Your name is the soul of your Personal Brand. It is the special part of you that evokes sentiment, a special gift that you receive from your parents. It is something that you cannot influence but have to live with for the remainder of your life (well, in most cases). Our names give us identity. When called by our name, we feel important and well treated. That is why top hotels in the world such as the Ritz Carlton and the Four Seasons spend a great deal of time and resources training their staff to use guest names to cultivate personal connections with their guests. Your name is your label and a symbol of you. Oprah, Tiger Woods, Richard Branson, Seth Godin…their names play a powerful role in their iconic personal brands.

Great importance is placed on names and in many cultures rituals and ceremonies are a common part of the process. Wise people are consulted when naming a child to ensure that the name is in perfect harmony with the birth date.

Sometimes people are just not comfortable with their given names! They feel their given names do not do justice to who they are and hinder their success to some extent. They feel the weight of the Pygmalion effect where their image is influenced by their unattractive name. In such cases, people make the dicison to change their given names despite the lengthy bureaucratic process. Celebrities cleverly utilize the power of names to build their personal brands.
Would Babyface encounter the same success if he remained Kenneth Edmonds or Demi Moore remained Demetria Guynes, Lady Gaga stayed Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta and Marilyn Monroe did not change to Norma Jean (Mortenson) Baker? We will never know!

In today’s social and transparent environment, names have taken on a whole different meaning. People are making impressions and altering perceptions based on their search queries and the readily available information from social networks. Google CEO Eric Schmidt in an interview with the Wall Street Journal predicts that young people will one day be allowed to change their names to escape their embarrassing digital footprints and revelations on sites such as Facebook. As more stakeholders use the internet to conduct preliminary searches on potential candidates and more and more content is indexed by search engines this could be a real problem and Eric Schmidt’s assumptions may not altogether be far fetched. Twitter content is already indexed by search engines; imagine if your Facebook updates were to follow? And I don’t think we are too far away from that!

Will changing names and creating new identities be enough to make a fresh start? Not with the sophisticated facial recognition frameworks that extract landmarks, features, skin texture and use 3d technology to captures dimensions of a face to make clear identification.

Your name is your most valuable asset ande you should do everything to nurture, protect and know it. Personal branding is all about perceptions and we have to make a conscious effort to ensure that our name creates positive impressions in the minds of people.

By Teg Brar, MSc.