Personal name or brand name?
I was 10 years old and strutting towards the school gates in my scarlet sweater and oversized rucksack when my friend asked me whether I knew that my surname was also a “rude word”.
I did not know. But since that day, I’ve been reluctant to say my surname out loud. If I have to, I immediately spell it afterwards. H-O-A-R-E. No W to be found here! Move along!
When I started my business on my 27th birthday, almost four years ago, there were two things I was sure of:
- I wanted it to be a brand
- I didn’t want my surname to be a part of that brand
That meant using my personal name as my business name was never an option for me. But if it is an option for you, and you’re not sure whether to use your personal name or a brand name, keep reading.
Most of the time, a name is the first thing people will see or hear about your business. A name should get people’s attention (you want it to intrigue them enough to delve deeper) and it should be memorable beyond 5 minutes of hearing it (you want it to be the name that sticks with them). Think of your name as one of the breadcrumbs that leads people to your online home.
Easier said than done, right? Behold, a list of pros and cons.
Cons of using a personal name
- The name alone doesn’t give people any idea what you do. Which means your first opportunity to stand out is wasted.
- It’s unlikely to be memorable unless you are. People will come into contact with so many other people every day, you can end up being just another name in just another online ocean.
- It can be difficult to spell. If they go to Google you, and they can’t find you because your name is like a Countdown conundrum, then what? (I once had a client with four different vowels in a row at the end of her surname and I couldn’t pronounce it right, let alone spell it right.)
- It’s can be booooooring. Why not use the opportunity to delight, especially if you’re a creative or the work you do is in some way creative.
- If you have a fairly common name, someone else may already have the domain. (Is there anything more soul-punching than discovering the domain you want is taken at 2.37am?)
- You may change your name in the future and then you’re faced with the decision of sticking with your old name or rebranding to your new name.
Pros of using a personal name
- It’s your name, it’s who you are and no one can take that from you. You can turn that into a brand.
- You could have a really interesting name that you can turn into a brand concept. I once had a client with the surname Bold which you could have a creative frenzy with.
- To make what you do clearer for people, you can pair it with your service. For example, Rosie Does Digital is a name I came up with for a friend a few years ago.
- It may well never change, so even if you shift your business model in the future, or pivot in any way, your name can remain a constant.
Cons of using a brand name
- You might feel like every single possible brand name in the entire world has already been taken, so it can be tough and time-consuming to find one that feels good and fits your business… that’s still available.
- It may feel limiting if you choose a brand name that puts you in a box and you have to change it if you pivot in the future.
- You can outgrow or fall out of love with it, like I did with PepperJar (more on that story in my Behind Closed Doors email coming on Friday).
Pros of using a brand name
- You can get super creative with it and find a name that hints at the kind of work you do and/or gets people curious enough to want to know more.
- You can make it expansive, so if you choose to scale in the future to a point where you don’t want to be the face of your business, or you want to become an agency, or you want to sell up, a brand name can easily allow you to do that.
- It helps you stand out and create a unique story that people can talk about and share.
- You can build an entire concept and brand foundation on the name, like I’ve done and am doing with Captivation House. (This gives direction to almost every single business decision I have to make, which is SO FLAMING HELPFUL.)
- It can make your brand clearer and more cohesive which are crucial to building a captivating brand.
Choosing your first business name or rebranding to a different business name is always a brain tornado. It takes time, mental energy, and lots of discarded ideas to find the right one. And whether you go with a personal name or a brand name, it always comes down to this question:
Would you be happy for your brand legacy to bear this title?