Naming on a more personal note

By Mark Skoultchi

June 26, 2007

I was recently interviewed by the Wall Street Journal about the subject of baby naming (“The Baby-Name Business” 6/22/07). It’s a great article about the challenges new parents face when coming up with names for their kids. Imagine the pressure for us namers!

I thought the article was very well written, but the reporter left out my three golden rules for baby naming. Figured this was as good a venue as any to relay those rules to the public. (BTW, these rules generally apply for company naming and product naming as well, with slightly modified language.)

Rule #1: Keep your candidates to yourself during pregnancy. When you sample names with friends and family before the baby is born, there is a strong tendency to receive more negative feedback. *AFTER* the baby is born, you’ll get nothing but positive feedback. Flippant comments from friends (“I used to date a woman with that name … she was awful” or “I had a dog named that as a kid”) can spoil perfectly appropriate baby names for no good reason.

Rule #2: Wait to meet the baby before you name it. Every human being has personality (good, bad or otherwise). Names need to fit the item being named (this is one of those rules that applies to product naming or company naming). How can you gauge fit if you haven’t met the personality? I recommend selecting your top 2-3 candidates in the final weeks, then picking the final name after the little one shows his or her style. (For those of you who already have kids, you know this personality demonstration only takes a few hours.)

Rule #3: Don’t name the baby what you wish you were named. Names have a time and a place. Your baby’s name should be appropriate for his or her time and place. This doesn’t mean you have to select the most popular name of the day, but you should be wary of selecting names that just won’t sound right to tomorrow’s generation. For those of you naming a company or a product, remember to think about names that are appropriate for your target audience. It’s not about what *you* like, it’s about what your target likes.

As with most rules, none of these are absolute. People often test names with consumers before launch (with great success). And I’ll be the first one to admit that names don’t make or break the success of what is being named (be it baby, company or product), regardless of whether the name is appropriate.

Nevertheless, it never ceases to amaze me how similar the process is for naming a company and naming a baby. Just another parallel between the world of business and the world of family.

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