Playwright, esthete, and bon vivant Oscar Wilde anticipated current attention to personal branding in his comment, “Names are everything.”
It is well-known that women who change their names at marriage are more difficult to find and connect to their pre-marriage professional accomplishments.
This is a “Brand Equity Risk,” and may result in reduced “personal brand value.”
However, “rebranding” at marriage was prevalent among about 19,000 women who married in 2012, surveyed by TheKnot.com and www.WeddingChannel.com.
A significant majority – 86 percent – changed their birth names to their husband’s surname, with just 14% choosing another option such as:
- Retaining their original name (<8%),
- Hyphenating both partners’ last names (6%),
- Creating a new surname, often from parts of each partner’s name.
Just three years before, Indiana University’s Brian Powell and Laura Hamilton of University of California – Merced, found that that significantly fewer respondents – 71 percent of 815 survey participants – believed a woman should change her name at marriage, and half of those said it should be legally required.
This suggests that there is an increasing sentiment toward rebranding at marriage.
However, Baruch College’s Richard Kopelman, with Rita Shea-Van Fossen of Ramapo College, Eletherios Paraskevas, Sacred Heart University’s Leanna Lawter, and David Prottas of Adelphi University, reported significantly decreasing incidence of women changing birth names at marriage from the 1990s to the 2000s.
Likewise, Harvard’s Claudia Goldin and Maria Shim, found a similar trend in their evaluation of New York Times‘ marriage announcements, Massachusetts birth records, and Harvard alumni records: Fewer college-educated women kept their birth names in 2004 than in the 1970s and 1980s.
They noted that older brides and those who graduated from elite educational institutions were more likely to retain their original names, as were those with occupations in arts, writing, and media.
Wayne State University’s Ernest Abel and Michael Kruger echoed Goldin and Shim’s finding that older brides are more likely to retain their original “brand.”
Women who married between ages 35 and 39 were six times more likely to keep their original names than women who married when they were 20 to 24 years old, reported Abel and Kruger in their analysis of 2575 wedding announcements in the New York Times.
They found that women who married in 2007–2008 were three times more likely to retain their birth names than those married in 1990–1991.
Stephanie Coontz of Evergreen College said that many of the women who changed their names in the 1970s did so as a counterpoint to marital inequality in obtaining credit, renting an apartment, and owning real property.
Other cross-cultural gender-specific identity practices were outlined by University of Florida’s Diana Boxer and Elena Gritsenko’s Women and surnames across cultures: reconstituting identity in marriage.
Education, age, religious affiliation, cultural traditions, and sentiment seem to over-ride typical advice for building a brand: Repeated exposure to a consistent message over time.
Brand strategists who consider threats to corporate brand value could contribute to post-marriage rebranding decision-making by quantifying the potential long-term financial impact of women’s nominal changes after marriage and marital dissolution.
-*What are the benefits to personal brand value of keeping or changing original names?
- Glass Elevator and Nine Principles for Personal Branding, Career Impact
- “Self-Packaging” as Personal Brand: Implicit Requirements for Personal Appearance?
- Women’s Career Development Model – Individual Action in Negotiation, Networking-Mentoring-Sponsorship, Skillful Self-Promotion – Part 2 of 2