats to enjoy the game! Reservations available at each restaurant.

Full restaurant descriptions and menus
RESERVE ONLINE or call: 613-599-2582

Score, the Ottawa Senators’ game-day program, is now available online. Along with reader favourites such as player profiles and opponents previews, Score Online features bonus links to bio pages, video highlights and photo galleries. Click here for the latest edition.”

Email I received before the Ottawa Senators Game
Email I received before the Ottawa Senators Game

And After the Game

Furthermore, after each game in Kanata, I always receive an email similar to this one below.

“Dear Jean-Francois,

We hope you had a great time at the Sens game on March 6th, 2010.


For a complete recap of the game, including player statistics and photo galleries, go to, your home for exclusive Ottawa Senators information.

You can also see the post-game interviews, video highlights and more on Sens TV

2010 Score Magazine Survey

Tell us what you think of Score, the Ottawa Senators’ game-day program, by participating in this survey, and we’ll enter you into a draw for two club seats to the Senators vs. Philadelphia Flyers game at Scotiabank Place on March 23.

Special post-game ticket offer

Eastern Conference battle! Watch Chris Pronger take on the Sens. Tickets starting as low as $39.14. This offer will apply to 100 ends,
200 ends and 300 upper and lower level.

– March 23 at 7:30 pm

Visit and reference the special code: XXXXXXXX

This offer ends Friday, March 19 at midnight and is available by Internet only.”

… And With the Montreal Canadians?

That’s not the end of the story, so what do I receive before and after each Montreal Canadians game? I always receive “nothing”. The tickets are always sold out anyway even when the team is playing like a minor league team, so perhaps the organization thinks there is no need for building online customer loyalty through automated emails.

My conclusion

In conclusion, I am not a huge fan of any hockey team, I like the game from an objective perspective. However, last Saturday, I decided to buy a hockey shirt for the Ottawa Senators game, the game was coined as the “Battle of Ontario” and I decided to support the Ottawa Senators by buying a “Daniel Alfredsson” shirt, and sincerely the two emails that I showed you both had an impact on my decision of buying this item. So what is the lesson of this story? Don’t take me for granted? Innovation in online sports marketing comes from organizations in markets where it is harder to load the arena? Anyway, any additional thoughts on the topic?

Jean-Francois Belisle

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