Small Biz Quiz | Should I name my business after myself?
If there’s one aspect of company naming that seems to crop up again and again, it’s this: Should I name my business after myself?
Your business is your baby after all, right?
No, not John Smith Jr.
We’re talking John Smith Consulting, LLC. or John Smith Wedding Photography. And whenever a client or potential client asks us for feedback on whether or not it’s a good idea to name your business after yourself, we have the same answer: It depends.
It depends on your industry, your personal and professional reputation, your goals, even your business structure. Because naming is one of the most difficult aspects of your branding to change, we recommend asking yourself these key questions while you’re making that pros and cons list:
Ultimately, it comes down to this: How central to your business are you going to be?
In the photography industry, it’s pretty common to see studios named after the lead photographer, because a lot of people are paying to work with a particular artist. The photographer and their body of work are tied together closely, so it makes sense to name the business after the creator. The same often goes for freelance designers or even other industries, such as business development coaching or law, where clients are paying for personal, one-to-one attention from an expert.
But what happens if you outgrow your name and want to rebrand under a new product or service-specific brand name?
Is Changing Names Bad For Business?
As we said before, changing your business name is arguably the most difficult pillar of your branding to change. It’s the foundation of your identity in an ever-changing and competitive marketplace. As you do business under a brand name, you create equity in the form of customer loyalty and trust*, and renaming your business can often involve confusion and even pushback from your longtime customer base.
When ABC Family announced their intent to rebrand as the more modern sounding Freeform in the end of 2015, they definitely experienced pushback and were prepared for the growing pains associated with a name change. The internet, as it often does, delivered in the form of mocking op-eds like this one, which called the new name “Confusing and Stupid.”
According to ABC Family President Tom Ascheim in an early 2016 interview with Adweek, “Naming entities is a bit like naming a baby. You have to grow into a name. We were not worried—nor surprised, frankly—by the reaction.” In an interview with Variety, Nigel Cox-Hagan, the Senior Vice President of marketing, creative, and branding for ABC Family, gave some insight to the network’s strategy to pull off such a dramatic shift in branding:
“We’re going to use every level and every platform that we have to bang the drum about our new name…”
Other companies have changed names following scandals or in a last ditch effort to save their business by appealing to a new market, or to an old market in a new way. Think, Blackberry, formerly known as Research in Motion. Or Google, which was once strangely known as BackRub. *shudder*
More recently, there’s the case of Italo Suisse, a 94 year old Belgian chocolate company which changed its name to Isis Chocolates in 2013, not knowing that the name was tied to the militant Islamic State group. When sales reportedly dropped following the increased covered of the terrorist organization, Isis Chocolates was forced to rebrand again to Libeert to turn the tide.
So… Can changing your company name be tough on your business? Absolutely. But it’s not impossible.
The key to a successful name change (besides first choosing a really good name) is in reeducating your target audience through consistent, thoughtful, and proactive branding. You’ve got to “Bang the drum,” as they say.
So Should I Name My Business After Myself?
You’ve asked yourself all the right questions. You’ve soul searched. And Google (BackRub) searched. And you still don’t know whether or not using your name is the right way to go when it comes to building your brand?
Here’s your homework:
The best way to test a potential name is by trying to best a potential name. If, at the end of those exercises or working with an expert, nothing makes as much sense as using your own personal name, then that’s your answer.
Did you name your business after yourself or choose another name all together? Why? Weigh in with your thoughts down below.