Choosing Your Brand Name

Lesson 8: Choosing Your Brand Name

by Bob Baker

A recent Business Week magazine article commented, “With nothing to pick up or touch and hundreds of similar-sounding sites to choose from, online consumers have little to go on besides a familiar name.” That observation sums up the heart of this lesson.

To have the best chance of success online, you need to give potential customers and fans a name to remember — one they can use to find you with ease.

There are two types of names you must choose before embarking on your branding campaign:

  • The name you use to promote yourself
  • Your domain name (Web address)

Let’s examine each one, starting with the name you use to promote yourself. Remember, on the Internet there are no tangible landmarks to help people remember where to find you. In the physical world, if you have a favorite Chinese restaurant, you don’t have to know the name of the place to get to it. As long as you know the restaurant is located at the corner of Main Street and Fifth Avenue, you’ll always be able to find it.

On the Internet, though, the name is everything. If you don’t recall the name of the person, business, or Web address, you’ll have a tough time tracking it down.

Here are three options you have when choosing a brand name:

  1. Use your real name this is the most direct approach. If you’re sold on the underlying premise of this workshop, it’s a no-brainer to make your name the brand name. For example, one high-profile fashion company isn’t called Cool Clothes Inc.; it’s calling Tommy Hilfiger. One popular TV program isn’t titled “The Late-Afternoon Inspiration Hour Geared Primarily to Women”; it’s called “Oprah.”The best way to establish yourself as an expert or to be widely recognized in your field is to use your real name as your brand name.
  2. Use a stage name perhaps you have tons of personality, a pleasing visual appeal, and Internet techno-savvy out the wazoo. The only thing holding you back is a user-unfriendly name like Maude Cromwinkle-Swartz or Archibald K. Schraumboltenhofer. Fair enough. Even I’ll admit that tongue-twisting names can pose problems for online brand-builders. If that’s your situation, consider altering your name and using a cyber stage name instead. Film legend Kirk Douglas might have had a tough time gaining recognition if he had stuck with his real name, Isadore Demsky. The same principle applies to names that might confuse people or trigger unwanted associations. For instance, actor Albert Brooks decided not to use his real name, Albert Einstein, for good reason. Also, if you’re going to use an assumed name, make sure it stands out. For example, have you ever heard of Eileen Twain? Probably not, but I’ll bet you’ve heard of country music superstar Shania Twain, who successfully uses the unique stage name she chose for herself.
  3. Use a company name this is listed as your third option for a good reason: It’s the least attractive of the three. Sure, many company brand names have made enormous waves on the Internet (America Online, Netscape, Napster, Amazon, etc.), which might cause you to consider coming up with a cool business moniker of your own. Brothers David and Tom Gardner did that when they created The Motley Fool, a series of books and a Web site ( that cover personal finance and investing. Using a company name is an option to consider, but your personal branding goals will be met more forcefully if you use a human name instead of the name of an intangible business entity.

What to look forward to in Lesson 9: The important decisions you must make when choosing your domain name.


This workshop is based on Bob’s book “Poor Richard’s Branding Yourself Online: How to Use the Internet to Become a Celebrity or Expert in Your Field” (Top Floor Publishing). Download two chapters free and find out more about the book at