08/10/2013 11:02 BST | Updated 07/12/2013 05:12 GMT

Changing My Name Isn't a Feminist Dilemma - It's a Marketing One

Whether or not to change your name when you marry remains a big decision for anyone. The implications - social, political, personal and practical - are many. But for me, whether to change my name is not so much a feminist dilemma as a marketing one.


Whether or not to change your name when you marry remains a big decision for anyone. The implications - social, political, personal and practical - are many. But for me, whether to change my name is not so much a feminist dilemma as a marketing one.

To rebrand or not, that is the question.

I've been blessed from birth with an unusual surname. It's Flemish, meaning "Man who looks like a Rook" and dates back to before Breugel began painting pissed up medieval peasants in Flanders who, incidentally, looked like rooks.

Hard to spell and nearly impossible to pronounce unless you can roll your 'r's and cough at the same time, Roukaerts is at least one thing - different. It's the patronymic equivalent of always wearing purple. People tend to notice and remember it.

Over years spent working in advertising, in start-ups and corporations, I've been quoted, tagged, googled, followed and klouted. I've probably spent more time curating my digital shadow than I have doing my hair. Surely I'd be mad to let it all go now and start over again with a brand new moniker?

But on the other hand, my nine-letter handle has at times been a tiresome burden, especially when on the phone. R for Romeo, O for Oscar, U for Uniform, K for Kilo, A for Alpha - you get the gist but hear me out - E for Echo, R for Romeo, T for Tango, S for Sierra. I've become so fluent in the phonetic alphabet that I frequently get asked if I work for the police. Roger that.

So getting married presents me with the opportunity to rebrand from Roukaerts to my husband's infinitely more spellable surname -- Sword.

Offset the initial time spent on paperwork and red tape, and the rebrand promises a real efficiency saving - time spent booking appointments on the telephone may be reduced by up to 50% which, when added up over a lifetime (much of it spent on the phone), could be a significant win for Sword.

But before moving forward with the rebrand, I figure it's probably best to do some market research. I reach out to @JohnMABower who got married last year and took the still quite unconventional path of taking his wife's name.

"Changing my name felt empowering. The first thing I changed was my Twitter handle, then my Facebook name, then LinkedIn. A few people on Facebook asked why, and it's been hard to get people to accept my friend requests on occasion, but it's been a fairly seamless process on the whole."

Emboldened by @JohnMABower's smooth transition, I decide to soft launch my rebrand on Facebook, and in just a few clicks I've joined the 65% of women my age who change their name on the platform after getting married. I'm suddenly bombarded with messages congratulating me on becoming Mrs Sword. As a result, my Klout score result rises to 61 - shattering my previous PB. I feel a douche, firstly for having a Klout score and secondly for keeping track of it.

Although now listed as Tamara Sword, Facebook helpfully allows me keep Roukaerts as an index, presumably so people I went to school with but never kept in touch with can still find me. Actually, on reflection, I'm not sure this qualifies as a value add.

I'm warned during the process that I'm only allowed four name changes on Facebook in total, like ever. The number four seems a bit arbitrary -perhaps this is the number of marriages you can have during your lifetime before people on Facebook start to talk.

Job done. Then suddenly I realise I didn't do any due diligence before making the switch. A hasty search turns up four other Tamara Swords on Facebook. I feel like someone just walked over my grave. Like Chesney Hawkes, I'm so used to being The One and Only that it's a complete shock to the system to suddenly become just one of many. Well, this plurality of Tamara Swords may be manageable socially - fun even - but professionally it could be awkward.

Doubts about this rebrand start to flood in.

LinkedIn turns up one Tamara Sword - a nice looking lady from Texas who's involved in Scientific Drilling. Not a direct competitor and not operating in my territory, so perhaps we can peacefully coexist. However, changing my professional name definitely feels like a bigger step than changing my social one. My SEO could take a real hit. I try and calculate the potential new business lost. I log out of LinkedIn and decide to put any further roll out of the rebrand temporarily on hold so I can have a coffee and reassess my channel strategy.

Recaffinated, I turn my attention to Twitter, my constant companion since October 2006. Shakespeare, if he were alive today would no doubt tell us that @rose by any other username would tweet as sweet, but I'm not so sure.

I've always regretted not having had the sense to pick a shorter moniker when I joined Twitter. Lacking the foresight to know what the then-nascent platform would grow to become, I foolishly passed over @tam and chose instead @troukaerts for my username. At 10 characters, @troukaerts turned out to be a fail whale of a name, eating up precious space in every RT since.

Potential new usernames @tamsword and @tamarasword it transpires are already taken. Yet again, my competitors have first mover advantage and there's not much left on the table to play for that doesn't involve a digit or an underscore. Plus, I realise there's no sure fire way to alert all my followers of any handle change other than sending a tweet, which chances are only a small fraction will actually see. I'm forecast some likely attrition in my followers if I make the change so decide to remain @troukaerts ... at least for the time being.

"We live in a society where we are almost known better by our online alias than the name we are given," points out @JohnMABower sagely. "We don't get to pick the name we are born with, but we're able to express ourselves when given the choice online."

Hang on - there's a point. I've been so preoccupied with my choices online that I haven't even thought about the so-called real world - a world of paperwork, passports and Post Office queues. I try to remember the last time I used a pen. My palms begin to sweat...

"Don't worry, the process of changing your name is surprisingly easy," @JohnMABower reassures me. "You fill out an online form, pay a fee and boom -- a few days later the deed poll arrives in the post."

Panic over. I won't need a pen after all - it can all be done online.

"I have a confession though," admits @JohnMABower. "Our first anniversary is approaching and I still haven't changed my name on all of my official documents. I went nearly a year without submitting my driving licence, and my passport still sits at the bottom of the drawer bearing my old name. It's just such a hassle..."

A hassle indeed. There are so many channels to manage both online and off these days that changing your name is not as simple as at first it may appear -- even for a professional marketer. My rebrand has been derailed, becoming in the process a case study in that most heinous of all marketing crimes; an inconsistent brand identity.

I log back into Facebook and stare at the remaining three opportunities to change my name.

But Sword stares back at me and I love it.

Perhaps I will brave the Post Office queue tomorrow after all...

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