Shared publicly  - 
 
Was it the money, the broad or the five coppers hot on my trail?
Why I changed my name...

"...here on earth to grasp the meaning of its wild enchantment and to call each thing by its right name" Boris Pasternak 

At the end of 2013 I started using a pen name online, "Paul Montreal" instead of my given name "Paul Magee". There are a number of reasons, some professional, some personal. Here's why I did it...

First of all it's something I've wanted to do for years. I actually stopped using my last name a couple of years ago. For a long time my name was "Paul and Angel from Subvert Magazine" literally. 

Then I was just "Paul from Subvert Magazine". A kind of transition period. Then I became PM. Eventually Paul Montreal. 
Because of the steady transition, most people didn't actually notice. 

When I separated from Angel last year, there were a lot of changes with Subvert. In the previous year I had purposely stepped out of the limelight and was doing a lot of things behind the scenes. 

But with Angel pursuing other things I had to become visible again. I also wanted to change the direction of Subvert. With all that change in the air, professionally it seemed like a perfect time to make the leap to a more effective name. 

Likewise, it also seemed like a good time personally to make a change. The last 12 months has been a period of soul searching and re-evaluating who I am. 

As someone who has always been deeply interested in self development, personal grown, making yourself. Whatever you want to call it. I'm not at all bothered by the idea of choosing my own name along with my own destiny.  

On a basic level I believe in being grateful for what you've been given, but not afraid to improve upon it. Individual evolution.  

I'm also not ashamed to say there were many days when "Paul Montreal" became an alter-ego. An idealised version of me. The me I wanted to be, whilst going through the hell of a post-breakup. 

The question "What would Paul Montreal do?" got me out of bed on many a day when Paul Magee didn't want to. 

But this wasn't some Fight Club schizophrenic split moment. (Well, maybe it was.) But as a marketer, Paul Montreal has a very real and practical purpose. 

His job is to be remembered. 

Names have a lot more impact than most people like to imagine or believe. They can give you an unfair advantage. Especially in today's cluttered global market. 

I find myself recommending a name change to about 30% of the websites I makeover. Either changing their domain name or their business name. Although I haven't yet recommended anyone change their personal name. Yet. 

(Not because it wouldn't help, but because most people would be offended by the very idea. And I understand that.)

But a bad name can waste YEARS of effort. Building a brand on rocky foundations. Unfortunately we get so emotionally attached to the names we use, saying them over and over in our own heads, they becomes hard to let go of.  

Business or personal, there's no real difference. A name is just a hook to hang a set of values and beliefs upon. 


Pivoting Paul Magee...

There were a lot of reasons why "Paul Magee" wasn't ideal from a marketing point of view...

First of all, there's are hundreds of Paul Magee's. Ireland is full of them. Which means the UK and the US is also full of them. So, that's not a good start.

Secondly, there's a very famous Paul Magee. He was an IRA terrorist. Shooting people doesn't make for great brand association. 

Third, there are about 10 ways you can spell Magee incorrectly. Mcgee, Mckee, Macgee, Mackgee. Mr fcking Magoo. I've seen them all a dozen times. 

Fourth, it just doesn't roll off the tongue or stick in the mind. Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, Marilyn Monroe, Dick Van Dyke. Paul Magee. You'll remember them, you won't remember me. 

And I can't tell you how important just being remembered in a cluttered world is. It's hugely, hugely important. 

Yes, of course you need to be remembered because of your WORK. Your work becomes concentrated into a set of values and beliefs. Your name remember, is just the hook you hang them on in people's minds. 

On a slight side note - there have been several points where I looked seriously at changing the name of Subvert Magazine. (And tested alternatives) It was perfect for the original target audience. Radical art students. Subvert sounds gritty and street. 

But as it's changed and matured to a more entrepreneurial audience, there's a very real question about whether it still fits. 

But what I've found is this, being remembered is waaay more important that having a perfect fit. People remember Subvert Magazine and that's worth more than anything. 

As Subvert evolves this year you're going to see it brighten up a little. Less "street" more "tropical paradise island". It will be interesting to see how the name sits on a more optimistic website. 

I shall continue to test and evaluate as the changes happen. Right now I'm testing the new "Turnaround Tuesdays" brand. A more optimistic name which is developing from within Subvert. I shall share any insights as they happen. 

Back to Paul Montreal... 

Once the decision had been made, I had to decide how far to go. I haven't actually changed by name legally and didn't really feel the need. But I did like the idea of finding a name that was close to my given name. I wanted to tweak my name, not pretend to be a totally different person. That might be a bit half assed, but it's what I was comfortable with at the time. 

So my loose criteria were; try and stick with Paul as my first name and try and keep the same initials. PM. 

After that, it was finding a surname that people could remember that wasn't widely in use. It's not easy finding something that rings with Paul that isn't totally cartoonish.  

Paul Montreal was the winner. It has something. I don't know if it's strong enough to call it alliteration or something else. 

And of course it depends how you pronounce Montreal. It has no rhyme if you are French Canadian. But if you're French Canadian you'd still remember it anyway!   

I did a fair bit of testing and everyone I approached, including many Canadians, liked it, remembered it and agreed it had some kind of ring to it. "p-AUL montre-AUL"

From a brand association point of view, first of all I'm no longer associated with terrorism, which is a step up. I'm associated with a country most of the world seems to love, Canada. (Go space-arm).

And everyone is familiar with the word Montreal. You remember it, because you already know it, you don't have to learn it just because you met me. Which means most people can instantly and accurately spell it. 

It's a convenient hook to hang my values and beliefs on, in your mind. Just like Subvert Magazine. 

And that's about it. I have a pen name that works for me much more efficiently and I have a "character" to live up to. Not a different person, just the best version of me. 

Because make no mistake, if you're putting anything out into the world. To be picked at and poked at by all sorts of people. People with different values and opinions. Then you're on a stage playing a character. However authentically you choose to play the role. 

What about you, how far would you go to make your mark in someone's memory?  
4
Nicholas Brack's profile photoAJ Kohn's profile photoPaul Montreal's profile photo
15 comments
AJ Kohn
 
Very interesting +Paul Montreal.  I'll have more to say after I re-read it in another sitting.
 
ha. I do tend to go on a bit. that's why me and twitter don't get on. +AJ Kohn 
 
the title... 
"Was it the money, the broad or the five coppers hot on my trail? Why I changed my name..."
was inspired by +Robert Bruce 
You only need one sitting for his work :)
 
Me likes PM.  I also like the WWPM do?  Coming from the standpoint of ... "What Would My-Purpose-Filled-Best-Self-Do?"
 
+Nicholas Brack an even scarier version of that is "what would I do if I deeply loved myself". A phrase that seems to upset people. Which is always a clue to something valuable. :) 
 
+Leila Fanner  I know right. Paul Who. I still love you :) This is the irony of being a publisher of anything. We worry every time we produce something what other people will think of us. But mostly they don't think much of us at all :) Which also ties into the second article, where our "about us" pages have to be about us, but really about the customer. 
Kathy Sierra summed up all marketing and art and business in the line "it's not about you, it's about them". As long as you've got enough value from me to keep coming back, that's all that really matters. 
 
Don't feel bad +Leila Fanner I was just teasing :)
I care more that I delivered a bunch of value to you and THAT is what you remember first and foremost. The hook you hang it on (my name) is secondary really. But where it comes in useful is - I can't do full makeovers for the entire world, so you will remember me more than some of the people who found your makeover via google or whatever. They didn't receive quite as much value, so they are more likely to forget me.

The first half a dozen times when you come across someone new and you're passively "getting to know them" online. That's when a good name can come into its own. The name starts to stick with each encounter, you think "I've heard of this guy/girl before" and memory patterns, the beginning of a brand / know, like and trust, start to be laid down. 
AJ Kohn
 
I really like this piece on a lot of levels +Paul Montreal. Of course you know I'm a huge fan of the idea of being remembered. Mind hacking is just ... critical if you're doing any sort of marketing in my view. 

And the use of Montreal is smart both in the rhyming but also since it's a known entity that doesn't have to be remembered in many ways. Or in other ways you remember it as 'the guy who has the last name of a major Canadian city.' Either way, it works. 

Using the name to also break free of other habits or conventions, to use it as a way to be more aspirational is intriguing. I go by AJ in nearly all facets of my life but my real name is something different and when I think about how I view those two things ... they do feel different. 

Then again, I've always felt that it was easy to put on a face - particularly when doing sales pitches or doing presentations. I could be 'the outgoing confident guy'. I just had to psych myself up and get into that role. 

They're all me really and the idea of the self is one I'm fascinated with - and why I love the work of Jonathan Carroll, who often shows that the you of now is split and that the you of last year is vastly different and similarly split but still ... you. 

We're constantly evolving and becoming a new person, in part informed by old selves so the changing of a name might simply provide a greater demarkation between those selves. 

Good food for thought either way.
 
Great comment +AJ Kohn  I agree there are many "I's". In the present and through time. 

I love to learn and do 30 day trials, personal experiments, so I often feel like a totally different person that I was the month before.   

If only the latest version of me could go back and fix the mistakes of the previous me. :) 
AJ Kohn
 
Well we're all the bad guy and the good guy all at the same time +Paul Montreal. I think most people really struggle with this because they think all facets of their life and personality should have the same traits and expressions.

But it doesn't work that way. The person who says a kind word to a stranger can be the same person to snap at a loved one and be the same one who seeks ways to expose a colleague as a fraud.

People have a very tough time with moral ambiguity but in reality all of us are not 100% good or 100% bad.

Even though I understand this, it can still be tough. You think about some of those things you did and grimace and they stick to you in bad ways. But you have to be embrace them in some fashion so that they don't overwhelm you - you can't fixate on that time when you did that thing that you regret. It becomes larger than the actual action if you do that.

Simply trying to be the best person you can be each day is all you can do.  
 
+AJ Kohn  Yup. the older I get the more I find I'm able to forgive myself. Or at the very least, I entertain the idea! 

And once I can do that, I find myself forgiving other people when they do / say dumb things as well. 

I read The 4 agreements yesterday, which is written for a mainstream audience, a bit parable-ish for me, but still has some great fundamental truths in it.  

One of those truths was what you just said - you can only do your best each day. It also pointed out that "your best" itself is a flexible, not a fixed thing. A nice distinction that I hadn't considered before. 
Add a comment...