Guest post by Lisa Gerber, and it’s also her birthday today. Happy birthday, Lisa!

My 18-year old niece changed her first name this week.

I saw it in my Facebook feed so it must be true. There it was, her profile picture, the new name (same last name) and a slew of comments, question marks and wisecracks from her friends.

Well, I thought it was funny. Yes. But I’m going to have to side with her, and give the girl some credit.

See, she is graduating from Baltimore School of Arts in a few weeks and has been accepted into every single art school to which she applied; Rhode Island School of Design, Parsons, Maryland Institute College of Art, and Mass Arts. She’s going to Cooper Union in NYC. They accept 4% of their applicants. The top art students around the world will be there, making a name for themselves. My niece, Allie has big plans, and big vision.

Her name simply does not fit in with that plan.

Now, if Allie were the Gap, she might have caved by now from the backlash and the comments, such as, “Can we just call you The Artist Formerly Known as Allie?” Interestingly, she’s forged on. She knows we aren’t her audience moving forward. In fact, she said, “You guys can still call me Allie. This is for when I leave for school.”

Wittingly or unwittingly she knows a thing or two about personal branding. She’s got talent. That is clear. The top schools are falling over themselves, offering scholarships to get her to attend their institution.

But how will the average Joe know that she has talent? Those of us in the mainstream need a little more help to discover raw talent. The dressing matters, whether we like to believe it or not.


And when that same musician is playing in street clothes in the Metro stop, how do we know for sure he is brilliant? I mean, if he’s so brilliant, why is he playing for dollar bills in the Metro station? He must not be that good, right?

Do you remember that story? The Washington Post conducted an experiment and wrote about it in 2007, called Pearls before Breakfast. It’s a beautiful story and well worth the time to read the entire article. *They pose the question above.

How can we really tell what beauty is?

World-famous classic violinist, Joshua Bell, plays his 3.5 million dollar violin at the L’Enfant Plaza Metro station in Washington, D.C., during the morning rush hour. He fills symphony halls worldwide with high ticket prices and yet, when he played in the Metro station for just under an hour, 1,097 people passed by, a few stopped for a couple minutes, and he made $32.

A small percentage of people recognized the talent without the packaging of the high ticket price, and the elegant symphony hall.

I’m a strong believer in letting products and services speak for themselves, but there is a lot to be said for the finishing touches – the stunning retail space, the well designed bottle with the cool label, a great looking logo, a hip name. Something extra that makes the experience memorable and worth sharing.

Allie, you’ll always be Allie to me, but I love you for not letting your friends change your mind. Here’s some unsolicited advice from your Aunt: If they keep making fun of you, just tell them, “Hey, you’re not my target audience.”

That will shut them up.

Photo of Allie and Lisa’s husband © Lisa Gerber, used with permission

Lisa Gerber is the chief content officer of Spin Sucks. Spin Sucks Pro launched Monday, May 2 and this post is living proof that she survived it. She is, in the words of Howie Goldfarb, an Idaho expat in Chicago. On the perpetual search to balance happiness with ambition. Mountain girl, wife & mother of two beautiful dogs.