Mercedes-Benz’s New York Fashion Week sets the annual design trends in the hottest shows of the season. During a week in February, we are reminded of fashion’s iconic brands, the legendary movers and shakers and the up-and-coming designers who shape the multi-billion dollar fashion industry.

But marketers want to know: What exactly does the American public deem trendy? Landor Associates’ BrandAsset Valuator (BAV) ranked Americans’ “most stylish brands” in 1993 and 2008 and found the top 15 favorites as listed below:



1. Levi’s 1. Victoria’s Secret
2. Nike 2. Ralph Lauren
3. Bugle Boy 3. Nine West
4. Guess 4. Calvin Klein
5. L.A. Gear 5. Coach
6. Liz Claiborne 6. Manolo Blahnik
7. Dockers 7. Tommy Hilfiger
8. Ralph Lauren 8. Polo/Ralph Lauren
9. Reebok 9. Louis Vuitton
10. Gap 10. Dolce & Gabbana
11. Jordache 11. Nike
12. Jaguar 12. Old Navy
13. Porsche 13. Vera Wang
14. Calvin Klein 14. Eddie Bauer
15. The Limited 15. Donna Karan

If you compare 1993 to 2008, you’ll see a more prevalent trend of active and down-to-earth brands in 1993 by the likes of Nike, Reebok and Gap, as opposed to the more upscale, sexy and designer brands in 2008. You’ll also notice that neither year cites home product lines, appliances, non-apparel retailers or electronics among the favorite 15.
“Stylish” brand favorites in 2009 will more than likely mirror the economic slump facing the majority of Americans. There is a general movement away from expensive, designer brands to funky, fun, minimalist, environmentally friendly brands of the future.
Let’s take a look at the top 15 favorite brands, according to Outlaw Consulting, among Millennials (the offspring of the Baby Boomer generation). The list is a starkly different one:

  1. Apple
  2. Trader Joe’s
  3. Jet Blue
  4. In N Out
  5. Ben N Jerry’s
  6. Whole Foods
  7. Adidas
  8. American Apparel
  9. Target
  10. H&M
  11. Volkswagen
  12. Converse
  13. Vitamin Water
  14. Red Stripe

Interestingly, consumer electronics ranked number one on the Millennials’ list, a category non-existent in the American public’s “stylish” list. Just noting the apparent differences of the two, it seems as if today’s youngest Americans desire simplicity, hip, innovative, futuristic brands that demonstrate happy employees and a positive, engaging experience in the store.
This group looks for brands that are at the forefront of new movements, that are trendsetters in the industry, that have an environmentally conscious approach to their charitable giving, sponsorships and brand positioning and which are unique brands that do things their own way. Above all else, less is more when it comes to brand image.

As marketers, it’s handy to know that no matter the age, the new consumer mantra is and will continue to be:  It’s Nifty to be Thrifty.

After all, it’s the new marketing reality.