A few years ago I attended a large social media conference. As is my habit at these things, I crammed in as many sessions as possible on any topic that might make me better/faster/stronger. I wanted to learn everything I could about SEO, affiliate monetization, and MOST IMPORTANT: personal branding.
Because who are you, really, in this millennium, without a personal brand?
At the time of the conference, the most successful lifestyle bloggers had brand names that related directly to their respective subject areas. You had Decor Diva to help you make your space beautiful, Sexy Suppers for meal plans to maintain your girlish pre-motherhood figure, and of course the Martini Midwife. Because childbirth without hard liquor is nothing short of barbaric.
I think. I mean I think I made these up, but they could be actual blogger brands because that's how cutesy these brand names got during the peak of micro-publishing. (Do NOT call it mommy blogging, I beg you.)
Cartoon header, cute brand name? Not into it.
Plus, who wants to be the Decor Diva forever? FOREVER.
For the same reason I have no tattoos, I couldn't settle on a brand name. I had tried with After the Bubbly, which I liked, but why build equity in a content brand if no one knew my name? Girl needs attention, after all. (Never trust a writer who denies this fundamental truth.)
The only brand I knew I'd have forever was the brand of Lela Davidson. And because at the time my primary business was writing, it made perfect sense to me that my NAME would be my brand. However, at that event in particular, and in social media circles in general, I was very much in the minority, and I wanted to know why.
The session on branding seemed like the ideal context to get some feedback on this pressing concern. So I asked for advice, in front of the whole class.
The speaker's brand name was something along the lines of Mocha Meditation (intentional coffee drinking) or Carpool Crafter (express DIY projects). She crinkled up her face and worked in 42 references to her own annoyingly catchy brand name, while letting me know that using my own name was a disastrous idea.
She closed her little speech with: I already forgot your name.
Her tone so condescending. As if Sequins & Sippy Cups was destined for greatness.
I already forgot your name.
Fair enough, but I wanted to point out that I never had the opportunity to forget hers. Because she didn't put it out there. Okay, that's a lie. I thought of that later. In the moment I was just dumbstruck and a little hurt because:
I ALREADY FORGOT YOUR NAME.
But, then also... duh, that's why I needed to use my name. Over and over and over again. I decided that day to keep using my name and never look back.
My name is my brand. It's me. And it's better than any made up cuteness. Sure, what you see is the publicly curated version, which I'll argue all day is what you get from everyone you meet, not just those of us in the public attention game. Still me.
My brand will evolve and change, but what my name stands for sticks.
If you're trying to figure out, like I was, whether to use your name or a constructed brand name, ask yourself these three questions:
- What do you offer?
- What stands out about what you offer?
- What's the compelling story behind your offering?
Take some time with those before deciding.
And never let anyone make you feel forgotten when you've barely just begun.