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Even in our present era of 10,000 niches, mass customization, and the “long tail”—of companies selling fewer items from a far vaster inventory—we are, arguably, governed more than ever by what’s popular. Thanks to the Internet’s ability to rank everything, one can dwell almost exclusively in the world of trending Twitter topics, of top-reviewed restaurants, of bestselling books, of the cutest cute-cat YouTube videos. News sites all feature tallies of the Most Read, Most E-mailed, and Most Commented On articles—creating a self- reinforcing conversation.

Is all this popularity data enriching us, or does it obscure new paths of discovery? Are crowds wise, or do they follow the pack and middle-of-the-road? A deep dive into what’s totally beast, right now—not just the bestselling, but the fastest-selling; not merely the market leaders, but the ones gaining the most market share—proves that while there’s no accounting for taste, the data can be helpful and even inspiring. It highlights huge, wealth-creating opportunities as well as under-appreciated ways that cash flows to the sublime.

Each entry in this survey represents either a market leader or the person, product, or trend that experienced the greatest commercial growth or surge in popularity during 2010, or between last year and this one. We plotted the entries based on a relevant number along a scale beginning at 0 and running to 14,594,874,110,347. Some figures are literal (Nordstrom’s revenue, $9.7 billion), others symbolic (the rpms of the top-selling turntable, 33⅓).





Although just 0.75% of Americans have celiac disease, some 15% of consumers buy gluten-free foods, helping to create a $2.6 billion market


movie franchise

Harry Potter

The eight Harry Potter movies are the most popular film franchise in cinema history. The final installment, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2, rocketed out of the gate, pulling in $482 million on its opening weekend and topping $1 billion in sales in just 17 days.


Days Diane Sawyer—TV's highest-rated female anchor—spent in jail to shoot a documentary about… jails


tv role

Two and a Half Men

The lesson of the perennially popular Two and a Half Men is that even the highest-paid actor on TV is replaceable. Or is he? Although Charlie Sheen's role was written for him, he bad-mouthed the boss a few times too many. Next season begins with his funeral; Ashton Kutcher plays the new lead. CBS trusts fans not to care.


Average number of credit cards possessed by U.S. consumers. Visa remains the most popular processor

Length of LMFAO's Party Rock Anthem



Downloaded Songs

1. Party Rock Anthem LMFAO featuring Lauren Bennet & GoonRock
2. Lighters Bad Meets Evil featuring Bruno Mars
3. Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F.) Katy Perry
4. Super Bass Nicki Minaj
5. Tonight Tonight Hot Chelle Rae

Nielsen rating among adults 18 to 49


cable phenom

Jersey Shore

In August, MTV's Jersey Shore returned with its season premiere. Its Nielsen rating means at least 5.6 million grown-ups really do know who Snooki is.


restaurant chain

Five Guys

Number of stores the Five Guys chain is opening per week this year



Marlboro's market share



Size of the most popular toy, Syma S107 helicopter

Alcohol percentage, Barefoot Cellars' moscato




Shows about misbehaving wives


reality tv fixation


Somewhere a producer is trying to figure out if there's a way to make a reality show about wives' wives. That's because networks can't get enough programs about wives. In addition to Bravo's six Real Housewives franchises, there's Mob Wives (VH1), Basketball Wives (VH1), Army Wives (Lifetime), Sister Wives (TLC), and Prison Wives (Investigation Discovery). This group of 12 is growing: VH1 is shooting Wrestling Wives; a bunch of PGA tour wives want their own show too. — Joel Stein


Flavors of Orbit gum. We love 'em all, but the sugarless ones sell the best


Number of chips in a serving of Lay's Classic, the bestselling potato chip


Percentage of U.S. market share for Bud Light, America's most popular beer, owned by the Belgians


imports from china


The 20 fastest-growing U.S. imports from China 2010-2011




Name of the English singer-songwriter's second album



Michele Bachmann

Percentage of likely Iowa caucus goers who supported Bachmann in June-August polls

Total Grand Slam titles


female athlete

Serena Williams

The world's most famous female jock has been written off more times than Greece's debt. When her baseline grunts are silenced, however, her skin-care line and part ownership of the Miami Dolphins ensure she'll still be making millions.


33 1/3

To spin vinyl on Audio Technica's LP60, the best-selling turntable in the U.S.

Grams of sugar


per 20 oz. Gatorade, the top U.S. sports drink


U.S. magazine covers featured Kate Middleton in 2011

Days it takes to manufacture one bulk order of shirts (Yes, really)


office threads

Dress Shirt

Technically it's the Thomas Mason fabric point-collar dress shirt in white

Miles before your battery dies


electric car

Nissan Leaf

This lithium ion-powered hatchback miracle from Japan is the top seller in the U.S., beating out Chevrolet's less elegantly named Volt. A tip for the 4,825 people who spent $32,780 on one this year: You actually get more juice by avoiding the freeway. — Alan Ohnsman

Movies they've appeared in




Leonardo DiCaprio, John Travolta, and Will Smith are the most beloved leading men in America, having appeared in dozens of movies between them.


Percentage of women who hate their armpits, a condition best-selling lady razor, Gillette Venus, tries to address

Dollars per day to skinny




What started as a humble juice-churning business is now a go-to for dieters looking to counteract the effects of too many cocktail hours and late-night takeout indulgences.

These five have 109 years of teaching experience


business school professors

Aswath Damodaran

Their names might not be immediately familiar, but at least one in every five of the 3,732 MBA graduates we surveyed singled out these instructors as their favorites. — Kiah Haslett


Calories per 28g serving of Honey Nut Cheerios, America's favorite

Typical minutes' wait on final weekend


fashion exhibit


Sweaty hordes lined up for hours to see Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty, a retrospective of the designer's work at New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art. Death at a young age—McQueen committed suicide last year at 40—and the fact that his studio created Waity Katie Middleton's wedding gown helped draw more than 650,000 people.


Calories per 42g serving of Nature Valley Oats 'n Honey, the most popular snack bar

2010 sales of $218 Flea ukuleles were up 25 percent



The Magic Fluke recently doubled its factory's size. It's 12 weeks behind on orders



Dumpster Diver

To more easily complete full 360-degree spins in the air above breaking waves, surfer Dane Reynolds designed a squat surfboard that became a surprise hit


Annual loads of laundry per capita in the U.S., where Tide rules


The calories in frozen-foods king Stouffer's chicken parm


Birthday cakes made weekly by top reality TV baker, The Cake Boss


denim evolution


Levi's 501: the all-time best-selling garment


The wattage of the Breville JE98XL, America's No. 1 juicer


the tao of lasting popularity

Expert Advice

Cumulative number of Law & Order episodes produced by creator Dick Wolf


dumb fashion accessory

Trout Flies

Roosters harvested per week at Whiting Farms in Delta, Colo.


IHOP locations around the world, making it the King of Flappers


Cups of Nescafé drunk per second by mankind, more than any other coffee

Career completions


male athlete

Peyton Manning

The Indianapolis Colts QB is the most popular athlete in the U.S. His trick, other than winning games: Making fun of his jock/doofus persona, á la his commercials for Sony.

Tweets per second


During the July 18 FiFA Women's World Cup soccer final, a record.

Percent total return of Microsoft shares since 1986 IPO


Next time you gnash your teeth and whale on your Vista laptop with a claw hammer, consider this: The one-man Revenge of the Nerds is currently embarked on what may be the most sensational act of philanthropy in human history. Since 1994, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has distributed $24,364,000,000.

MSRP of a Volvo S60R, ride of dreamboat Twilight bloodsucker Edward Cullen


undead antiheros

Zombies vs. Vampires

In 2011 zombies are threatening to overtake vampires in the battle for undead hegemony.

Congregation of Lakewood Church in Houston



Joel Osteen

The pastor-in-chief of the largest congregation in the U.S. also has a TV audience of 10 million. Osteen's sermons are light on brimstone, heavy on optimism and uplift.

Per hour gross sales in dollars on Etsy, Jan. 1-June 30


handicraft website


The online marketplace for all things handmade has 10 million items for sale.

Number of Honda Accords stolen in 2010 in the U.S.


most stolen cars in 2010 by make and model year

The '94 Accord has topped the list three years in a row. — Antoine Gara


food truck treat

Fried Kool-Aid Balls

Deep-fried Kool-Aid is the brainchild of "Chicken" Charlie Boghosian, a San Diego chef known for frying everything from Girl Scout Cookies to hot dog-stuffed zucchini. His latest creation is cherry Kool'Aid mix stirred inito a paste of flour and water. He forms it into balls and plunges them into scalding oil. "It tastes like a Munchkin that's been to a Kool-Aid car wash," Boghosian says. —Devin Leonard


business bestseller

Tom Rath

StrengthsFinder 2.0's 2011 sales through July 24. Oddly there is no book called StrengthsFinder 1.0.

Fake tans created in May 2011 by VersaSpa machines


faux glow

From Boehner to Middleton, it's been an orange year. Yet the star of the $701 million sunless industry is the VersaSpa booth, which, according to parent company Sunless, Inc., contributed approximately 1 million consumer spray tans, in May alone.

1.5 Million

2011 hotel room tax revenue in Provincetown, Mass., the top gay marriage-friendly vacation spot

1.6 Million

online dating demographic

Gray Lovers

Over-50s make up 25 percent of's 1.6 million paid subscribers

2.1 Million

The Wall Street Journal's circulation is tops in the U.S.



The Biebs

Sales revenue for teen heartthrob Justin Bieber's debut fragrance, Someday, in its first three weeks

8 Million

Approximate number of Microsoft Xbox Kinects sold in the 60 days after its launch. Who needs real friends?



Story Cubes

The number of possible permutations of the dice used in Rory's Story Cubes


Distance, in strands of Barilla spaghetti, between the Ames, Iowa, and Parma, Italy, plants of the world's No. 1 pasta maker


Pounds of mustard were produced last year in the U.S. The top 20 brands had some $190 million in sales through July 10

45 Million

Earnings for the 12 months ended in May for supermodel and skin-care empress Gisele

48 Million

hedge fund

The value today of $10 million investment in Bridgewater in 2001.

Fads from around the world

60 Million

That's the number of Americans deemed totally inactive, which may explain why fad diets, reality shows about housewives, and Bud Light do so well. The good news is that all countries have odd fixations—such as butt-lifts or lying like a plank in the middle of random locations.

256 Million

Sandra Bullock, Hollywood's most popular leading lady, helped drive The Blind Side to $256m at the box office


M&M Mars produces nearly 294 million of America's most popular chocolate candy per eight-hour shift

350 Million

barefoot footwear


Mainstream retailers expect to sell $350 million of minimalist running shoes this year

Messages sent between the users of the Moshi Monsters website

500 Million

social network for kids

Moshi Monsters

Moshi stuffed animals are the second bestselling toy brand in England.

618 Million

The 2010 revenue in dollars of Logitech's mouse division, makers of the bestselling Logitech M305

1 Billion

youtube phenom

The Key of Awesome!

Total page views for YouTube's Barely Political channel, which regularly features spoofs of pop stars

Servings of Coca-Cola consumed every day

1.7 Billion



The soda, which turned 125 this year, continues its worldwide sugary domination. The company now boasts more than 500 brands; its products are sold in over 200 countries—which is more than the U.N. recognizes.

2011 sales from Amazon's Kindle e-reader

2 Billion



Amazon's e-book sales surpassed print books sales in May.

2.1 Billion

Gross revenue in dollars generated by Ron Howard films. He remains the world's most successful former child star.

3.8 Billion

Total revenue generated by the NBA during the 2010-11 season. Basketball is the world's most popular American sport. No wonder the league's owners and players are fighting.

4 Billion

Number of items shared among Facebook users every day, according to the company. Facebook reached 750,000,000 active users this year.

Nordstrom's 2010 revenue was a record

9.7 Billion

department store


Nordstrom is that rarity in American business: an enterprise run by a founding family that hasn't wrecked it.

Approximate number of Oreo cookies consumed each year worldwide

12 Billion



The Oreo remains the most popular cookie in the U.S., according to market research firm Euromonitor. It's also the top-selling cookie worldwide. It dominates in China, too, though in a less sweet version that has some expats disappointed.

Global sales, Nestlé Purina PetCare, 2010


pet food

Nestlé Purina

Nestlé Purina PetCare is the No. 1 pet care company in sales. Its Fancy Feast wet cat food owns 13 percent of its market, and the recently introduced Fancy Feast Appetizers is already in the wet cat food Top 10.

Apple AppStore downloads so far

15 Billion

After three years and 425,000 apps, Apple remains the king of mobile software.

45 Billion

That's how many sandwiches Americans eat per year. Many of them surely are made with the top-selling U.S. sandwich bread, Nature's Own, which has a market share of 3.9 percent.




The most-traded equity turns out to be an ETF, or exchange-traded fund: the $93.3 billion SPDR Standard & Poor's 500. The 18-year-old offering from State Street Global Advisors was the first ETF, and it still eclipses the 1,100 such funds now available to investors.

Approximate number of neurons in the human brain

100 Billion

consumer research tool

MRI Scans

Can an MRI brain scan predict a song's popularity?

National debt as of 4:34p.m. 59 secs, EDT Aug. 10, 2011



What We Owe

Credits: Five Guys: Brian Finke For Bloomberg Businessweek; Lmfao: Gregg Deguire/Picturegroup/Ap Photo; Visa: Alan Schein/Corbis; Snooki: Scott Gries/Picturegroup/Ap Photo; This Spread: Five Guys: Brian Finke For Bloomberg Businessweek; Cigarettes: Lena Clara/Getty Images; Wives: Getty Images(8), Ap Photo For Vh1(1), Everett Collection(1). Gatorade: Justin Fantl For Bloomberg Businessweek; Shirt: Davies And Starr For Bloomberg Businessweek; Williams: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images. Data: Gatorade: Pepsico, Euromonitor International; Shirt: J.Crew; Williams: Women’s Tennis Assn., Harris Poll; Magazine Covers: Magazine Info Network; Turntable: Amazon.Com. Actors: Getty Images(3); Nature Valley: Justin Fantl For Bloomberg Businessweek. Illustration: Professors: Kagan Mcleod. Previous Spread: Reynolds: Kenworthy/A-Frame; Ukulele: Davies And Starr For Bloomberg Businessweek; Celebrities: Corbis(1); Getty(3); This Page: Channel Islands Surfboards(2) Jeans Chart: Ap Photo, Corbis(3), Gaslight Advertising Archives, Getty Images(2); Feather: Davies And Starr For Bloomberg Businessweek; Rooster: Alamy; Nescafe And Ihop: Getty Images(2). Illustration: Experts: Kagan Mcleod. Manning: Andy Lyons/Getty Images; Zombie: Mark Doyle/Splash News; World Cup: Daniel Roland/Afp/Getty Images; Gates: Michael Kappeler/Afp/Getty Images; Osteen: Nina Berman/Noor/Redux; Kool-Aid: Gregory Bull/Ap Photo. Illustrations: Al Murphy. Photo: Books: Davies And Starr For Bloomberg Businessweek. Game And Mustard: Davies And Starr For Bloomberg Businessweek; Barilla: Justin Fantl For Bloomberg Businessweek; Provincetown: Getty; Gisele: Splash News/Newscom. Illustration: Dating: Jiro Bevis. Previous Spread: Vibram Shoes And M&M’s: Justin Fantl For Bloomberg Businessweek; Bullock: Jeff Kravitz/Filmmagic/Getty Images. Coca-Cola: Rocket Studio (Photo Illustration), Steve Spangler Science (Photograph); Howard: Frazer Harrison/Getty Images; Nba: Noah Graham/Nbae/Getty Images; Kindle: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg. Previous Page: Photo: Nordstrom Brothers: Jose Mandojana For Bloomberg Businessweek. This Spread: Photos: Kareem Black For Bloomberg Businessweek. Stylist: Catherine Daly. Hair And Makeup: Marco Testa. Photo: Oreo: Justin Fantl For Bloomberg Businessweek. Data: Facebook: Facebook; Oreo: Kraft Foods, Euromonitor International; App Store: Apple; Pet Food: Nestle Purina, Symphonyiri.