Are You Your Own Best Brand?

Brand word on vintage car license plates, concept signIf you’re a business owner, are you your own best brand?

When you first started your business did you decide to use your own name or choose a different name that reflects the product or service you’re selling?

Maybe you’re well-known in your field and it made sense to use your own name. Or, possibly you just wanted a name that would stand out like techcrunch.

The P&G Model

P&G’s recent announcement that it is shedding up to 100 brands got me thinking about the world’s leading consumer products company’s branding strategy. Most people don’t know the company behind brands as disparate as Tide and Duracell batteries, and Clairol and Bounty paper towels, as P&G does not appear on the packaging.

On the other hand, everyone knows Heinz ketchup and Heinz baked beans are made by Heinz. It’s notable that as the company added products to their portfolio they kept brand names like T.G.I. Fridays and Weight Watchers.

But those companies are monsters with monster advertising budgets. They can promote the heck out of their brands, whether their company name is on their products or not.

What About the Little Guys?

Let’s get real and talk about the little guys – the small companies and entrepreneurs who can’t build their brands with expensive advertising. How do you decide if you should use your own name or a name reflective of your offerings?

I decided to see how a couple of the big little guys are doing it. Is there anybody who doesn’t know Seth Godin? He’s the best-selling author who popularized the concept of Permission Marketing that stated consumers reserve the right to give you permission to engage them. That became the core philosophy of social media. To me, his brand essence is his original thinking. No one is better at making you think about things differently.

Then there is Copyblogger. Not everyone knows that Brian Clark is the founder, unless your beat is social media. Copyblogger has built its brand on outstanding advice and training about blogging, writing and WordPress design.

Both are successful brands and I could name others that go by either the individual’s name or a name that represents the company’s brand essence.

How Do You Decide?

As you’ve noticed, my company name is Write Speak Sell. My probably faulty thinking at the time was that to be successful in business you need to write and speak (communicate) well and also know how to sell. My posts would delve into these subjects and people would flock to me with their business. Well, while I’m doing fine, that’s not exactly what happened.

Should I have used my own name? I rebranded myself about five years ago as a business writer toiling in the social media space after a long career in public relations and marketing. At one time, I was a recognized leader in the public relations industry (president of PRSA-NY, chair of the international PRSA conference, and so forth). This isn’t bragging, just the facts.

When I started my first business I called it The Paladino Company because of my name recognition. It worked for me. My brand stood for someone who understood how to build brands through public relations. Then I went back to working in an agency and over time as new leaders emerged in the field, Paladino moved on to other ventures.

Fast forward to the present. If Google is any indication, my blog is increasing in popularity. I think that more people want to read my thoughts on social media and blogging, employee engagement and branding. Business is humming though not booming.

Too Cute?

To this day, I’m not sure I made the right choice. Should I have continued to leverage my own name that still had some brand recognition in the PR world? But I wasn’t doing what I had been doing any more.

Was the name I chose too cute? I had formed an ad hoc advisory group when I first started my new venture to ask for their help in defining my brand and then we bounced around a number of company names. After they left, I ignored those and decided on my current name. Heck it was my company!

How did you decide on the name of your company? Do you feel it truly represents your brand – what you want to be known for? How do you promote and leverage your brand?

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Comments

  1. Truthfully I don’t remember why I chose the name I did for my company so SO many years ago. I would not choose the same one today. People locally know me by my name and maybe that is what I should have started. Sigh. It is what it is right now. My name on my blog, my company name for which revenue goes to in my business bank account.

    You’ve done fabulously with your blog for sure Jeannette.

    • Thanks, Pat. I only know you as Patricia Weber and didn’t know you had a company name as well. It seems to be working for you. Look at the great book contract you got.

  2. Jeannette – This is a thought provoking post and should be read by anyone starting out in business. Using The Newman Group as the name of our company worked for us and has given us a strong brand identity. While we do not do cold calling or any marketing or advertising per se, using my name has worked out well for us. We are clear on our mission and how we want to be thought of in the PR/Media Training space so if a potential business opportunity is not a good fit for us, we graciously decline the project. Reputation is everything in this business!
    JN

    • Joyce — You are considered among the best in the PR/Media Training space by building your brand over the years. You are clear on your mission and also have delivered on your brand promise which is why you’re so successful. You have a great reputation!

  3. Funny story – the name of my blog was a mistake that stuck. 🙂 The good news is it worked by relating to “it’s about life; food, drink and life stories.”

    • Susan — would love to know the “back story” about why the name of your blog was a mistake — a happy one, because it seems to be working!

  4. The first company I started sold imported art from Indonesia; that was called Bali Import Company. Straight forward to the point name with Bali as the hook. Next was Oiled Up as I began selling imported oils; here I went on the cute side. Next was Paradigm Images as I began framing photography. Then there was Indo Discovery Travel and lastly Flat Tires and Slow Boats. My personal favorite is the one I am using because it fits what I love to write about. I think the name of your company should let the reader know a little about you but most of all be comfortable for you.

    • Tim — Well, the company names you’ve chosen certainly communicate your brand promise. I find the last one also a bit of a teaser. You want to know what it means so you start to read.

  5. Hi Jeannette; I chose the name midway marketplace because it said what i would be doing. visitors to my site hung the nick name mr. midway on me and i’ve been using that. its kind of cool when people call asking if i am mr. midway. the new site the blind blogger was once again a nick name hung on me by visitors to the bloggers helping bloggers group. were either good choices. I don’t know. they only call them carnivals or midways in north america and this is currently the weakest part of the amusement industry market. some have said that i shouldn’t be leaning so hard on being blind in the new site. I didn’t really think about it. please don’t hurt me. I mean I didn’t think anything about being called the blind blogger. i figured being the anything would be good. and judging by the comments knowing I’m doing this as a blind person motivates readers to take action on their own. so helping people get going on their own journey is good too. I could have chosen better with more time and money but I would rather invest my time strengthening the ones i did pick than worrying about what could have been. I believe you do too. take care, Max

    • Right on, Max. Midway Marketplace describes exactly what you do. In The Blind Blogger you are sharing your experiences and providing inspiration for other bloggers who may be blind or otherwise disabled. You’ve shown the possibilities. I still can’t get over that you transferred your site to WordPress without being a techy.

      • Hi Jeannette; well, the only distinction i would make is that the blind blogger site and my work in general seem to be inspiring more sighted people than blind. The friends who have questioned me about that one said it’s because they just don’t think of me as blind. 🙂 and all i did was follow the instructions. in the early days of my website I had to hand code it because there weren’t accessible cms options and I know a little bit about html. I was still scared to do it. and if i had many more posts to worry about losing I might have talked myself out of it. but I am proud of having done it. I didn’t think it would get this much reaction. good post making a simpler matter out of something you could have written a book about. take care, max

        • Max — When you say “all you did was follow the instructions,” you make it sound so easy. Believe me, I’m sighted and wouldn’t be able to follow the instructions. I’m all thumbs when it comes to technology.

          • Hi friend; well harleena singh and lorraine reguly have both told me that I have trouble taking credit for my own work. they say i need to brag more and be less humble. i think its my upbringing. if it helps i have tried repeatedly to learn spanish and to learn to play the guitar with no progress at all. I live in texas with lots of opportunities to practice spanish. and just about everyone on my dad’s side of the family can play some sort of musical instrument. If i didn’t sing I’d wonder if I was really part of the family. thanks for the pat on the back. I’ll do better accepting them. take care friend, max

  6. Just a few weeks ago, I looked into buying jeriwalker.com and jlwalker.com but both are already taken. I suppose I could be jeri-walker.com if need be. I went with JeriWB because of my long last name, but if I were to start over I would probably just go with Jeri Walker. On that note, I do wish too that my URL somehow hinted at the editing services I offer. Like many, I had no idea where my blog would go when I got started 😉

    • Jeri — I can relate — I had no idea where my blog would take me either. Who knew that it would become not only a business but an opportunity to meet so many talented and nice bloggers like you!

  7. Jeannette- I wish I knew back in 1991 what I know today about the name of my company. The company started off as Wilar Enterprises. My husband’s name is William, so it was combination of William and Arleen. Then people would say like Willard the Rat. So we changed it to Garrett Collections as my husband’s middle is Garrett. When we called people they thought we were a collection agency. So we then changed it to Garrett Specialties. We thought that the specialties would make sense as we are members of Advertising Specialties Institute, which most people have no idea who they are. I can’t change the name now but the name selection is so important and I really missed the boat there. Hope all takes your article to heart.

    • Arleen — I hear you. I think most of us when we start a business don’t know exactly where it is going to take us. I started blogging almost as a lark and it turned into a business. I don’t think I’d choose the name I have now if I had to do it all over again.

  8. For me when I recently set up my company the choice was simple. My name was so well built up on social media it would have been stupid to come up with another name for my business.

    And It doesn’t hurt that my Alma Mater, University of Lund, wrote an article about what I do and a leadership magazine interviewed me about what it’s like to be female in a senior leadership position in a Saudi Arabian conglomerate.

    Those two articles beat any broschure I could possibly come up with, not least since I enable companies to do business in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States. And, as you know, the main thing there is who you know. And a top University and serious business magazine confirms that I know the people that count there.

    • Catarina — I couldn’t agree more. You have a lot of brand equity built into your name so why not leverage it. I find it fascinating that you held a leadership position in a Saudi Arabian conglomerate. Have you thought of writing a blog about your experiences? I’d enjoy reading it for sure.

  9. When I first started my blog, the hubs and I were living in a hotel room. A Holiday Inn Express to be exact. I had only a crock pot to cook with. I creates some pretty great meals but I had to get creative. In that time, I developed ‘The Recipe Hunter’ from my joy of ‘hunting’ through recipes that I could adapt to work in the slow cooker but also because I love to hunt. I planned to write about our hunting experiences and write recipes for the game meat as well as slow cooker recipes. It’s evolved into more as we are out of the hotel and in rent house with a full sized kitchen! I like what my brand represents…it’s VERY much me. I just struggle (mainly on social media) with when to be me – the person behind TRH versus being TRH.Thoughts?

    • Pamela — tough question. But “The Recipe Hunter” is so descriptive I like that as your brand. I, for one, am always hunting for new recipes on the web.

  10. Hi Jeannette,
    We are getting ready to do a soft launch of Mister Acronym dot com, a site devoted to creating acronyms for fun, education, and business. Most of the acronyms are those that define the word chosen. We will create acronyms for your name, and eventually will sell related products.

    The story line is similar that of Charlie’s Angels. Mister Acronym is tucked away in a secret location, but his delivery method is unique.

    We will also serve ESL students learning English, and hopefully increase literacy rates. Mister Acronym says, “I have a very rewording job.”

    I think you are your best brand by virtue of the added value you bring to the table.

    Kind Regards,
    Bill

    • Bill — A great name for your new site. Can’t miss that it’s about acronyms. Are you familiar with the occasional Washington Post acronym contest? Very funny.

  11. Interesting Jeannette, this is something I’ve been thinking about a lot. I’m such a private person that I chose not to use my name as my brand (and there was no name recognition to capitalize on), but now I see that my name is left behind everywhere I go on the internet, even when commenting on a blog. So maybe I should have just gone for it? I don’t know. But for what it’s worth, I do like your blog’s name. I think it’s descriptive.

    • Thanks, Meredith. I’m glad you think the name of my blog is descriptive. It’s what I was hoping for. It is a conundrum trying to decide how to brand yourself.

  12. Choosing how to name a business and really thinking about brand is sooo challenging. In your case your name makes perfect sense. I know what you’re about just from the name and I’m likely to read consume what you offer because it answers a need I have. When I started as a freelance video editor years ago I simply used my name. Pretty logical.. then I decided to open up a boutique post production house. We tossed so many names around..including Val’s Video.. (I know yuk!) Then one day my hubby walked in and threw out “Pixel Jungle” and that was it! It made sense and had a nice ring to it. That was important to me with my current brand “Scrumptious Moms” I needed to be catchy and have a nice ring…the response has been pretty encouraging. Moms love to think they are scrumptious! I love the scrumptious life and want to encourage everyone to embrace that idea! Does it work from a marketing point of view.. time will tell. I’m hoping it will 🙂

    • Valerie — I think “Scrumptious Moms” is a real teaser. If I was a mom I’d want to know more about you.

  13. Great question Jeannette and one that I asked myself when I started blogging. It’s interesting that you have gone through these stages of branding.

    I chose to brand KeepUpWeb rather than myself because I was thinking of having an exit plan. Someday, (hopefully) I envision myself somewhere tropical sipping Pina Coladas and watching the residual income roll in. (We can all dream right?) Part of that plan includes selling my domain name and website. My social media accounts that are branded with KeepUpWeb would be part of the assets.

    On the other hand, in the back of my mind, I also have my personal brand to think of. While I’m traveling the world, I could write. (I’ve always wanted to be a travel blogger! )So, I need to work on building my personal brand too.

    As always, thanks for a thought provoking post. It’s not too late for any of us to build another brand. 🙂

    • Sherryl — well go for it! Very interesting exit plan. You’ve gained a lot of equity and reputation in KeepUpWeb. Hope your dream comes true. Sure sounds like fun to me.

  14. Hi Jeannette,

    It’s my first time to your blog.

    This is a very interesting subject to me. I toiled with this one and what I decided was I want as company that will outlast me.

    I’m in web development and web design, but after ten years of working with businesses of all sizes and types I found a commonality with each one; they don’t know what business they are really in and what problems they solve. I know that because they can’t answer the question and their websites have to distinguish them and talk to their prospects and customers instead of talking about themselves and what they do.

    Almost a year ago I started Unveil the Web. It’s meant to help open their eyes and understand how the internet holistically works together from their website to social media, blogging, directories, connecting with influencers, using video, etc.

    That has taken me down a road of coaching after I developed a homework system for clients that is very, very different than anyone else in my industry is doing. Partly because they are creative types and not necessarily informed or good business owners.

    My name really stuck to me because that’s really what we do for people. We unveil the mystery of the web. That worked so much better in explaining my company as opposed to “The Purdum Group” or something with my name in it.

    Great conservationist. I look forward to hearing your opinion and engaging with you around this topic and many more on your website!

    I hope you are enjoying your weekend!

    ~ Don Purdum

    • Thanks for visiting, Don. Your company name Unveil the Web is unusual and descriptive. The web is a mystery to beginners and even those of us who have been trolling the web for years always have something new to learn.

  15. Great points Jeannette!

    Like you, I’m not totally sure that I’ve branded myself correctly online.

    But after doing my initial keyword research, I definitely knew I needed certain words in my domain name that reflected what my service does for my intended
    target audience.

    Of course there was and is so much that I could of and should have done so much better!

    But I think it’s far better to be an ongoing work in progress, than to simply have to scrap everything altogether and start over!

    Because your branding efforts, have totally missed the mark! Thanks, you definitely offered some much needed food for thought!

    And BTW, I too am a big fan of Seth Godin! The guy is simply nothing short of brilliant!