The findings can help marketers figure out how much buzz their products need to be successful, Berger said. "As marketers, we might want to manage the process, encourage a trickle rather than a gushing thing right at the beginning." Results of the study appear online Tuesday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
George Belch, chairman of San Diego State University's marketing department, said there may indeed be some parallels between how people choose baby names and how they choose products.
"It demonstrates the fact that when you have something that becomes very popular and widespread, that's good in the short term," he said. "But as something becomes more popular, that starts to end up being more of a negative cue.
"Human nature is such that people really want to be unique and different," Belch said. "And once they start thinking that they're following others, the things that were once making them feel unique or different start to work against them."
Check the popularity of baby names over the years at babynamewizard.com.
SOURCES: Jonah Berger, Ph.D., assistant professor, marketing, Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia; George Belch, Ph.D., professor and chairman, Department of Marketing, San Diego State University, San Diego; May 5, 2009, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, online
All rights reserved