I’ve been thinking about how we brand ourselves, in combination with a product or company for a while now. Geoff Livingston and Ari Herzog both sent me notes to inspire today’s post. Many times, you will see authors (such as David Allen), speakers (Tom Peters and Anthony Robbins) and consultants use their personal brand name for their company’s, while many web-based startup companies will use a distinct name for what they are selling, leaving their founder and CEO seperated from their core brand strategy. There are pros and cons to each approach, so that will be the focus today conversation.
Paul Newman’s legacy
Paul Newman, for any of you who don’t know, was an Academy Award-winning and seven-time Academy Award-nominated actor, film director, entrepreneur, humanitarian and auto racing enthusiast. Among his many achievements and the legacy that he built was “Newman’s Own,” a food company which Newman donated all post-tax profits and royalties to charity.
Paul died on September 26th this year, yet “Newman’s Own” lives on or does it? Without Paul’s smile on your salad dressing, would you still purchase it and pay the premium price? If the bottle just said “Light Balsamic Vinaigrette” would you buy it? I would say you wouldn’t. People purchased Newman’s Own because of Paul Newman’s brand and what he represents (philanthropy, success, etc).
My prediction is that they will discontinue this company and line of products after a few years, when the new generation becomes the majority buyer of salad dressing and the name “Newman” is irrelevant to them. In this situation the company and products die with the personal brand.
The pros and cons of using your name
- Pros: When you use your name on your products and company, there is much more visiblity for your brand name. People are going to remember you more if wherever they go, they see your name. You can build the company history and story based on a person. A person is easier to acknowledge then a corporate brand name because you can reach out and touch it.
- Cons: It’s much harder to build a larger company around one person’s name, not just because their brand dies when they die, but also because there are more people in the company. If you use your name it might be seen as selfish, especially if you hire other people that will have the badge “your name, title, your CEO’s name.” The biggest brands in the world aren’t using their founders name. For example, Apple, GE and IBM.
- 1) What is your main business objective. Are you trying to be a solotrepreneur or do you want to build a business, hiring people along the way? If in the foreseable future you want to have a thousand emloyees, you might want to use a creative name instead of your own.
- 2) Choose a career path before you put your brand on anything. Do you want to start a company, work for a company or go back to school? The entrepreneur path is typically the one that makes sense for branding yourself as your company.
- 3) Do you want to pass your business down to your family? A business with your name can be passed down to your child if they accept it or run by someone else in your family.
- 4) For legal reasons, if you use your name as your companies name and your company get’s sued, you go down with it.
I’m leaving this conversation open, so if you have any ideas, suggestions or experiences to share, be my guest.