Building a Memorable Brand When Your Name Isn't Good Enough
Maybe your name is too difficult for people to remember. Or is it too common to stand out? And what about using your own name versus a creative company name for your brand?
The Struggle is Real
I completely understand what a challenge naming can be, and that's exactly what Daniel (one of my awesome subscribers) has been struggling with. He asks,
“I have a really common and boring name, so my plan was to come up with a new brand or pseudonym that suits me and is explainable, until now I had no idea or kinda bad ideas.. so how do you go at it? And what do you think about it? Good/bad idea? In short: how to create a personal identity when your name sucks”
I feel your pain, Daniel. When I got hitched in June, I made the choice to take my husband's name and rebrand to reflect my new name. Previously though, I came from the opposite end of the spectrum.
a name that's too unique
My maiden name is Ginsiorsky, which is definitely unique. I've always embraced my Ukrainian heritage and loved how distinct my name was, but professionally it became a bit of an issue. It was so unique that people couldn't say, spell, or remember it.
Even if I spelled it out for people, there was no guarantee (my first credit card arrived promptly in the mail for Miss “Melissa Ginfiorfky”—seriously). Friends I'd known for years still struggled with it, so I knew if I was going to make a name for myself professionally I needed to make a change.
At the time, I debated creating a brand name like Daniel mentions, but I was just starting my career and wanted to work on my craft and hone in on what I wanted my personal brand to be before committing to a fancy new name. I knew I wasn't ready to create something larger than myself, especially when I didn't know what it should be. Not to mention, I didn't have any good name ideas.
So instead I chose to simplify. Professionally, I became Melissa Gin and I snagged that username on every platform possible. I still identified myself with my actual name, but where it counted I made it as easy for people as I could. I even designed my logo so that it explained the name situation for me. It worked. People could remember Melissa Gin, and I built my brand around that.
a plain name
Let's get back to Daniel's situation. I understand the concern if you have a common name that you feel makes it difficult to stand out. However, there are benefits to using your name that shouldn't be overlooked.
If your name is plain, it's also easy to remember. Not to mention, your brand name is just one facet of your brand. The most important aspect of your brand is what you have to offer, so if you have awesome products no one will judge you for having a simple name. The great impression your products leave will translate to your brand, and the simple name just makes it easier for them to tell their friends about you. In the same way, a plain name can still have distinct branding that brings uniqueness to it.
Sorry, that name is taken
A real bummer of an issue you'll probably encounter with a common name is that the domain name and social media handles you want are already spoken for. I've encountered a few cases of this with my name change to Melissa Yeager. Although this is totally inconvenient and annoying, try to think of it as an opportunity. Here are a few solutions you may consider so you can continue rocking your own name.
- Get more specific. Try adding a descriptor indicating your product or service. It may help to think of what people would look up if they googled your name and you weren't the first result. For me that would most likely be “Melissa Yeager design.” So if melissayeager.com hadn't been available, I could have gone with melissayeagerdesign.com. Similarly, my crazy talented client Laurel & Elm was able to snag the domain she wanted but laurelandelm wasn't available on Instagram, so she opted for laurelandelmevents as her username.
- Switch it up. Consider using a variation of your name or adding your middle initial. Take the time to do some soul-searching first though, and don't commit to anything that feels weird or off-brand. I go by “Melissa” so I wouldn't buy a domain like melyeager.com since I don't want people calling me “Mel.“ For instance, melissayeager was taken on Instagram and Twitter, I chose to go with melissayeags. People call my husband “Yeags” occasionally. Plus, coming from the realm of melissagin where I'd already been known by a shortened version of my maiden name, it made sense.
- Be creative. If your ideal domain or username is taken or if you're just looking to add some spice to your brand, get creative with it. Designer Emily Holt puts a whimsical spin on her domain with emilyfightscrime.com, which is totally in line with her fun brand vibe. Similarly, the boutique foundry Carmel Type Co. claimed carmeltype.co, creatively using the .co domain extension to represent the “Company” portion of their brand name.
In my opinion, one of the greatest benefits of using your own name (especially for those just starting out) is that it doesn't box you in. I've shifted my brand's focus from more general design offerings to strictly branding. Since I'm using my name, my brand can shift and grow and evolve all I want. The common thread is me, so it works. This could work for you too, but it all depends on the plans you've got for your brand.
Brand names & Pseudonyms
For some, pseudonyms or creative business names can be just the ticket. It's definitely worth considering and some people prefer them to using their own name. There really is no wrong way to go, but I've found there are two important factors to consider when making the call there.
Start where you are. Commit to a brand name and run with it.
If your core offering is one-on-one consulting services with you, then in a sense you are your product. In this case, using a company name gives your clients more to remember and can get confusing. In the same way, if it's just you working as a freelancer it may be best to stick with your name so you can more easily build that recognition for yourself.
On the flip side, if your business has multiple employees and doesn't hinge on your involvement, a brand name makes sense since your services or products are the focus. If you're opening a shop, salon, restaurant or studio those are also great occasions for creative brand names which leads me to the next deciding factor.
Where do you see this business going? If your plan is to grow and build something bigger than yourself, the right brand name can set a brilliant foundation and build up a certain amount of credibility for you. It really depends on the goals and plans you have for your brand.
Unfortunately, I can't offer you a one-size-fits all solution here. If you're feeling that your brand name isn't good enough, just remember it's all a matter of perception. If you're just starting out, don't overthink it. Start where you are. Commit to a brand name and run with it.
The day-to-day process of building a brand often feels scattered and messy, but focus on doing the work and let that be your guiding light. With perseverance and a whole lot of patience, your brand and the right name will unfold over time. You'll know when it's time to make a change or hire a professional to guide you through the rebranding process. In the meantime, keep building.
Do you have a branding question you'd like answered? Get in touch and ask away! You can also subscribe to my newsletter for weekly branding insights just like this, delivered straight to your inbox.