Personal branding

Speaking of branding, what about personal branding, eg your name?

Perhaps in the western world it’s not really an issue for most men, though I was born Daniel Quinlem, changing to my mother’s maiden name, Bowen, when she divorced. I have the option of changing back, but don’t really want to, partly because it’s hard to spell, partly because it would be too much hassle, but mostly because I and countless others are used to it now. I wouldn’t pretend to be famous, but the brand of Daniel Bowen is established in the minds of friends, family, colleagues, past employers and others.

Mind you, I bet I could get if I wanted. (No way I could get, but I did get, and of course

How about if your name clashes with someone famous? There’s a Harry Potter who works for Channel 10 as a journalist. Less famous, there’s a Jonathan Creek at Channel 7. I know a Peter Parker.

For women getting married, the surname thing must be a quandry. At least in this day and age they can make the choice, I suppose, without incurring the wrath of the traditionalists. (At least, the wrath may be incurred, but ignored.) My sister stuck to her name when she got married. Rae switched hers when she got hitched. Some people will hyphenate. I hear some American women move their last name to the middle, and take the husband’s name as their last. No right or wrong answer, really.

Then you get the kids, and this is where the traditionalists really make the most noise, particularly if they’re of the view that they desperately want their name to survive into the next generation. It would seem that where the parents have different surnames, the kids slightly more often take the dad’s surname instead of the mum’s. Or where they hyphenate, dad’s name comes first.

Again, no right or wrong answers. Though I reckon hyphenation in some ways is just deferring a final decision to the next generation, who surely can’t keep hyphenating. My nephew is Leo Bonomi-Bowen… what happens if in twenty years he gets hitched to a Ms Baden-Powell? Kids called Bonomi-Bowen-Baden-Powell? It doesn’t bear thinking about.

(I suppose you can also count your haircut and clothes and other things as personal branding, but perhaps that’s a topic for another day.)

By Daniel Bowen

Transport blogger / campaigner and spokesperson for the Public Transport Users Association / professional geek.
Bunurong land, Melbourne, Australia.
Opinions on this blog are all mine.

13 replies on “Personal branding”

As I commented in a past topic (I think the one when your friends got married) in Peru we use this “system”, I think I will use an example:

I am Roberto Marcos Zegarra Frisancho
Roberto = First Name
Marcos = Middle Name (not commonly used)
Zegarra (My father’s Last Name)
Frisancho (My mother’s Last Name)

My wife is Gina Latoure Sanchez
Gina (First Name)
Latoure (Her father’s Last Name)
Sanchez (her mother’s Last Name)

She could choose to change her name to:

Gina Latoure de Zegarra

“de Zegarra” literaly is translated as “of Zegarra”, and as it could be interpreted as “she belongs to ME” many women choose not to change their names any more.

Let’s pretend I have a girl named Kiara, her full name would be:

Kiara Zegarra Latoure

So.. she has my Last Name and my wife’s Last Name… everybody happy.

Well.. the problem is that if you don’t have at least one boy, your last name could be lost forever in time… hehe…

I think if we go to Australia… we will have a very nice conversation about the last name our daughter will have…. bad for us!..:(

I changed my name when I got married, for me it was part of the fun of getting married. I know of a couple who both changed their names to one name they had chosen. It makes things hard for genealogists in years to come, but made sense at the time.

Suzie I offered to change my name to double barreled with my wifes when we got married, didn’t care which name was first. in fact I was happy with A-B and B-A as surnames to really confuse people, I was slightly disapointed, and very much proud, when she rejected my idea and stuck with tradition and took my surname. (didn’t want my surname to not be part of me though, but I wanted her surname to be part of me, if you see what I mean)

As to branding, I will have to work far too hard to beat the “other” Peter Freeman who comes up on all the search engines, He who does “light sculptures” is not me.

I’m like you in the circumstances of my change and a belief that what I’ve got is preferable to what I could have been.


Despite sharing it with a celebrity, I’m fully competitive in the cyber stakes, with a respectable No 2 on Google. I don’t care about the lack of a dot com.

A double initial is possibly more memorable (which can be a double-edged sword). Rhythm and assonance is an advantage. Especially if it almost rhymes with a favourite character (eg Peter Piper Picked…), or is a character’s name.

In broadcasting, a name should be punchy to pronounce without being ‘spitty’ (eg Sebastian Sizoukopous), but not be so devoid of consonants that’s it’s just an aural blur (eg Eugene Iasa). It should reasonable masculinity or femininity, but not too much or indeterminate.

At school I though that those in the first half of the alphabet were advantaged over those in the bottom half. Apparently the businesses named Aardvark in the yellow pages still seem to think so.

Then there is the ‘Martin Bryant’ risk. Ie that a person of your child’s namesake achieves notoriety. This can’t really be helped, but it must be something that parents hope doesn’t happen.

Pete, That’s lovely. A lot of men don’t even think about what it means for a woman to change her name and don’t think about the “ownership” issues that are left over from previous eras.

I also like the system in Peru. It makes it great for genealogy research in the future.

I eventually went back to my maiden name of McNair after being plain old Bennett during my marriage. Just felt it meant more to me than Bennett ever did. I even am happy to put up with the many misspellings (McNab, McNeil, McNiar, etc)

I used to work with a guy and when he got married he and his new wife hypenated their names like this
him-> M****** her surname-his surname
her–> J***** his surname-hersurname

like you said. all fine but then there is the kids. i think they went his surname last for them. what what odes happen if they meet someone with a hypenated surname? the mind boggles.

A friend from Scottish ancestry has a family tradition. Its the same all through. everyone gets the family clan name as one of their middle names. So even the girls have campbell as one of their middle names. Maybe this is a better way.

I’m one of two Oerton-Staffords in the world. As the other one is a known violent criminal and drug addict, there have been many times I wanted to change it. I was born Oerton, was known as Stafford when my mother remarried, then hyphenated the two in high school. I suppose my case is a little different in that I have both my birth father’s and my stepfather’s names. If I marry my boyfriend, I intend to take his name, Cooney. I’m sick of having to explain the silent ‘e’ in Oerton. Just to complicate things, my mother is Parslow Stafford, joined but not hyphenated. Branding? I am Frannybee, aka TicKnits. Hadn’t really thought much deeper than that.

The “what happens when two hyphenated names get married” issue is _exactly_ why I hate hyphenated names. In the Peru system (spanish is the same I believe) names (normally the mothers) are eventually dropped, they just survive 1 extra generation. I chose to change my name as I liked the idea of the family having the same surname – i.e. I wanted the same name as my future kids. On top of that my husbands name is subject to much fewer mistakes which is a nice bonus!

The solution for naming kids is easy – just pick the surname that is least likely to be misspelled and/or laughed at. In just a few generations we could be rid of all the Winterbottoms, ffinches, Cholmondoleys, Snodgrasses and Dafts. (Can’t do much about the Drew Peacocks, though – that kind of stupidity is harder to breed out.)


Jon, the only problem with that is (i) that each generation invents new terms of abuse and (ii) old terms of abuse lose their repulsiveness so naming will always be a couple of generations behind.

However your apparent endorsement of ‘nomenclacide’ is unlikely to endear you to genaeologists and lexicographers who delight in literary anachronisms.

However said lexicographers are likely not to have embarassing monikers themselves, so the burden in preserving their drawing room hobby might be unfairly borne by unborn descendents named Ramsbottom, Dicks, Pain, R. Sole, Ponsonby, et al.

Having a particularly unlikely combination of names is a great thing in this internet age. Anybody looks up Talmont-Kaminski and the only person they will get is yours truly. This will stay the case at least till my daughter grows old enough to have google hits of her own.

I always thought that the Spanish system is almost right. What I would suggest is women keeping surnames down the female line and men down the male line with married couples combining their surnames, the surname from the person of the opposing gender (be it parent or spouse) going second. Thus John Smith Jones would be the son of Michael Smith Tobbins and Jane Jones Wallis as well as the brother of Mary Jones Smith and, after marrying Sarah Avery Hawking, would become John Smith Avery.

Finally, I remember a very much real case of a girl named Kerry considering what to do after marrying a Mr. Hunt and, not surprisingly, deciding to stay with the maiden name.

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