Many of our ancestors came to America with a dream, a promise, and a name that was hard to pronounce or sounded too “insert nationality/religion here”. Names were altered to ease the way into society and increase employment opportunities. Today, in a world of self-marketing and personal branding, name changes happen for all kinds of reasons, especially for those in the public eye.
Personal name changing amongst those in the entertainment business has been happening for years. Just click on the site Famous Name Changes to see hundreds of names From John and Jennifer Aniston to Loretta Young. Where some, like Aniston (formerly Anastassakis), were changed for conformity reasons, Portia De Rossi chose to go more exotic. Changing her name from Amanda Rogers was her way of re-inventing herself at age 15 and give her an edge in her modeling career. It also doesn’t hurt that it flows off of the tongue easily or catches the eye on a press release.
Branding by name is done best within the artist /musician community, where name changes showcase the brands the artists are creating for themselves. From Lady Gaga to Madonna, Marylin Manson and Jay-Z. The list truly goes on and on. It’s no coincidence that many of those who have created stage names and have made it big, also have larger than life stage personalities. Did the name change help them better to self-market themselves? Or has the talent, drive, showmanship always been there and therefore they would have been successful sans stage name. At the end of the day, does it matter? Clearly creating these monikers meant something to them and lead to creation of a brand and persona that helped propel their career.
Within sports, nicknames are king. Some even changing to them legally – Babe Ruth, Magic Johnson, Hulk Hogan, Chad Ochocinco to name a few. My recent favorite comes from Ron Artest who changed his name legally to Metta World Peace in Sept of 2011. To hear announcers make statements of “a big night for World Peace” or “ World Peace with the rebound” brings a smile to my face every time. Has it brought about a focus toward world peace like he wanted? – “Changing my name was meant to inspire and bring youth together all around the world.” If his actions over the next year focus on making that a reality, then the name change has purpose. Yet, knowing that his cause of focus for the last year plus has been raising awareness of mental health issues begs the question, why didn’t he change his name to bring awareness to that? He has put so much time, money and energy there; it is unfortunate that his name change only served to divert attention away from something near and dear to him.
I am a strong believer that you should never spend too much time/effort on a name. It’s your goals, objectives, vision, and strategies where time should be spent. Our current president didn’t change his name to be more marketable or to avoid the perceptions that come with having a Muslim name. Name changes and creations should happen if you want them to happen, not based on suggestions from others. You name should mean something to you and you alone, because when it does, your actions will follow suit. If changing your name increases your confidence, gives you a alter ego persona when you preform on the job, allows you to re-establish yourself or change perception, then do it. Remember though, a names is not a miracle maker; it’s what you do behind your name that counts.
Katie Marston is the CEO and founder of DYME Branding, a personal and lifestyle branding company focusing on professional athletes. Follow her on twitter at @ktmarston or learn more at dymebranding.com.