The year 2007 was another great one for sizzling brands. Nouns became verbs. Product launches became media circuses. Household names moved into penthouse suites.

Brand awareness is hugely important to a company's success, bringing vindication, franchises, and buckets of profitability. Let's take a look at this year's five finalists before passing the baton over to you to determine the eventual victor.

Nintendo Wii
No one expected Nintendo's (OTC BB: NTDOY.PK) video game console to make a dent in the market at its debut a year ago. It packed a spec sheet that was inferior to its pricier Xbox 360 and PS3 next-generation peers. It lacked both hard drive storage and the ability to play DVDs. And that name? The Nintendo Wii became the butt of potty jokes.

Then something amazing happened. The revolutionary motion-based controller gave a whole new meaning to the term "interactive gaming." The bundled Wii Sports title found friends and families playing together, right out of the box. Desperate rivals turned to price cuts to move their consoles, but demand stayed red hot for the Wii, giving Nintendo the top-selling next-generation system in 2007.

Apple iPhone
Some of the longest lines during this year's scorching summer weren't for a new blockbuster film. Fans queued in droves to snap up Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) iPhone. The $599 device sold briskly, moving 1 million units in its first 74 days.

Sure, it took a $200 price cut to reach the masses, but the iPhone still made an impressive debut, especially considering that Apple phones were tethered to just one carrier, AT&T (NYSE:T). Most cell-phone users will have to wait up to two years for their current contracts to expire in order to bolt toward the iPhone without being penalized.

What's so special about the iPhone? Beyond its iPod features, Apple's foray into wireless communications offers online browsing, sharp visuals, and an intuitive touchscreen.

Crocs
They look like cheap plastic shoes with holes -- and then you try them on. The cozy croslite closed-cell resin takes over, providing a lightweight, odor-resistant, skid-free walking experience that has taken the world by storm. Now professionals who spend a lot of time on their feet, like nurses and waitresses, are getting their own Crocs product lines. Meanwhile, kids are decking out their shoes with Jibbitz charms (sold by Crocs, of course). One way or another, these shoes are made for walkin'.

Shares of Crocs (NASDAQ:CROX) tumbled after an inventory buildup spooked investors during its latest quarter. But even jaded analysts expect the product's popularity to blossom again nicely next year.

Garmin GPS
The "give-a, give-a, give-a Garmin" holiday ads are in full swing this season. Garmin (NASDAQ:GRMN) remains the industry leader in GPS devices for satellite-powered navigation. Whether you're on the road, on a hike, or piloting an aircraft, Garmin's dominance has led competitors to commit to tangled takeovers to remain relevant. It's also growing at a feverish pace. Through the first nine months of the year, Garmin revenue has soared 69% to hit $2 billion.

YouTube
When Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) forked over $1.65 billion for the world's most popular video-sharing site in November 2006, it validated an industry that has been historically tricky to monetize. Then Viacom (NASDAQ:VIA) began waving a billion-dollar lawsuit, frightening some investors with the hairy liability that Google was inheriting. Still, the suit also illustrated the site's pervasiveness.

YouTube has become the home for aspiring filmmakers, hobbyist webcam bloggers, and even Oprah. Along the way, the site has come to redefine the power of viral videos as it nurtures the growing clip culture community. If the public hasn't felt the impact of the Hollywood writers' strike, you can probably thank YouTube for providing fresh eye candy during the lull.

So many brands, so little time
The beauty of hot brands is that the pipeline never seems to run dry. The "next big thing" is always percolating. By this time next year, we may be discussing five new names that seem ubiquitous by then, despite being obscure -- or nonexistent -- today.

The nominees are in! Meet all the candidates for our 2007 Fool Awards, then cast your votes!

Nintendo and Garmin are Motley Fool Stock Advisor newsletter selections. Read all of the original recommendation reports -- now -- with a free 30-day trial subscription.

Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz doesn't consider himself hot or a brand. He does not own shares in any of the stocks in this story. He is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early. The Fool has a disclosure policy.