America’s favorite fashion brand bears few of the attributes that experts say today’s consumers favor. It isn’t known for an inclusive ethos or progressive stance on material choices that protect people and planet; rather, the brand that dominated stateside online searches, according to one British site, is more closely linked with misogyny, allegations of sexual misconduct and a billionaire executive’s financial ties with late alleged sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein.
Victoria’s Secret’s scantily clad star might be fading but American consumers still typed the lingerie label’s name into the search bar at rates outpacing any other fashion brand, BusinessFinancing.co.uk found in recent research examining the world’s most-searched brands. Global searchers, however, propelled the usual fashion suspects into the top five, with No. 1 Nike and No 5. Asos bookending a list including twin titans H&M and Zara, followed by athletic powerhouse Adidas. With the exception of Zara, all have made substantial efforts to embrace sustainability, in keeping with a well-documented Gen Z and millennial affinity for values-led, Earth-embracing brands.
In fashion, just 20 companies control 97 percent of global retail profit, the study found.
Nike dominated searches in 49 countries. The brand proved most popular in China—the world’s most populous nation—and across countries in Central and East Africa, from The Congo to Mali. Afghanistan also saw the athletic wear giant rank No. 1, as did most of South and Central America, where countries like Brazil, Chile, Mexico, Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador queried the company’s name consistently.
However, H&M was searched more frequently internationally, generating more than 34 million overall queries to more than 23 million for Nike. The Swedish fashion firm dominated its Nordic home market, as well as Germany, Austria, Hungary and Poland. Much of Eastern Europe, including Russia, Bulgaria, Serbia, Belarus and Uzbekistan, and the Middle East, like Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Egypt, also favor the brand.
Spanish tastemaker Zara was also searched more frequently than Nike, with 28,798,130 queries across 38 countries. The fast fashion retailer’s appeal proved vast and varied, ranking No. 1 in Italy, France, Japan, and of course, its own home market. But Zara was also the primary search in the Ukraine, Greece, Bosnia, Portugal, Morocco, Iraq, Libya, Chad, Angola, the Republic of Congo and Cote d’Ivoire.
Canada, meanwhile, rallied around hometown favorite Lululemon. Australia, New Zealand, the U.K., Ireland and Iceland favored Asos for apparel and footwear, while Adidas searches proliferated throughout South America, from Argentina to Bolivia, Peru and Ecuador, and in East African countries like Somalia, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Mozambique and Uganda. The brand also found a significant pocket of influence in India, Bangladesh, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand and Laos.
Nestled between these Asian countries, Myanmar proved the only nation to search for Chanel more frequently than any other brand. Luxury houses carried just three countries on the map, including Louis Vuitton in Kenya and Gucci in Turkmenistan.
It comes as no shock that the most popular consumer brands are overwhelmingly web-based—and most of them are American. The top four most globally searched brands are Google, Netflix, Amazon and eBay, and the fifth is Swedish home furnishing superstore Ikea. Amazon dominates the U.S. as its most-searched brand overall.
On top of that, Google, Apple, Facebook, Microsoft and Amazon account for more than one-fifth of the S&P 500’s entire value. “The situation is calcifying thanks to the pandemic,” the British firm wrote, because “superstar companies” seem like a safer bet to investors than startups or small-to-medium-sized businesses.
While massive household names like Nike, H&M and Zara claim undisputed victory over global search volume, there’s good news for smaller businesses in the fashion space. “These big companies tend to move slowly,” BusinessFinancing.co.uk wrote.
“Just think how online brands have outgrown department stores that failed to move with the times,” it added. While all three of the world’s largest players have proved masterful at innovation when it comes to technology, material innovation and supply chain management, modern entrepreneurs are also measuring success differently, using “nobler metrics” like “community engagement, staff satisfaction and philanthropic impact,” it added. “You don’t need to be the most-searched company for what you do to have value.”
Additional reporting by Jessica Binns.