Common name conundrum: How to brand yourself

Make your website stand out even when your name does not

Imagine being born and raised as Ashton Kutcher, and then an actor named Christopher Kutcher decides to go by his middle name “Ashton.” You want to make your own website stand out, but you know people will focus on the name. Now whenever you’re directing people to your website on social media or even filling out a job application, eyebrows raise and wonder if this is indeed the practical joker who invested six digits into Uber. Or, is he playing another one of his notorious jokes?

Or, maybe you happened to be someone like “Black Panther” actor Michael Bakari Jordan who took his father’s namesake long before a certain Chicago Bulls player started winning championships.

Photo credit: Adam Barnard/Picspree

With the U.S. Census Bureau confirming there at least 151,671 different last names and 5,163 different first names in common, common name conundrums are bound to happen. Both businesses and everyday people have to figure out a way to create their own brands around it.

Playing the name game

While working on a law marketing assignment for Upwork, I kept thinking about a recent reporting project that almost made me compile interview questions for the wrong person. Yikes!

Guneet Kaur, an Oxford and Berkley alumnus, has dedicated her professional life to legal aid for people who have been detained, arrested or prosecuted for Naxal terrorism in Jagdalpur, Chattisgarh. She even has a TEDx Talk regarding her work. But my interviewee was Guneet Kaur, Esq., the Santa Barbara, California attorney from the Law Office of Guneet Kaur.

Same name, totally different people. And it was too easy to mistake one person for the other simply for their legal affiliations and their common names. It’s not just celebrities that this kind of stuff happens too. Clearly lawyers, business professionals and fact-checking journalists can deal with it too.

Photo credit: Create Her Stock

Helping your common name stand out from the rest

Photo credit: Ivan Bertolazzi/Pexels

So what do you do when your name is a bit too close to someone who may rival you on search engine optimization and your own website? Make sure your website stands out and clarifies who you are and what your firm does that a similar name does not.

  • Promote your work on the “About Us” page. While it doesn’t hurt to have an explanation page of what your company does, it’s more important to have a page that showcases why your background is suitable for your potential client’s needs. A professional headshot, your educational background and a short bio are standard parts of an “About” page. But don’t be too shy to also highlight your outside publications with other magazines, journals and blogs so potential clients can learn a little more about you. People can’t assume you are someone else with a similar name if your unique professional background separates you from that person.
  • Introduce your photos immediately. Using the Michael B. Jordan example above, the average person can immediately tell that these two Michael Jordans look nothing alike. They’re not even the same height. (The actor is 6’0, and the professional athlete is 6’6.) While it may be frowned upon on certain professional business sites to make your photographs the centerpiece of your site, in this case, it is necessary to make unique visitors understand who works for the company from first glance. Using another law firm website as an example, TSMP Law is a great example of showcasing their legal team but still keeping the focus of the site on their legal practice.
  • Make sure your stock imagery reflects your clients. This is one of the areas that reputable marketing and advertising companies spend quite a bit of attention on — and the one area where similarities outrank being unique. Clients want to see reflections of themselves on business websites. In Crain’s Chicago Business’ 20-in-their-20s changemakers in business, technology and innovation, one of the 20 was Veronica Appleton of We Are Unlimited, a company that focuses on advertising diversity regarding people of color, women, veterans and LGBTQ individuals. If your company (or you alone) focus on a certain type of demographic, the stock images should too.
  • Make sure your website layout clarifies the purpose of your site. From first glance, Arnold & Itkin LLP’s site may show off an engaging sea layout that looks like a common website template. However, the homepage immediately confirms why this website design was used; they’re maritime lawyers so users immediately connect this website layout to their client base. (The wording on the website also helps SEO algorithms understand that another law firm with the name “Itkin” has a different focus: medical malpractice.)
  • Avoid being too text-heavy on the homepage. The homepage is meant to be informative and inviting. But if your entire page is one long scroll of all of the information on your site, there will be minimal reasons to click on the subpages (pages found in the dropdown menu of your navigation bar). While there are valid arguments made about avoiding a hamburger menu or dropdown menu, text-heavy homepages can make your website look too busy.

With the help of these five tips above, hopefully you can make the commonality from your name and business stand out from the pack.


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Shamontiel L. Vaughn

Written by

I’ve been a prof. writer/editor since 2005. I love walking dogs, being condo assn & Toastmasters prez, vegetarian food, and Kukuwa & WERQ dance. Shamontiel.com

The Startup

Medium's largest active publication, followed by +707K people. Follow to join our community.

Shamontiel L. Vaughn

Written by

I’ve been a prof. writer/editor since 2005. I love walking dogs, being condo assn & Toastmasters prez, vegetarian food, and Kukuwa & WERQ dance. Shamontiel.com

The Startup

Medium's largest active publication, followed by +707K people. Follow to join our community.

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