Sophie Grégoire-Trudeau caused a minor scandal when it was announced that she prefers the hyphenated version of her name to her maiden one. The move set her apart from both custom and civil law in Quebec, where individuals do not change their family names upon marriage, and with the feminist ideals espoused by her husband, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
While pundits argued that the move was a nod to English Canada and more socially conservative voters, there's no doubt that the name Trudeau adds significant brand value.
While most of us will never marry someone famous, there is often a lot of thought that goes into the decision to adopt a spouse's name. Historically, that decision depended on whether you considered yourself a feminist or had more traditional views. Today, however, those who decide to change their names when they marry also have to weigh the impact on their professional brands and social media profiles.
According to a 2015 New York Times-Upshot survey, about 70 per cent of U.S. women decide to change their names when they marry the first (or only) time. About 17 per cent keep their last name, and the rest do something different, such as hyphenating.
Toronto-based artist and photographer Mindy Stricke fell into that 70 per cent, changing her name the first time she married in 2000. Though the couple divorced after three years, she decided to keep her ex-husband's name, since she had built her career around it.
"For the record, I hated my maiden name; it was difficult to spell and pronounce," said Ms. Stricke, now 42.
"I didn't want to go back to my maiden name, and after a time, the name became my brand. I had my website. I was meeting people through the art community with this name. I had press [coverage] under my name, so it didn't make sense to change it," she said.
Now remarried with two kids, Ms. Stricke said she is sometimes asked whether she'll change her name again, but for her, it doesn't make sense to adopt her second husband's surname.
"From a brand perspective, Mindy Stricke makes sense. I'm the only one. If you Google my name, there's me. There's lots of Mindy Goldsteins out there," she said.
Bonnie Foley-Wong, chief executive officer of Vancouver-based investment firm Pique Ventures, used to be known as Bonnie Wong before her marriage. Her husband suggested they both change their names, and came up with a hyphenated version, unconventionally placing her maiden name last. While Ms. Foley-Wong never legally changed her name, she sees tangible branding benefits to the hyphenated version.
"There are thousands of Bonnie Wongs in the world, most of them in Hong Kong. Bonnie Foley-Wong makes me easier to find online," she said, noting that many people who knew her before marriage still call her Bonnie Wong.
While the ability to stand out in online search results does appear to influence some women's decisions, others look at a name change upon marriage as an opportunity for rethinking who you are.
Shannon Hynes, 44, director of alumni relations at a college in Toronto, said that she decided to take her husband's family name since it gave her the chance to signal to those around her that she was evolving, personally and professionally.
"Throughout our lives, there are times when we have a chance to reinvent ourselves. In that process of reinvention, there is tremendous opportunity for growth, to clarify who we are and who we'd like to become. In retrospect, when reflecting on my life so far, it has been the times that I was most malleable, most flexible and when I did not necessarily adhere to an expected path, that I took a step toward a better me," Ms. Hynes explained in a LinkedIn exchange.
Ms. Hynes said that companies often gain market share when they modernize and refine their brands and wonders whether that same benefit could apply to individuals. For example, she cites human-rights lawyer Amal Clooney, who changed her personal brand by adopting her movie star husband's last name.
Ms. Hynes said the response to her name change has varied, with some expressing their surprise at a move deemed "anti-feminist." Others wonder whether it will make it more difficult for business contacts to track her down. Ms. Hynes dismissed such a concern, saying that e-mail accounts can easily be redirected and there are opportunities on social media to flag a name change.
Aimee Levens, a recruiting consultant in Portland, Ore., found that was the case when she changed her name. She left her former last name on LinkedIn for six months to let her contacts get used to seeing both versions before transitioning to Levens completely.
For Ms. Levens, her last name has no bearing on her career or her brand, and she believes that if you let people know about the change, they'll get used to it.
"My brand is about my work, not my last name," she said.
Leah Eichler is founder and CEO of r/ally, a machine-learning, human capital search engine for enterprises. Twitter: @LeahEichler