March 19, 2014

Baby branding

Baby naming is a competitive endeavor.

Baby naming is a competitive endeavor.

My wife and I are expecting our third child in about a month and the pressure is on to pick a name for “baby girl.” When we tell people we don’t have a name yet, some of them think we’re just trying to keep it a secret so no one else picks the name. If you’ve looked for inspiration or ideas for baby names recently, you’ve no doubt realized that a full-blown industry has grown up around the subject. There are baby name consultants, dozens of websites and the official records kept by the Social Security office.

The top three boy names in the United States are:

  1. Jacob (number one since 1999)
  2. Mason
  3. Ethan

The top three girl names are:

  1. Sophia
  2. Emma
  3. Isabella

Talking about possible names with my wife started to feel like I was in a branding brainstorming session at work. Instead of asking, “How is this logo going to look on a business card?” we found ourselves saying, “This name won’t even fit on a cubby.” This is when we realized that we weren’t just picking a name — we were deciding on a brand for our child. In a Wall Street Journal article Bruce Lansky, a former advertising executive and author of eight books on baby names, including “100,000 + Baby Names,” says: “We live in a marketing-oriented society. People who understand branding know that when you pick the right name, you’re giving your child a head start.” Baby naming is a competitive endeavor, much like trying to nail down the perfect name and brand for a business. Parents are trying to find that elusive name that is original but not too bizarre, classic but not arrogant, and modern but not overly trendy. Just as the brand of a business is valued as an asset, so is the name of a newborn child.

I know my parents wanted me to stand out and be different. That has to be why my first name is Michael and my middle name is John — two of the most common boy names for decades. So while we were brainstorming the perfect girl name, I started thinking about some of my favorite “celebrity” names. I settled on my all-time favorite, the running back for the Cincinnati Bengals: BenJarvus Green-Ellis.

Photo via FantasyVictory.com

Photo via FantasyVictory.com

There is so much going on here it is amazing. He’s got the ultra-original two-in-one first name with the hyphenated last name. His real name is so awesome that he snagged an even better nickname: The Law Firm. His parents must have known great things were on the horizon.

So while I don’t see us conducting any focus groups or hiring a consultant, I do understand the value of a good brand and will do my best to give “baby girl” a good one. After the seemingly eternal winter we’ve endured, I am leaning toward Endless Summer Cordrey.

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