I was cursed when I was born. This curse came in the form of my name, as gifted by my innovative parents. Jessica. Lynn. Smith. Because Twitter was just a twinkle in Jack Dorsey’s eye, and the concept of domain names were completely irrelevant to either of my parents’ lives, the volume of people with the same name as me was of little to no concern to Kevin and Beth, who did not foresee the online woes it would present to me as I grew up alongside the internet.
Last week in #cmgrclass we had Olivier Blanchard, renowned maverick of brand building in the social sphere, join in on a Google hangout with the class. While this particular Olivier Blanchard is a U.S.-based author of the book Social Media ROI, he shares a name with French Olivier Blanchard, a world class economist who is well known for his work with the International Monetary Fund and has published a book on macroeconomics.
Identifying that we both shared name-based woes, I inquired how one can best build a brand when a name makes it uniquely difficult to gain the assets necessary to grow a self-oriented brand. Using answers provided by Blanchard (the social media guy, not the economist) and outside resources, I’ve compiled a list of some tactics that can be used to distinguish yourself in a sea of name-sameness.
- Work with what you’ve got.
Blanchard recommended to first and foremost take a look at methods outside of a name that can be leveraged to strengthen your brand. One would be to use a consistent profile picture across all online accounts. Another would be to design and implement a consistent graphics scheme to use as backdrops and, when optional, icons, in order to build a readily identifiable image to strengthen your online brand.
- Use a variation of your name.
In her post 6 Personal Branding Hacks: A Cheat Sheet for People With Common Names, Kimberly Bordonaro, a branding consultant who realizes that “..you must stand out if you want to be noticed. You get it. Your mom didn’t. She named you something so boring, so original, so blah…” recommends throwing some twist on your parent-given name to give it a little distinctive umph. I’ve done this, with my inventive and truly visionary adaptation of my name to create the twitter handle @j_lynn_smith, but have seen much better, more effective variations that don’t require the inclusion of not one but TWO count ‘em TWO underscores. There’s the option to add hyphens to names, or choose different extensions for domain names.
- Change your name.
Drastic? Maybe. Effective? You betcha. Erik Deckers, owner of Professional Blog Service, created this post on how to brand yourself with a common name in response to a request from a Twitter user. He uses Chad Johnson, #85 for the New England Patriots, as a prime example. Filled with dismay over his #3 most common last name (which, let’s be real, is a cakewalk compared to Smith), Chad opted to change it to something a bit more distinctive, and went through the legal process to change his name to Chad Ochocinco. While he likely didn’t make the name change to acquire his ideal domain name, or get that Facebook extension he’s been lusting after, this seemingly drastic measure can be quite effective to social-media-minded individuals as well.
While I have no immediate plans to change my name, and my Twitter handle is pretty much set unless Twitter wants to go ahead and repurpose @j_smith for me (c’monnnnn guys), I’m going to take Blanchard’s tip on working with what I’ve got. And, in spite of the fact that there are 6,805 Jessica Smiths in the United States (according to HowManyOfMe.com) I plan on building my brand and hopefully, making myself the most distinctive Jessica Smith out there.