As much as we musicians and other artistic/creative folk might sometimes like to ignore it, branding is an incredibly important part of our marketing. It might be as simple as choosing a “quirk” that will allow us to be just that much different from other musical acts or getting photos of our art uploaded to an e-shop to affiliate with our brand. In the current world, it may mean posting to a blog or at least putting together less than 140 characters in a social media update.
Keep in mind that I'm not a lawyer, so this is not legal advice. I'm just writing from my own experience and information provided to me by other artists and musicians who have run into questions or problems with their branding.
And branding starts with a name. Sure, it can be your name. In that case, you may think you'll have less to do. But check with a good trademark attorney if you start to gain any notoriety. Trademark issues are a complex part of branding even when it comes to things that seem as simple as using your own name as a business name. More on trademarks in a subsequent post.
Many other considerations come into choosing a brand name. A few of these are:
- Recognition — will people recognize the business you're in by your brand or will any of the words (or strings of characters) be among the search terms that might be used to find your business. Recognition may also come from long-term use.
- Presentation — does this brand name present you well. In other words, are you willing to be known as whatever name you choose?
- Do a web search. Did you find the brand name you're thinking about all over the place? What was the context in which you found the name? If it's a company that already exists, come up with a new choice. If it's just in common use, you need to choose between the dangers of being too familiar to protect the name and so recognizable that part of your marketing will already be done for you. (Google is an example of a web search engine.)
- Do a domain search. If you don't already have a web hosting company with a nice domain search tool, go to who.is and type in your brand name. (Pet peeve alert!) It just looks dumb if your brand name is “Ultimate Musician Superiority”, but your web site is “http://JoesNiceGuitars.com”. You want to make sure that some form of your brand name is available for your web site address.
- Do searches on social media sites to see if your brand is already in use. Start with at least Twitter and Facebook. They each have search engines that you can type your brand name into.
- Go to TradeMarkia.com and use their cool trademark, domain, social media and other search engines to check on the name(s) you're considering. (I have not used their services, by the way.)
This is an important decision. For some, it will be easy. For some it won't. The point is, to make the choice. And once you've made the choice, you will need to go back through these bullet points above on a regular basis. Is the brand still working? Is someone else trying to take over your brand name (and your hard work in getting it known)?
OK. Enough of this branding and marketing stuff. Let's get back to making music and other creative stuff.