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What I Learned Today asked an interesting

What I Learned Today asked an interesting question on Friday:

What is the fastest “0 to global” brand? Basically, what brand (company, product, person, any entity that holds a brand identity) do you think gained awareness the fastest. Reblog your answer, if you’re so inclined. TBC Monday (taking a snowboard trip to Stowe this weekend).

Tumblr doesn’t allow comments, so let’s open them up here. What’s your best guess?

Reader comments

Eric TapleyMar 02, 2008 at 3:30PM

Google? I'm not sure if they're the fastest from 0 to global, but I think they were the fastest from 0 to *biggest* brand.

Gary BaldwinMar 02, 2008 at 3:31PM

I'd have to guess Facebook.

jkottkeMar 02, 2008 at 3:34PM

For companies, I'd say Google or something like that. Are there companies that became globally recognized faster than the internet ones?

But a brand like al Qaeda went global faster than that on 9/11; they were known prior to that, but not on a truly global scale.

Chris B.Mar 02, 2008 at 3:36PM

How about Barack Obama? He went from a little-known state senator to an internationally recognizable political force in just a few years.

Cameron BarrettMar 02, 2008 at 3:37PM

The word "blog" isn't a brand but it gained momentum and popularity very, very fast between 1997 and today.

mastornaMar 02, 2008 at 3:37PM of course! No, in all seriousness, it has to be myspace or youtube in the modern age. With the advent of the internet, companies can spring up and become huge literally within a couple of weeks/months. Youtube seemed to be just that. You can't compare these software companies to brick and mortars like Starbucks, which would be my official guess. Starbucks in 1990 was small and by 1993 it was seemingly everywhere.

Sunil GargMar 02, 2008 at 3:37PM

As written above, Google and Facebook both gained global popularity within three years of their existence, so I'd say they're good contenders as companies.

Looking at individual people, I think the fastest way to gain global popularity would be to become a viable US presidential candidate. If that's too difficult, headbutt someone at the World Cup final.

MaxMar 02, 2008 at 3:38PM

What about bands, movies, TV shows... even actors and actresses. Do those count as brands? Those have the capacity to go global overnight thanks to the exposure that the entertainment industry can instantly provide. It probably isn't a valid answer to the question, but not much goes zero to global faster than those.

oclipaMar 02, 2008 at 3:41PM

Is the A-Bomb a brand? I guess that had pretty high global recognition within a few days of Hiroshima...

greg.orgMar 02, 2008 at 3:42PM

I wonder about YouTube.

Also, about the scope of the question. could there be a brand that completely obliterates or dominates a particular niche, but that isn't a mainstream/mass consumer-oriented brand?

Viagra probably grabbed the attention of every old man in the world the second it hit the market.

DavidMar 02, 2008 at 3:42PM

I would posit that any corporation involved in a major industrial accidents / scandals is a likely contender - obscure one day, globally reviled the next - Enron?

rickMar 02, 2008 at 3:49PM

To the guy who guessed was founded in 1971.

RumorsDailyMar 02, 2008 at 3:50PM

Lucent Technologies.

Joseph AbrahamsonMar 02, 2008 at 3:55PM

What does it take to have a globally recognized personal brand? Internet memes (while not necessary global) show an interesting counterpoint: do fat kids wielding pretend lightsabers count as a brand?

What about something like The United States of America? How long does it take the Declaration of Independence to reach England and then permeate through the colonies? Maybe not the best definition of "global" but it's an interesting thought.

danielMar 02, 2008 at 3:57PM

Lee Harvey Oswald (he fits the question) he was unknown one minute and world famous the next. Actually, you can pick any number of terrorists, assassins, etc, but his was probably the fastest 0-60.

CurtisMar 02, 2008 at 4:29PM

daniel beat me to it.

But what about "Who Wants to be a Millionaire," and also, reality television?

Product-wise I'd say obviously the iPod. I bought a Rio when they first came out and thought, "cool but this basically sucks" and went back to a Sony minidisc player until iPod came along.

CurtisMar 02, 2008 at 4:34PM

Also Calvin Klein jeans had an immediate and very long-term impact.

Andy MartinMar 02, 2008 at 4:35PM

Surely the speed something spreads through a network depends as much on the network as the brand. Google was probably the 'quickest to global' brand, but it's now been done by MySpace, Youtube and Facebook among others.

But it's worth asking if any of these will endure. You could argue that Netscape was pretty quick to go global and the quickest to go all the way back down.

Outside the internet, CNN and Al-Jazeera both became global brands pretty quickly.

BonzoMar 02, 2008 at 4:36PM

Napster. Created in 1999. Widespread recognition in 2000. Sued by Metallica and recording studios in 2000.

CurtisMar 02, 2008 at 4:43PM


salad in a bag

liquid soap

the "new" Coke (famous for failing)

microwave popcorn (accomplished what Jiffy Pop couldn't)



tribal gaming

Game Boy


Casio VL Tone

jeremiahMar 02, 2008 at 4:46PM

Product: Nintendo Wii. Even my grandparents know what a Wii is.

AndreMar 02, 2008 at 5:00PM

TV shows should fit this bill perfectly since they *literally* have the potential to become huge overnight. The last ones I remember were Lost and Desperate Housewives, where they were on a fourth-place network with no big expectations going in and by the time they aired their second episodes they were national sensations.

CurtisMar 02, 2008 at 5:00PM

And how could I leave out:

bottled water

RichardMar 02, 2008 at 5:07PM

By "global" do you mean numbers or people all over the world? And, what about the time factor? Does the brand have to stick for a while or can it be a one day wonder?

How about Pele or Beckham? Maybe not in the US but there's a big world out there.

Thomas EdwardsMar 02, 2008 at 5:07PM

iPhone? Got about $400 million of advertising in a very short space of time.

Thomas EdwardsMar 02, 2008 at 5:08PM

PS $400 million 'worth' of free advertising, from news, websites, etc.

VincentMar 02, 2008 at 5:26PM

Well, there's certainly no beating the internet. Offline, I only remember reading a case-study about Logitech, a Swiss company, which was a global brand straight from the start. It's the first result here

HarryMar 02, 2008 at 5:35PM

"Looking at individual people, I think the fastest way to gain global popularity would be to become a viable US presidential candidate. If that's too difficult, headbutt someone at the World Cup final."

Given that Zidane was in the French team that won the World Cup in 98 and the European Championship in 2000, and that in 2001 his transfer to Real Madrid was the most expensive in the history of football, this seems like a good moment to point out that the world is not America.

TimMar 02, 2008 at 5:46PM

According to the post, people can be considered brands. Someone above mentioned Lee Harvey Oswald - but that was in an age before 24 hour cable news and the Internet. Word was spreading via the Pony Express.

What about Monica Lewinsky? Or Osama Bin Laden? Surely they reached infamy in all parts of the world faster than Oswald...

JohnCommonerMar 02, 2008 at 5:57PM

How about Tiger Woods. That guy was very little known in 2006 when, as an amateur, he played in the US Open. A few months later he won his third straight US Amateur, turned pro the next day, signed a gigundus contract with Nike, and won his first PGA Tour event within weeks. He won the Masters a few months later. Very, very quickly he completely changed the PGA Tour and the game of golf itself. He is now the highest earning athlete in the world and will very soon become the first athlete to earn a billion dollars in his career. I don't think that Google, Facebook or YouTube went from relative obscurity to sustained dominance and recognizability so fast.

CurtisMar 02, 2008 at 6:21PM

What about Monica Lewinsky? Or Osama Bin Laden? Surely they reached infamy in all parts of the world faster than Oswald...

Not so, Tim (and yes I am an old fart). Oswald was known everwhere immediately. The first Kennedy assassination was massive in its media impact and Oswald was strangely compelling as a media figure (and assassination victim himself). I would say that no one matched his galvanizing force until bin Laden.

PatrikMar 02, 2008 at 7:04PM

I would vote for youtube. It was as if it appeared everywhere on the web over night. What it had going for it was that the videos could be posted on any website and the viewers didn't have to register to see the content.

Have to disagree on Facebook though. May be very popular in English speaking countries but in mainland Europe, it still has to gain traction because of other social network sites like Netlog that have localised versions for each country and language.

As for people, I think there is a destinction between being a famous person and being a global brand in the form of a person. That is why I have to rule out presidents, interns, assasins and terrorists and go for Paris Hilton instead. She basicly is a business enterprise in the form of a woman.

As for real world products, anything that apple releases. As far as I know, it is the only company I know that gets so much media attention, even from the mainstream press, everytime Steve Jobs launches a new product.

AriMar 02, 2008 at 7:05PM

Definitely YouTube.

Jay FienbergMar 02, 2008 at 7:08PM

Probably shouldn't count people who are famous but didn't / haven't capitalized on their fame to become a "brand." And, truly global brands are often (always?) identifiable via a signature image or logo, and are easily recognized across languages.

Also, sub-brands (e.g., like the iPhone) probably shouldn't count either--sub-brands don't really start at "0."

So, Madonna as a global brand in the 1990s, could stick an iconic picture of herself on pretty much anything--say, boxes of bellybutton lint, and attract publicity and sell those things. Madonna's kids are famous, but not really brands--and, if they were brands, (right now) they'd be sub-brands building on the Madonna brand.


Atari was once one of the world's largest brands. If Atari isn't the fastest going "0 to global," I'd think it's maybe Nintendo.

jkottkeMar 02, 2008 at 8:00PM

Yeah, a bunch of these examples don't seem global enough...too American centric. And Jay Fienberg has a good point as well. People aren't necessarily brands; Oswald wasn't looking to make a long-term statement about himself to a global "buying" public in the way that Michael Jordan or Madonna or even Maradona.

Al Qaeda on the other hand...the whole point of terrorism is branding. They wanted everyone in the world to fear them, both for what they did in the past and for what they might do in the future. They succeeded in outstanding fashion; the bombing of the WTC and the Pentagon might have been the greatest branding statement of all time.

bruciferMar 02, 2008 at 8:00PM


peteMar 02, 2008 at 8:13PM

The only problem with al qaeda is that they were nowhere near 0 before 9-11.
Although looking back it seems they were unknown, most people knew about them , they just weren't very significant , they experienced a very rapid rise in significance but not so fast of a rise in awareness

jkottkeMar 02, 2008 at 8:19PM

Good point, pete. Significance vs. awareness is a nice distinction.

kwadeMar 02, 2008 at 9:02PM

Cingular Wireless. It was created out of thin air and was everywhere within months.

ChrisMar 02, 2008 at 9:17PM

Al-Qaeda already existed in the late 80s and achieved a lot of publicity after the 1998 bombings of the US embassies in Tanzania and Kenya. While the organization definitely became rapidly more famous after 9/11 it is hard to make the case for "zero" in terms of either significance or awareness after that time.

Chris WintersMar 02, 2008 at 10:12PM

Random thoughts:

- Charles Lindbergh

- Joe Louis

- Abu Ghraib

- Lenin

- Any Supreme Court Nominee (in the US, anyway)

- Anybody on American Idol (argh)

- Unfortunate victims of awful crimes (eg, Adam Walsh, Jessica Lunsford)

- Would be interesting to expand to food that is suddenly everywhere at once (someone already bottled water): fish-of-the-year, cookie dough in ice cream, panko crumbs

aquanettaMar 03, 2008 at 12:50AM


It's not that prestigious of a brand anymore because there's no music on the American version of MTV, but it's really a global brand, with a great deal of brand awareness for each of the flavors in their respective area. It's not necessarily technology related, it's media related so propagated much more easily than anything you can hold in your hand.

Jon FeldmanMar 03, 2008 at 1:28AM

Looking at these two recent lists of the "top global brands," one can only conclude that the answer is Google. It is #1 on one list and #20 on the other, but on both lists it seems to be the only company brand that is

I'd venture to say that today's most global brands probably have had the ability to go from zero to global faster than at any time in history -- even during JFK's assassination, news probably traveled less quickly to developing nations than similar news would today (best recent example: 9/11).

Google wins hands down, IMO, excluding people brands (i.e., "George W. Bush", "Paris Hilton" - yes, those are indeed brands whereas "Lee Harvey Oswald" and "Monica Lewinsky" were simply people of notoriety (though Monica later did try to launch a handbag brand)). But is "Paris Hilton" more well known than "Google"? And does the "Hilton" part of her brand name disqualify her from going from "zero", since as a brand she's a lifestyle extension of the "Hilton" hotels brand, one that's been around for decades?

I would have given it to Al Quada for 9/10 to 9/11 2001 except that it's true, it wasn't at "zero" pre-9/11. I don't like YouTube because it took time to go "global", and it could be argued that its true global awareness/penetration was aided by the publicity of the acquisition of it by my previous answer: Google, and certainly "Google" is still more well known globally than "YouTube"-- think of places where searching is common but broadband connections needed for web video are not.


Killing GhostMar 03, 2008 at 8:21AM

The first thing that popped to mind was-CROCS- those rubber garden shoes that came out of nowhere , and dominated the world.

Edd ConboyMar 03, 2008 at 8:23AM

All things considered - like the pace that information disseminates now compared with, say the 1860s - I'd have to say the fastest brand to go global was Western Union. 0 to 60 in 10 years or so. But what a disruptive technology that was. Just ask your local Pony Express office manager.

Sour GrapesMar 03, 2008 at 1:00PM

I like YouTube, because it's a brand that extends beyond the Internet. It's also go that magic combination of local and global: different videos are huge in different countries at the same time. It's not like Google, which is just the same blah edifice wherever you go. YouTube makes small waves in local markets which reinforce the local and the global brand. A Belgian politician shown enjoying the fruits of the vine makes YouTube hit all the papers here in Belgium, and people who don't even have Internet access know what it's about. The same thing goes on in local markets all the time.

I think it's more global than Google. Ask people in the developing world what Google is, and they'll scratch their heads. Ask them what YouTube is and they'll be like, skateboarding duck, boy on bike does face-plant, Michel Daerden off his face, beauty queen talks about maps etc.

bradleyMar 03, 2008 at 2:10PM

paris hilton

kevvyMar 03, 2008 at 2:33PM

"JohnCommoner says: How about Tiger Woods. That guy was very little known in 2006 when, as an amateur, he played in the US Open."

this is just plain wrong, sorry. woods turned pro in 1996 not 2006. He first won the US open in 2000.

DanMar 04, 2008 at 2:20AM

Hitler and his reinvention of the Nazi party with their slogans, iconography, posters, badges, uniforms, propaganda, beer hall songs, etc...

This thread is closed to new comments. Thanks to everyone who responded.