Let me admit right now that this post is not search marketing – or even online marketing related. So die-hard marketers who only read this blog for insightful advertising analysis, you can skip this post.

That being said, there is a technology angle here. One of the coolest Web sites around is the Baby Name Wizard’s Name Voyager. If you haven’t seen this site, check it out. You can type in any name (or portion of a name) and it graphically shows you how that name’s popularity has ebbed and flowed over the last 100 years. I think it uses AJAX, which means you can keep adding or subtracting letters from a name to see more or fewer choices.

It’s really interesting to see names that rapidly rise or decline in popularity, and then to interpret why that name had such a sudden shift in usage. The best example of this is the name “Adolph.” Back in 1890, Adolph was the 158th most popular boy name in the US. In the 1920s, it has slipped to 270th. Then, in the 1930s and 1940s, it dropped precipitously. By the 50s it was ranked 634th, and by 1970 it was too unpopular to be charted.

It’s rather obvious what happened to this name’s popularity – Nazi leader Adolf Hitler destroyed any parents’ hopes of having a baby Adolph (or Adolf) who would survive grade school without getting pummeled on a daily basis.

An alternative example might be a name like “Faith.” In the 1980s, Faith was the 361st most popular girl’s name. With the rise of country music star Faith Hill in the early 2000s, the name suddenly became red hot: by 2005, Faith has reached 49th!

Or consider a President’s name. “George” was 69th in the 1980s, dropped to 109th during George Bush Sr’s presidency, and in 2006 was at 153rd. “Richard” was 8th in the 1960s, but dropped to 15th in the 1970s after Nixon’s Watergate. The boy’s name “Kennedy” was only ranked in one decade – 733rd in the 1960s – and disappeared from the map forever after that. And for those of you paying attention to this year’s politics, “Hillary” was 268th in the 1980s, 315th in the 1990s, and in 2006 is 982nd. Could spell trouble!

The strangest example of how popular culture or world events can impact names is the case of the name “Kermit.” The name Kermit had its most popular era in the 1910s, when it was ranked 269th. The name declined steadily, but as late as the 1960s was still in the top 700. Then, in a period of two decades, by the 1980s the name had disappeared from the list.

My conclusion for the demise of Kermit is simple: no one wants to name their boy after a frog! Yes, as much as Kermit the Frog is loved by America, he has single-handedly destroyed the use of his own name.

I warned you that this would have nothing to do with online advertising. Hopefully you’ll agree it is fascinating nonetheless!

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David Rodnitzky
David Rodnitzky is founder and CEO of 3Q Digital (formerly PPC Associates), a position he has held since the Company's inception in 2008. Prior to 3Q Digital, he held senior marketing roles at several Internet companies, including Rentals.com (2000-2001), FindLaw (2001-2004), Adteractive (2004-2006), and Mercantila (2007-2008). David currently serves on advisory boards for several companies, including Marin Software, MediaBoost, Mediacause, and a stealth travel start-up. David is a regular speaker at major digital marketing conferences and has contributed to numerous influential publications, including Venture Capital Journal, CNN Radio, Newsweek, Advertising Age, and NPR's Marketplace. David has a B.A. with honors from the University of Chicago and a J.D. with honors from the University of Iowa. In his spare time, David enjoys salmon fishing, hiking, spending time with his family, and watching the Iowa Hawkeyes, not necessarily in that order.