Naming your business is one of the most important strategic decisions you’ll ever make.
My friends Ron Goldfarb and Tony Weber own the best video production company in Cleveland, Ohio. They recently changed their firm’s identity and used their own names in their new branding: Goldfarb Weber Creative Media.
Building your company’s brand around your name can be a smart marketing strategy, especially for professional services companies.
Here are six reasons why it’s smart to name your business after yourself, three ways it can be problematic, and some tips for success.
6 Branding Advantages of Using Your Name in Your Business Identity
Many of the best known brands in the world are named after individuals who founded the company, including Procter & Gamble, Ford, Johnson & Johnson, Hewlett-Packard, and J.P. Morgan Chase, all in the top 50 of the FORTUNE® 500 list of the world’s largest companies.
Should you use your own name in your company’s brand? Here are six reasons why it’s a good idea:
- Capitalizes on your personal reputation: You are selling your knowledge and expertise. Using your own name maximizes the value of your personal credibility as a respected and reputable supplier in your market.
- Builds trust and credibility: Customers like to know there are real people behind a business who will be accountable for their products and services. As Ron Goldfarb explained in an article in the Cleveland Plain Dealer, “100 percent of our clients know me and Tony personally.”
- Creates immediate brand equity: “We made this a business decision and not a creative decision,” Tony Weber told me. “By going in this direction, we don’t have to build as much brand equity as we would if we came up with something completely different.”
- Differentiates your business from competitors: Unless you have a direct competitor with the same name, using your own name gives your business a unique identity that can help you stand out in crowded marketplace.
- Makes your business memorable: Your own name is so specific that it helps people remember your company, especially if they already know you as an individual or if your name is distinctive.
- Demonstrates passion and commitment: You must love what you do to put your name on it and that passion probably shows in the way you run your enterprise and train your staff. Using your own name illustrates your commitment and underscores the reasons you became a business owner in the first place.
Three Potential Pitfalls
But before you decide to link your personal identity with your brand, consider three reasons to be cautious:
- Lack of definition about your business: Using your name capitalizes on your star power, but does it clarify what your company does? Many companies add a descriptor to the owner’s name, like Goldfarb Weber did. Consider taking this approach if your name alone is too vague for prospects to know what you do.
- The ease of pronouncing your name: I used my own name in branding my Cleveland marketing consulting firm for all the reasons noted above. Though I’m glad I did, the difficulty of spelling and pronouncing “Gianfagna” (it rhymes with “lasagna”) has at times been a stumbling block. To get around it, we put pronunciation front and center on our website and in personal introductions. (We often joke about our tricky name and once built a lasagna-themed marketing campaign around it.)
- What happens when ownership or management changes: When you or a named partner leave the company, the transition can create a branding dilemma. If the departing person is retiring, there may be no reason to change the brand. But if they leave to start a new business – or new owners take charge – a name change might be required. The decision will depend on how much equity there is in the existing brand.
Tips for Success
If it makes sense for your branding and marketing strategy to put your name on the door, keep the following tips in mind:
- Don’t let the name get too long: Law firms and advertising agencies that used to be four or five last names long are rebranding themselves as one or two words, which is what most people called them anyway. Simpler is almost always better in branding.
- Know when (and when not) to feature the owners in marketing: Making the company owner the face of the brand adds authenticity to your message, but if your goal is to sell the expertise of your entire team – and have your business live on long after you’ve moved to a beach in Florida – don’t overplay a single individual.
- Focus on the owner’s values: Since you’re using your personal credibility as the foundation of your business, be sure your marketing communicates how your personal values drive the way you and your employees do business.
Thinking about changing your company’s name? Here are ten helpful tips.