Advertising under a Pseudonym

Stephen King wrote a series of books under the pseudonym Richard Bachman.  As a multiple best-seller, he had reached a point where his fans eagerly awaited every new book. They bought everything he wrote. Part of the rationale for the pseudonym was the opportunity to write a greater number of books without over-saturating the King brand. But the other motivation was self-discovery.

Stephen wanted to understand his own career path. He wanted to understand whether his immense success was down to talent – or luck.

So he released these new books, with a fake author photo and very little marketing fanfare. And the books sold. But they sold ten times more, when the ruse was exposed and people found out they were written by Stephen King.

The fact that Stephen King’s books sold so many more copies than the Richard Bachman’s books, doesn’t mean that King wasn’t a great writer. It just highlights the irrefutable importance of personal brand equity. As much as we would like to think that performance is assessed solely on merit, there are lots of variables that impact on that assessment. No talent is judged in a vacuum.

Stephen had earned his considerable brand equity by writing exceptionally good books. But once that equity was earned, everything he wrote afterwards was judged with the expectation that it WOULD be good. And things that we expect to find, we look for, and usually do find.

We earn our own personal brand equity in the same way. Over time, through good behaviour – or bad behaviour – we cultivate a reputation. People then have a set of expectations on how we will perform, and everything we do is judged in that positive or negative light.

Over the past few months, I have found myself in the intriguing and challenging position of starting afresh in a new city, where I have almost zero existing brand equity.  Which has laid a genuine test at my feet, to see if any of the modest achievements I racked up over the past few years, were really earned or luckily stumbled upon.

Starting from scratch, second time around, does have some advantages though. Richard Bachman sold thousands of his first book under an equity-less name, but though a willing publisher and with the writing craft of a best-selling author.  Five years ago, I was an eager graduate who knew literally nothing about how advertising or agencies work. Now I have a small but helpful mass of skills, knowledge, experiences and even scars, to draw upon. Which is heartening, as I face into the daunting spectre of that blank page.

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  1. Great post Neasa, although I think your achievements could be described as something a bit more than ‘modest’!

    I love the idea of brands being more than just products. I’ve given my thoughts on people as brands on the influentials http://bit.ly/hWyXUX

    • Vanessa
    • March 29th, 2011

    Love your blog Ness – every post makes me think more about the ‘perception is everything’ idea..more thinking…

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