Google Puts 2013 in Focus, From Versace to Kohl’s

The internet giant dug deep into its database and offered a peek into Web browsing mind-set Tuesday with its latest Zeitgeist report.

If the physical world mirrored the digital realm, we’d all be twerking and shopping at Kohl’s.

This story first appeared in the December 18, 2013 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

Internet giant Google dug deep into its database and offered a peek into Web browsing mind-set Tuesday with its Zeitgeist 2013 report on the most searched-for and fastest-trending names.

The fashion flock was well represented with familiar names from across the spectrum ranking in Google’s eclectic roundup.

Versace came out on top as the most searched-for high-fashion brand in the U.S. this year, followed by Michael Kors, Diesel Black Gold, Gucci and Kate Spade.

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When it came to the most searched-for apparel brands and retailers, it was the moderately priced names that rose to the top, with Kohl’s Corp. heading the list.

Kohl’s — and nearly every other retailer — has been focused on integrating its retail and online businesses, translating the brand for a new online era.

“We’re reaching our customers in the channels they use most through the lens of the new media landscape,” said Kevin Mansell, chairman, president and chief executive officer, last month. “We need to increase spending on our part in both digital and broadcast. We’re also find new, exciting and more disruptive ways to reach her in the channels that she is using the most, including premier TV program integrations and brand spots on highly watched event TV.”

Following after Kohl’s as the most searched for in the apparel brand and retail category was J.C. Penney Co. Inc. But price obviously wasn’t the only factor that led to success in the area as Nordstrom Inc. came in at number three. Rounding out the top five were Forever 21 Inc. and L Brands Inc.’s Victoria’s Secret nameplate.

The world’s-largest retailer, Wal-Mart Stores Inc., didn’t appear in Google’s ranking of retailers.

That’s something the discounter would no doubt like to change.

Under Neil Ashe, president and ceo of the retailer’s Global eCommerce unit, Wal-Mart is taking an aggressive approach to the online world.

“We’re building a global technology platform whose goals are as simple, frankly, as they are audacious,” Ashe said in May. “We want to know what every product in the world is. We want to know who every person in the world is. And we want to have the ability to connect them together in a transaction.”

Some fashion names succeeded in covering the digital waterfront, showing up in several of the dozens of categories that make up the Zeitgeist list.

Nike was the third best-trending brand in footwear placing behind Toms and Aldo. And it just made it onto the list of the top 10 most searched-for Fortune 500 companies, a category headed by the list’s author, Google, that also included, in descending order, Facebook, Apple and Yahoo. Retailers were prevalent among the top 10 companies in that category, with Target at five, Home Depot at seven, Best Buy at eight and Lowe’s at nine.

Penney’s also qualified for multiple mentions, although its second appearance — as the seventh heaviest trending stock on the list — was likely for very different reasons than its citation among apparel brands and retailers. Penney’s had an extraordinarily tough year, apologizing to its shoppers for missteps in 2012 and changing tact dramatically in the spring after Ron Johnson left as ceo and was replaced by Myron “Mike” Ullman 3rd.

The Zeitgeist’s listing of top stocks was a combination of strong performers and what could delicately be referred to as “sources of concern.” Facebook was first, Tesla second, Twitter third, Google fourth and Blackberry fifth, with Fannie Mae, Penney’s, SolarCity, Herbalife and Freddie Mac filling out the remainder.

Google also reported on the top trending jewelry brands, led by Gucci and Kendra Scott. Sucre, Jennifer Meyer, Jennifer Fisher, Better Late Than Never, Gemfields, Latest Revival, Suzannah Wainhouse and Winifred Grace occupied the rest of the top 10.

Two of the year’s biggest shopping days topped the list of annual events: Black Friday was first and Cyber Monday second. The rest of that listing was considerably less retail oriented, including the Daytona 500, Chinese New Year and the Tour de France.

The rankings list search terms two ways — either for those with the most searches for the year or for those trending most strongly, meaning they had the highest amount of traffic over a prolonged period during the year as compared with 2012.

Predictably, when people turned to the Web, they were looking to catch up on the most talked-about doings in pop culture.

Miley Cyrus was fifth on the trending people list, and the term that she set in stone in the national nomenclature, “twerking,” finished first in the category of “What is?” searches.

Additionally, Cyrus — a self-described “strategic hot mess” — topped the list of people receiving the most searches, and those rankings never landed outside of the entertainment field. Drake placed second, followed by Kim Kardashian, Justin Bieber, Beyoncé, Rihanna, Taylor Swift, Selena Gomez, Katy Perry and Kanye West.

Google didn’t provide specific numbers for searches and trending patterns, but the ranking spoke volumes about contemporary American culture.

Kardashian topped the list of celebrity pregnancies, while Kate Middleton, Duchess of Cambridge, settled for the second spot following the birth of George Alexander Louis, or Prince George of Cambridge, ahead of Megan Fox and Shakira. (On the list of top-trending searches of the year, “royal baby” ranked ninth.)

The Zeitgeist list provides hundreds of data points and lots of opportunities for holiday season trivia games. The best-trending appetizer? Tomato mozzarella. Strongest trending among car companies? Tesla. Fifth strongest trender among dance moves? The old favorite “YMCA.” Most searched-for dog breed? Bulldog. Strongest trending news source? CNN beat out Fox News and Time.

But there’s no escaping fashion as style enthusiasts browse the Internet. “The Great Gatsby,” with costumes by Catherine Martin, was sixth among the most searched-for movies, and Scott Schuman’s The Sartorialist (thesartorialist.com) the eighth strongest trending blog.

The strong trenders in the “How To?” category included activities such as knitting, kissing, flirting and blogging, but the top spot went to the recurring mystery for millions of American men: “How to Tie a Tie.”