Creating Crowds

How do you know if a product is good? For technology, it is the hordes of people queuing for days waiting until the release date. For restaurants, it is the inability to get a reservation for months. For entertainment, it is ticket servers crashing. So basically . . . it is the crowds!


Crowds are a great signal that a product is good. And when huge crowds want a product this need to fit in with the group begins to develop in everyone else – so we all join in making the crowd phenomenon even stronger! And it is something that is being employed on New York’s famous 5th Avenue.

5th Avenue is touted as the mecca for designer retail stores. If you are anyone in the fashion or high-end retail industry, you have an office and shop with a 5th Avenue address. This makes it an incredibly popular destination for wide-eyed tourists who want to window shop with all the rich and famous. But there is very little incentive to visit the stores because everyone knows most of the products are well outside our price range.

So they have come up with a solution to get passers-by inside the stores (and see that, in some stores, the prices are only slightly above what we would expect).

Manufacturing Crowds!

If crowds are a signal of popularity, then surely you would want crowds outside your shops giving passers-by the message that there is something inside which MUST BE SEEN. So these shops have come up with an imaginary number. A number which specifies how many people are allowed inside the shop at one time.

Generally this number is on the lower side of shopping crowds, reinforcing the high-end atmosphere inside the shops (compared to more accessible overly-crowded stores like Macy’s). But whatever the number chosen, it always leaves a sizeable crowd of people outside the store queuing nicely in true American fashion.

It is then near impossible to walk past these stores without being struck by an intense curiosity to know what is on the other side of the impenetrable blackened-out windows, only adding to the queues and providing even greater incentive for following passers.

And I can tell it certainly works by the number of queues I joined as I strolled down 5th Avenue!