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In Freakonomics, we wrote a good bit about first names — how popular names move their way down the socioeconomic ladder, how “high education” names differ from “low education” names, how black names differ from white names, etc. It’s only natural, therefore, that someone would take a look at data on names and try to profit from it. That’s the goal of the Dutch direct-marketing agency WegenerDM. It would sure seem to make sense that if people with “high end” names buy very different stuff than people with “low end” names, you should target your sales efforts accordingly. Thanks to Sebastian Paauw for this information; I reprint here his e-mail with all the necessary details:


On the group weblog, where I contribute, I just read about a Dutch direct marketing agency / publisher, WegenerDM and the university of Utrecht doing research on first names. I wasn’t very surprised about the outcome of the research because I read your book but it is pretty interesting though. You can read all about the research here.

Because your Dutch may not be as good as it used to be and I assume that most Dutch didn’t read your book (yet) I’ll give you a bit of

The university does research on first names just like in your book. They researched millions of names and found several trends and
frequency in names given to children and coherence in names within family households. With this information they defined eight different
name groups. WegenerDM owns enough research about all Dutch consumers to give accurate information about the whole country, that’s basically their business. Most direct marketing research included first names. (You must be drooling about the opportunities at this point)

Basically WegenerDM shared all their research material with the University of Utrecht. They coupled the name groups to geographical,
demographical, lifestyle and psycho graphical information. They found out there was a lot of coherence in each name group. They found all
kinds of typical lifestyle information. Coherence in for example in what each name group would buy by mail-order, what they ordered
through postal services, the number of cell phones per family, what kind of magazines they read and in what state of the pyramid of Maslov
they where.

Now they are able to do segmentation on first names. Companies can use this information to find their consumers and find out how to approach them. They can also filter the information or use it for more research. Many e-mail addresses contain a person’s first name and
therefore they can find their target audience just by knowing their e-mail addresses.