Insights from 20,000+ Naming and Branding Projects

Brand Names Matter – Ram Dass vs Richard Alpert


In 1967, renowned and controversial ex-Harvard professor Richard Alpert left America. After running experiences and studies involving psychedelic drugs, Alpert set out to India. When he returned, he returned as Ram Dass

This move, while influenced by spiritual practice, was essentially rebranding.

Richard Alpert was born to an upper-class Jewish family in Massachusetts. He was well-educated, obtaining three degrees and eventually teaching at Harvard. Eventually, however, his life shifted, and he became a spiritual guru adored by millions. The second name, Ram Dass, fits his niche, as Hinduism has greatly influenced his teachings and appeals to a spiritual community.

Ram Dass means “servant of God.” It is powerful name that aligns with Ram Dass’s values as well as the values of the people who follow his teachings. In fact, when at one point Ram Dass considered reverting to his birth name Richard Alpert, his publisher would not let him because he had already built a solid brand and following around the name Ram Dass. He has been using this name for most of his life, now.   

This case study illustrates the importance of having a relevant name. A strong name not only appeals to the business or person who uses it, it speaks to the audience’s values. This is why audience testing is a vital stage of name validation. As much as you like a name, you will have trouble engaging with an audience if your name does not resonate with their values.

Take the time to consider what you aim to accomplish and who you are trying to engage with as you develop your business name. Though Ram Dass did not choose to be born with the name Richard Alpert, taking on a new name was still a rebranding decision in some sense which, at least in him publisher’s eyes, was an important element in building his very successful international personal brand.

Try to avoid clumsy renaming and rebranding processes when it comes to your business by aligning with your values and the values of your target audience. In this way, you will be like Richard Alpert and find a new name that will help you switch your customers’ perception, and a name that will help you succeed.

About the author

Meghan O'Toole
Insights from 20,000+ Naming and Branding Projects

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