Changing Your Brand

In this area of Googling everything you ever wanted to know, keeping your brand consistent is more important than ever.  Consider your name.

Today’s brides consider the consequences of name changes very careful.  Hyphenated names, moving your old last name to the middle (my chosen strategy) or keeping your maiden name all provide a link to your past identity, at least enough to keep you in the mix when someone is trying to find you.  Swapping out your last name completely might make you fall off the planet as far as old contacts are concerned.  Heck, even swapping out your first name changes the equation, especially if you have a plain ol’ “white bread” last name like mine.

When I started working with the “Girls” in 2006, it turned out that there was already another Roberta in the office — the Editorial Director.   Since she actually used the name in “real life” (and I didn’t) I happily started using my nickname, Bobbie.  I had been born Roberta and had used professionally since the first agency I worked at in the 1980s had informed me that Bobbie sounded “like a hick.”   The partners themselves didn’t tell me that but did inform me that our business cards used our real names.  It was a co-worker who decided my preferred name was a little too “casual” for her taste and let fly with the dose of her perception.

I felt stuck with the use of the more formal first name through the 80s and 90s, especially when a reporter told me my name was one of the few he could remember and that he always returned my calls.  (Wow.)  I recently ran into a reporter at a Tweetup and not only did he remember my name, he remember the companies I worked with.  I was actually more impressed with his mentally acquity than the ability of my name to stick.

I changed my last name when I got married for the sake of as-of-at-that-point unborn children but continued to use Carlton professionally.  Roberta was an easy-to-pronounce name that was just out-of-fashion enough to get people to remember it.  Of course, it was a handy “do you really know me” test.  Anyone who called looking for Bobbie was probably a real-life friend.  I was always amused to see mail addressed to Robert A. Carlton…Dear Bob…straight to the circular bin.

Then I changed industries and started using my nickname (2006.)  Kept the last name the same.  And, as far as many of my former contacts were concerned, I ceased to exist.  Recently, as I have once again started working with some B2B clients, I’ve heard a number of variations on “Where the heck have you been hiding?”   It seems like I suddenly vanished for some folks!  They stopped seeing my name regularly on the top of press releases and “poof.”

Today, Googling Bobbie Carlton and Googling Roberta Carlton gets you two very different people.  (One of whom seems to have just been born three years ago.  (There’s also some cross over with another Bobbie Carlton who seems to have been involved in some lawsuit.  Roberta Carlton is me and a Texas real estate agent.  I used to kick her butt search-wise but a lot of my links are getting a little old and she, gasp, comes up first now.)

All that, over a simple change in first name.  Now, think through other changes you make that folksmight  notice.  Someone recently tweeted about Chris Brogan changing his Twitter picture — heck, some people notice when you make any change, however small.

Will any brand changes you make cause you to “disappear” in our search-driven world?  Do any changes you make need to be iterative?  Do they need to be connected to your former identity?

Conversely, can you make “unpleasantness” disappear simply by rebranding?  If there is no connection to your former brand (and the problem you are running away from), can changes in how someone would find your brand via search limit what they know about your brand or can easily find out?