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By Ethan Wolff-Mann
April 20, 2016

Well, it’s come to this: people are outsourcing the job of naming their babies.

You’d have maybe thought it would have been the other way around, in which parents would be making money in the naming of their children. They could auction off the rights to name their baby, to an ad company for some truly native sponsored content.

But as Bloomberg reports, a Swiss company called Erfolgswelle will now spend 100 hours to find a baby name–for the low price of around $29,000. Not all professional naming outfits charge Swiss prices, mind you. A New York firm is charging merely a few hundred bucks to name a baby.

More than a decade ago, entrepreneurs came on the scene offering parents a means out of traditional parenting chores like potty-training and teaching a child how to ride a bike. Professional baby naming services first popped up about a year ago, and apparently there are enough people out there willing to keep these companies in business.

Why, you might ask, would anyone pay big money for a job that the could–and should, most people think–do themselves? Even if the resulting name is one that’s supposedly “internationally unique” like Erfolgswelle promises?

Well, it’s a truism that what you’re called is important. Your name can potentially affect your personality and what people think of you. The NBER studied “racial names” and found applicants with names that “sound African-American” often have a harder time finding a job, for example. Democrats and Republicans also favor different names, giving your name more meaning, albeit unintended. (Click here to see how your name stacks up; apparently I may never meet a Republican Ethan.)

People who are fascinated with names are well aware of the Baby Name Report Card, which scores names based on the following criteria: “Popular-Fun,” “Ethical-Caring,” “Successful,” “Masculine-Feminine,” and “Overall Attractiveness.” This may sound silly but people are paying to make sure their kid goes into life with a stacked deck, in name at least.

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Still, it’s hard to imagine how successful these baby name services can be in the long run, judging from how trends change. Certain names may ace the Baby Name Report Card now, but it’s a whole new world when that baby is applying for a job or learning how to drive. There were very few Ethans when I was born in the ’80s, and I came from a state that venerated that name through furniture companies and history. But all of a sudden it’s the sixth most popular name among boys, after Noah, Liam, Mason, Jacob, and William, none of which you probably could have guessed.

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