May 11, 2024 - Business

Parents are hiring TikTok influencer consultants to find baby names

Animated illustration of a phone cycling through name tags reading Hello, my name is WAYLON, MARGOT, SILAS, and DAPHNE.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

There's a new set of influencers on TikTok and Instagram: the baby-name consultant who helps parents workshop standout names for their kids with an eye toward cultivating their child's future persona.

  • Think: in-utero branding or vibe curation.

The big picture: Hiring someone to help name your child isn't unheard of, but today's online influencers have led to a surge in the practice, says Sophie Kihm, editor-in-chief of the baby name site Nameberry.

  • It's part of a decades-long shift toward highlighting individualism: Many of today's parents were one of several Emilys or Matthews in their class and are game to spend on something jazzier for their own offspring.

It also isn't lost on them that thanks to social media, they're announcing their baby's name to a larger audience than ever — you gotta earn those likes.

What they're saying: An interesting name "helps when we all are making our own jobs these days and our own websites," says baby name consultant Steph Coffield of Names With Steph, who has over 276,000 TikTok followers.

  • Or perhaps your ambitions read more "Boss Baby." As Kayla Brannen, who worked with Coffield to come up with the name Colby for her future daughter, puts it: "Like, can you imagine a Chief Technology Officer with that name?"

Mimi's thought bubble: I'm at an age where many of my friends are having babies, and I've noticed more people keeping names top-secret and then doing a hard launch on Instagram once they're born — kind of like a much-anticipated album drop.

Zoom in: Most parents want something with great nickname potential that's in the "sweet spot" of being recognizable while still unique, says Coffield — not in the SSA's top 100 names, but the two hundreds or three hundreds.

A "cool, country vibe" has recently been popular thanks to Beyoncé's "Cowboy Carter" album, says Coffield, citing names like Chase, Royce, Waylon, and Ruby. The show "Yellowstone" was also a driver of cowboy-core names like Dutton, Tate, and Casey, say consultants.

  • Also popular: Margot, thanks to Margot Robbie in "Barbie;" quirky, old-school names like Daphne, Florence, Arthur, or Duncan; "softer" boy names like Silas, August, or Arlo; surnames as first names (think Carter, Cooper, or Hudson); and gender-neutral names.

How it works: Once consultants gather client wish lists and hell-nos, they'll typically send over a list of curated names that fit the criteria.

  • Maybe you want a Dark Academia, "Game of Thrones"-inspired name, or something containing figurative language like assonance or consonance — requests Colleen Slagen of Naming Bebe has received.
  • Consultants will also often include information on the origins and meanings of the name, as well as where they stand popularity-wise.

Pricing varies — Slagen starts with a 10-name or video package at $250, with a 30-name package coming in at $400.

  • Coffield's services range from $25 to a $500 luxury package, which gets you unlimited name recommendations, video calls, and a digital name certificate.

The intrigue: The pressure of picking the coolest, most fitting name can provoke some serious stress. "Naming fatigue" ranks high among clients, Coffield says.

  • The process can be "motivated by a little bit of like, social anxiety of 'what does this name say about us as a family? If we pick this name, what are people going to think about us?'" says Slagen.

Yes, but: Of course, trends look different on social media than they do in real life, says Kihm — within the echo chamber of baby name TikTok, it might seem like everyone's naming their kid Wren or Sunny, when, based on the data, that's not actually true.

  • And there are still plenty of people who question the idea of being a professional baby name influencer, says Coffield, or the practice of using one in general. "But I couldn't disagree more," she says. "People pay for many services they can do themselves these days."

Context: Historically, Americans simply named kids after family members or picked familiar names, reports The Atlantic, which kept old-school monikers in heavy rotation — for instance, Mary was far and away the most popular girl's name from the 1880s until the 1960s.

  • This changed in the 1960s, as families became smaller and people began thinking about the individuality of their children, says The Atlantic.
  • The focus on individuality only increased in the 1990s, when the Social Security Administration began releasing the most popular baby names online.

What we're watching: It's becoming more common for parents to pull a Kylie Jenner and change their children's name after they're born, say consultants. In fact, 40% of Kihm's consultations are for name changes.

  • This could also become more common as people increasingly drop names that no longer align with their gender identities, reports Vogue.
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