Is your name Michael?


If you’re reading this and were born in the US, there is a decent chance that it is. Michael has been one of the top 2 baby names (for boys) in the US since 1954. Michael even pulled off an impressive 37 consecutive year run in the #1 spot from 1961 through 1998. Not bad. 

When my nephew Zachary was born, his name ranked #16 in popularity… but has since slipped to #42. A friend recently named her daughter Isabella, a name that disappeared from the Top 1000 in 1949 only to reappear in 1990 in the 895th spot. Isabella ranked #2 in 2007, showing a truly impressive gain.

While I personally have no experience in the matter, it seems that naming your baby sparks more than a little debate with many couples. The grandparents almost always seem to get involved too… everybody has an opinion. That said, I’m sure parents carefully consider a large number of options when undertaking this important exercise… ensuring that this all-important decision is well thought through and not taken lightly. Right?

How, then, do we explain Michael’s staying power, Zachary’s fall from grace, or Isabella’s meteoric rise to the (almost) top?

Similarly, marketers continue to believe that people do what they do because of a largely rational, well thought out decision-making process. They consider all the options… weigh the pros and cons… and make a thoughtful, informed decision.

This “path-to-purchase” thinking sure makes things easy for us marketers. It discounts or removes any randomness associated with human behaviour and replaces it with “touch points” to be “managed”. It’s all very orderly. And largely an illusion.

As Mark would tell us, we do what we do because of other people… or, more specifically, “All mass behaviour is the result of interacting individuals within a specific context”. Yes, in many circumstances, babies are social objects as Hugh might say. We gather together around them… we connect with each other because of them… and, indeed, upon hearing of a recent birth, our first questions are almost always “boy or girl?” and “what’s her name?”.

Previously posted on


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