There is no clear winner between a personal brand name and a business brand name, it all depends on your plans for the future and what you want your brand and business to be recognized for.
For starters, you’re doing the right thing by being strategic and investigating the pros and cons of using your own name or a unique business name but remember your business name is not the be-all-end-all of your overarching brand strategy.
While, yes, your business name is a critical component in building a successful brand strategy, the true essence of successful brands centre around the core identity, purpose, messaging, and belief system. (Not to mention, the quality of your services and your ability to deliver on your brand promise!)
With that said, your brand’s name can be used as one of the many persuasive elements at your disposal in creating a memorable experience for your clients. To boil it down, a good brand name should have meaning, be distinctive, and be accessible.
A good brand name should be available to be used consistently in multiple online areas such as your domain name and all of your social media handles. Also, ensure your brand name is not taken or has been previously trademarked.
In most cases, if someone is already using a name, you cannot legally use it. By law, the name of your business can’t be the same as or very similar to an existing corporate name or trade-mark. Even when it is legal to use an existing business name, it can be a disastrous marketing mistake. There are a few places you should check to see whether a name is taken:
The easiest way to check if someone else is already using your proposed name is to search the Web. This will give you an idea of who else is using the same name or a similar name. You may also want to check whether the Internet domain name and social media handles you want to use are already taken. If you plan to do business in other countries, check whether anyone is using the name in those countries too.
There are two national databases that each cover most of the jurisdictions you may want to search in Canada. Search one or both of these depending on where you want to set up your business.
After searching the national databases, you may also want to search registered trade names in other provinces and territories if you ever plan to do business there. Registering a trade name (operating name) does not give a business exclusive rights to use that name. However, it may not be a good idea from a marketing perspective to use a name that another business is already using, even if it is your own name.
Use these links to search the provincial and territorial databases:
If you’ve already begun building a name for yourself in your particular niche, using your own name as your brand name can capitalize on and build your personal reputation further. People also tend to put their trust in brands with personal names easier as they often identify the brand as an individual rather than a faceless company. It is also a great way to demonstrate the passion and commitment you have for your niche, because if your name is on it, you must be absolutely obsessed with it! And if you ever decided to switch your focus to something else you’re absolutely obsessed with? Then having a personal brand name makes it way easier to do so compared to if you have a business specifically named after your current specialty.
Your name can make your business super memorable and can easily differentiate from your competitors… or it can do the opposite. If your name is uncommon, complicated to pronounce or spell, or in contrast an extremely common name–then you risk either having people forgetting or you risk getting lost in a sea of Mary’s, John’s, Jessica’s, Michael’s, etc.
Gaining trust and credibility can be more difficult with a business brand name, but it makes up for it in being a great way to obviously link you to your industry. If you opt for a personal brand name, it won’t be clear right off the bat and you will need a strong tagline or secondary distinguishing name to make up for it (ie. Dylan Designs)
If you plan on being a one-person show your entire life they go ahead and name your brand after yourself but it may hinder future attempts at expanding your business to include others. Do you plan on building up your business and selling it eventually? In that case you would be better off with a business name.
Here are some books that I highly recommend to help you with your own brand name and also for any client projects too.
Recently a design grad approached me with a really great question, “Should I build my brand under my own name or come up with a business brand name?”. Even though it’s a great question, there’s no short answer, so let’s talk about it!