Branding Baby

You’ve heard of the two guys who got sponsored for their university education. You’ve heard of the woman who tattooed a brand name on her forehead. You’ve even heard of the Egyptian family who named their daughter Facebook as a token of how important that medium was to them.

But have you heard about the Spokesbaby?

Tim Scarne and his wife are about three weeks away from welcoming their first child into the world. At various points during their long journey to parenthood, a certain snack food product featured significantly.

It was a Snickers bar.

So, the expectant parents are sending a message to the Mars Corporation, offering to legally name their child Snickers. In exchange, they ask that the Mars Corporation finance the child’s health care and education.

This is a lot to take in all at once, and before I weigh in, I’d like you to see what the father himself has to say:

A message from Daddy-to-be Tim Scarne:

So this can be seen a few ways:

Giving children “brand” names is increasing in popularity, and I don’t see that as something inherently positive or negative it merely reflects what is important to people, although it smacks a little of Idiocracy. Also, there’s no shame in turning an honest penny, and raising a child is an expensive proposition, especially in the States. Snickers Scarne also has kind of a cool ring to it, in my mind.

On the other hand, I’m not totally comfortable with this decision being made for the child while he’s in utero who knows what the little one may think when he learns that Mommy and Daddy named him after candy bar, in exchange for money.

When I think about it some more though, it’s really not that different from baptizing them, or getting their ears pierced. It’s a decision being made with the best interest of little one at heart, though arguments could be made on either side. Kids can live down names, and if he really hates it, he can change it when he grows up.

So my feelings on what the family is doing are a tentative neutral, which seems to be the prevailing opinion. Mr. Scarne, Aka, DJ Timbo says:

I personally haven’t heard any negative reactions, but considering how cynical our culture is I’m sure they exist, and perhaps they will surface at some point. A radio personality on a popular LA station made fun of me on the air, but that didn’t bother me. I thought it was pretty funny.

My feelings about what the Mars Corporation should do, however, are very strong.

They have a lot of variables to consider over there at Mars right now: the press this will likely generate, the fear of being the company that publicly turned down the needs of a baby, or that the child could grow up to be a terrible spokesperson, just to name a few.

What I think the Mars Corporation has here is the PR opportunity of a lifetime. I don’t think they should pay the Scarne’s for naming their child Snickers. They should pay for any operation that the child may need when it’s born, maybe set up a trust for it’s education and then say:

“We appreciate the thought. We really do. But give the kid a real name.”

As of yet, the Mars Corporation has not responded to the Scarnes, but I’m very interested to find out what they do. Check out www.NameMeSnickers.com or look for #Spokesbaby on Twitter for more opinions and details. I’d really like to know what you all think about this. I know it caused quite a heated debate in my household. Should Mars buy the baby’s name? Should the parents withdraw the offer? Leave your thoughts in the comments!

Images and video used with the permission of Tim Scarne

12 comments

  • I especially liked the comparison to the choices parents make for their children regarding baptism or piercings. I would go one step further. What about circumcision for males?

    I am curious how your readers will respond so I will refrain from further commentary until people have a chance to comment.

    Thanks,

    Tim Scarne

  • In my first draft of this article I had actually included circumcision as a comparison. I removed it becasue it is, to the best of my knowledge, completely irreversible. It’s not like a piercing that can be removed or a name that can be changed. Permanent body modification seemed to me, upon thought, to be on a different page than names or baptisms.

  • I think Snickers, by responding, would leave themselves open to similar demands by other consumers – as the sign at Yellowstone says, “Don’t Feed The Bears.”

    Not that Tim’s request isn’t heartfelt at it’s core, but if you grant this request on the basis of “fear of being the company that publicly turned down the needs of a baby,” then every other million-dollar personal request that is made in a public forum will have more validity.

    I’m not saying Tim’s trying to hold Wrigley-Mars for ransom, and God knows there are far more sympathetic targets to hold for ransom, but if you establish the precedent of acquiescing to this request, how then do you establish precedents of what you will and won’t fund without incurring negative backlash?

    Anyway, interesting food for thought.

  • Oh, stories like this are heartbreaking. Surely there is a way to find the funds for this operation without dooming the child to a lifetime of teasing. The real snickers in this case will be the ones heard from behind his back for as long as that name is kept. I can respect wanting to provide the best for your child, of course, but this is just too tasteless to justify. Why not offer to change YOUR name to Snickers, if you think it’s such a great name? Or perform as DJ Snickers, for that matter? Surely you can think of something that doesn’t require selling your childs identity to a corporation. He will have plenty of time for that once he’s old enough to get a job.

  • For what it’s worth, I agree that Snickers is a catchy name. For a cat.

  • Hi Tay,

    Someone else actually recommended the same idea. I would change my name to Snickers.

    As far as being tasteless, can you explain why you say it’s tasteless? Because I am “selling my child’s identity to a corporation” as you stated?

    I am very curious, are you pro-choice or pro-life?

    Tim

  • one of my friends once had a dog named “Snickers.” The dog had been named by his grandfather, who’s first name was “Fordson-Tractor,” after the tractor that his parents first acquired in the 1920’s. Naming people after products has been around for a very long time. The difference is, his family never asked, nor would’ve dreamed of asking the Ford Motor Company for money, and neither should the parents of any child.

  • @ Ron. Interesting Point, I can imagine a whole world of trouble if Mars opens up the door on this one.

    @ Tim. I can’t speak for Tay or his opinions, but I am interested in what connection there is between his comment and pro-life vs. pro-choice?

    @Laurence. What would you think it Mars had approached a couple and asked them to name their child after a product? (Just a thought exercise)

  • Hi Megan,

    I’m still waiting for Tay to respond. But I gather if he read my questions, then he’s been thinking about it a lot.

    Tim

  • Ron,

    So where do you draw the line? I assume you have a Facebook account correct? Do you just click the button to turn off the ads? You can’t. In fact, companies are using your data to sell products to your “friends” based on your likes. The point I am trying to make is that we are all walking or rather “sitting in front of keyboard” billboards. I am not saying that this is wrong, in fact I am embracing the possibility that our future depends on capitalism. As far as opening a world of trouble, would you suggest that Corporate America just stick with sponsoring athletes? Because we all know that NOTHING could wrong with that, right? Just ask Tiger ; )

    Lawrence,

    It’s irrelevant to compare the 1920s to 2011. Bill is something you get in the mail, Mark is something you do with a pen, and John is where you take a number 2, but those are all common American names, just like Lawrence.

    Dogs are very loyal and generally very loving creatures by nature. I think those are admirable character traits.

    What about child actors? Or people who put kids in commercials or print advertising? Are you suggesting that we put on a ban on that too?

    In case you missed it, or didn’t bother to read about our story, I am not asking for any sponsorship money. I am asking for education and healthcare.

    Tim

  • Tim

    I suspect any writing any negative comments about your story is probably written by a corporate spy for the PR firm that represents Mars.

    Just saying

    Alex

  • I don’t know. A baby is a living thing, not some sort of billboard. If you need money for college, health, etc.. then work for the money, get loans, get extra jobs, but not sell your baby. Because, essentially that is exactly what you are doing. Being a walking billboard is not in the same category as being a advertisment yourself. But, whatever its your kid, but don’t ask for our opinions on it.

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