Branding Speaker, Trainer, and Coach

The Tragedy of Kate Spade & The Dangers of a Self-Named Brand: 5 Reasons Why You Don’t Want to Name the Company After YOU!

The Tragedy of Kate Spade & The Dangers of a Self-Named Brand: 5 Reasons Why You Don’t Want to Name the Company After YOU!

We’ve all undoubtedly heard about brand fashion designer’s Kate Spade’s suicide. Yet, the most troubling statement is that she didn’t embrace all mental health treatment for fear it would damage her brand.

The tragedy of Kate Spade is that she put her brand image over her self-care. Click To Tweet

After all, her thinking went, how could the founder of her joie-de-vivre brand admit to being a little less than bubbling with everlasting joy? As a personal branding proponent, I’m heartbroken that Kate Spade chose her business image over her personal health.

Why would she think the public would know about her doctor visits? Is invasion of privacy so pervasive that public figures believe every detail of their lives are splattered across the tabloids? If so, I’m horrified.

Self-named brands are unequivocally tied to their founder. Click To Tweet

The recent debacle over Roseanne Barr made that fact clear: how can the Roseanne show continue without Roseanne? And, both Steve Madden and Martha Stewart came roaring back after their respective prison sentences. When you name the company after yourself, you and the business are one.

Naming the business after you is a long-term, losing proposition. Click To Tweet

Here’s Why:

5 Reasons to Avoid Naming the Company After You
It’s one of the many reasons I advise against self-named companies. They limit your success because:  

1.  Lower Valuation— Eponymous brands are typically valued lower than other named companies.

2.  You are the CEO— Clients often only want to deal with the founder. If, for example, you call The Ken Blanchard Companies, I hope you can get this amazing speaker to your company, but mostly, it’s his employees who lead the training and workshops.

3.  Recruiting Difficulties— Employees are harder to recruit because they don’t see a clear path of ascending to the top when someone else’s name is on the masthead.

4.  Intellectual Property Issues— Often, when you sell your company, you sell your name. Vidal Sassoon, Wally Amos, and Joseph Abboud have all sold their brand names and unsuccessfully fought to gain back the rights to use their name in other businesses.

5.  Negative Implications— Any negative statement or action also adversely affects the company as we’ve recently witnessed.

If you’ve already named the company after yourself, here’s my thought: protect your brand, but not at any cost. You are the person who deserves self-care regardless of what anyone else thinks.


To your sizzling success,


  1. Another example comes to mind is when Ford named the car the “Edsel” which is now associated with failure.

  2. Another thoughtful article and a perspective I’ve never considered. Of course, regardless of your name, you have to protect your brand at all cost but wow, there is so much more exposure when it is your name. Who would care if Tony Hsieh berated a server (he has never done that as far as I know) but if his company was called Hsieh’s Shoes instead of Zappos the damage to their brand would be enormous.

    • Yep; you make a valid point. When it’s your name on the masthead, all of the good and bad reflect on you AND your company.

  3. This makes so much sense – thank you for your on-point insights, Liz!

  4. Ugh, yes! This reminds me of the Fitzgibbon Media debacle. It’s hard enough for a small company or organization to survive a scandal of that magnitude, but when the harasser’s name is on the letterhead? Impossible. Nobody likes to think they’ll be the the one to bring their company down, but keeping your name out of the company name at least gives your company the chance to survive if you personally go down in flames.

    • I agree. I work with many entrepreneurs and it’s difficult to get them to see why they shouldn’t name the company after themselves.

  5. These are valid points.

  6. Thanks for taking the time to chime in; appreciate it!

  7. This is so true Liz. Thanks for pointing this out as too many people make the mistake and find themselves with their hands tied unable to make the adjustments needed. People like Kate Spade take on too much responsibility as they too often believe that their image has to be perfect, almost inhuman. What they forget is that showing some weakness is actual showing some strength. Being human should in no case damage a brand. It could actually make it more real and approachable.

    • I’m impressed that so many celebrities have come out (The Rock, Debra Messing, Olivia Munn, etc) to admit that they too have suffered from depression and suicidal thoughts. Depression knows no economic or celebrity boundaries; if you need help, get it. It doesn’t make you weak, it enables you to get stronger.

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