Branding your baby
Melissa Hoffmann, news editor, Direct Marketing News
Although most people — famous or otherwise — can generally pull off the procreative process, it seems that in our celebrity-centric culture, nothing is as pleasing to the public as when one famous person and another famous person make a baby.
As a just-barely-Gen-Y female, it's impossible for me to completely avoid the constant “bump watches” and celebu-tot news commodified by tabloids and “respectable” media sources alike. So sick of the word “bump” is this journalist that she shamefully daydreams about censorship (I'd also like to see the word “leverage” leveraged completely out of our language) — but if there's one facet of this cringe-inducing coverage that even I can tolerate, it's the naming of these lucky tykes.
I'm certainly not the only one, and celebrities don't disappoint. From the bizarre — actor Jason Lee's son Pilot Inspektor and magician Penn Jillette's Moxie Crimefighter jump to mind — to plain embarrassing monikers like Jermajesty (I'm looking at you, Jermaine Jackson), it's always an interesting day when the enormously entitled are blessed with the one thing money can't (usually) buy.
Of all the famous-people progeny produced as of late, the birth of rapper Jay-Z's and the singularly named Beyonce's baby girl was perhaps the most hyped. Born last Saturday, her famously private parents haven't yet sold her image to a tabloid, but the name of the newest Carter was revealed almost immediately as Blue Ivy.
Now, as far as celebrity baby names go, this one seems almost tame and normal-like. But something about it doesn't seem right. It doesn't really sound like a person's name. Think of Blue Ivy, and your synapses probably deliver something like this.
They're just two words that, to me personally, don't really go together — although surely they mean something to Mr. and Mrs. H.O.V.A. But if you ask the small, Boston-based event-planning company of the same name, Blue Ivy is a careful balance of elegance and the unusual. The Huffington Post spoke with Blue Ivy owner Veronica Alexandra, who said that she decided on the brand name after an intense six-month brainstorming process.
“We wanted to brand ourselves as being of a certain caliber and have a name that would resonate with customers, a name of a company someone would want to sign a contract with,” she told the Post. “Through that process, we thought of things that were elegant, pretty, sophisticated. I liked the word ‘ivy' because it's prestigious, romantic, growing, goes with the seasons. I liked the way it sounded and looked. With ‘blue,' we wanted to be edgy, and a blue flower is something very unique.”
What one would expect to be a boon for Alexandra's business was reportedly quite chaotic, as Jay and Bey's babe drove the business's website down in Google search listings (at the moment, the website is completely down). Still, Alexandra saw the coincidence as an opportunity, congratulating the power couple on the website and using social channels to discuss the name and tie her brand as closely as possible to the days-old media sensation.
As odd as the Blue Ivy moniker may seem to some, there's actually another company with the name. BlueIvy Communications is a public relations firm in Florida, with its name half a tribute to the owner's deceased mother (she always desired blue eyes) and half a tribute to the owner's Ivy League education. Melissa Perlman capitalized on the coincidence as any good PR firm-owner would — by issuing a press release relating not to the name, but to the Carters' hospital controversy, including reputation-management advice for the natal hospital. Letting Google, of course, take care of the rest.
The Carters may not have intentionally named their child after a brand, but even if they had, they wouldn't be breaking any sort of new ground. In 2002, the gaming company Acclaim put 10 grand up as a reward for the first parents who named their child “Turok” after the game was released that year on Sept. 1. The company is now defunct, and no one on the Internet seems to know whether anyone claimed the prize, so I'm going to just go ahead and believe that no parent was that cruel.
U.S. companies were the hero, however, in the 2001 story of a New York couple willing to name their child after any brand willing to shell out a cool half-mill for the rights. No one took the bait, and the child ended up being dubbed Zane, which sounds comparatively normal.
Zane's one of the lucky ones. Parents have reportedly named their children after such brands as Chevrolet, L'Oreal, Armani, Chanel (I actually know of one), Canon, Bentley, Celica … and there are two boys in different states named — this is not a joke — ESPN.
Considering the current state of affairs, I thought it might be helpful for new or expecting parents to understand the differences between naming a baby and a naming a company.
How to name a baby
- Don't name your baby after a company, product, brand, musical group, or the location in which they were conceived. I know naming a child “Paris” or “Bed” sounds cool and unique, but it's not. Well, I guess Bed would be.
- Don't give a child of either gender Superman's birth name (WTF Nic Cage).
- Strike all the names your relatives and friends suggest. They're keeping the good names for their own offspring.
- A strong family name can be a gift to a younger generation, depending on that name and its possible nickname iterations.
- Honoring a family member can also be a meaningful choice, but please follow the guidelines above.
- Sound compatibility is important. If the last name begins with a vowel, don't end the first name in a vowel. Even if you're having a girl and really, really love “Twilight.”
- Careful with initials! Do not give your daughter Anna Smith a middle name that begins with S. In this particular example, it would also be prudent to avoid “Nicole.”
- Check the meanings of names. Did you know the nice old-fashioned name Dolores means “lady of sorrows?” I know names of that generation are back in style, but do your research, people!
- Above everything else, don't forget that this baby will someday, hopefully, become a person with a desire to have a job or, even better, a career. Don't make that more difficult than it already is.
How to name a company or brand
(Reminder: Do not use these tips to name a human being)
- Settle on something that is both unique and legally protectable.
- Make sure the name you choose can be expressed in a URL. Sometimes off-beat spellings of common words can help with this, since affordable domains are often difficult to find).
- A good brand name should invoke the ideal consumer experience or their feelings after using the product or service.
- Blend long descriptors to make catchy nicknames. Tech company Intel was once “Integrated Electronics.”
- Don't put E-Z in the name. It's been done.
- Informative, service-specific names are a solid and safe choice, but can lack flair.
- Shock value in a name can be useful to drive business or garner initial press.
A name is more than a name in both cases. The creation of a child or a company can engender similar feelings in the creator(s), but finding a good moniker simply requires different processes.
And while any good parent or founder wants to see the fruit of their loins and/or labors stand out in a world of sameness and mediocrity, it's far more kind to take license with the name of a company, which will never have to attend middle school.