Creating a company name
As anyone who has tried knows, naming a company is almost as tough as naming a child ...remembering that you can't get into trouble if you give your child the 'wrong' name (although you may lose their respect when they grow up).
Experience has taught us that, before you can even start scribbling down ideas, it's vital to get your thinking in order. So, when we're developing business names, we start by identifying potential categories of names. These will typically include:
(e.g. Wikipedia, FedEx, Groupon)
This is where word-parts or syllables are conjoined to make new, original words. Fantastic when it works, awkward and tortuous when it doesn't.
(e.g. Photobucket, Morningstar, Hotmail)
Effectively a type of portmanteau, there's often potential in this area, particularly when combining whole words not normally associated with one another.
(e.g. Lenovo, Asus, Ingenico)
All the rage a few years ago, Latinised names became a lazy solution. Not to say there aren't some great ones out there to discover, but they're really hard to find.
(e.g. Accenture, Napster)
This style of name is created by adding a prefix or suffix, usually to a dictionary word, to create a brand new word.
Single dictionary words/proper nouns
(e.g. Pandora, Caterpillar, Apple)
Unless you have a £100K+ budget for a domain, forget it.
(e.g. Tumblr, Flickr)
A reaction to the difficulty of finding great available .com domains, misspellings spurned a whole new category of names. The ones that work somehow look deliberate and convey attitude and creativity. The ones that don't can be, well, a bit awkward.
(e.g. UPS, B&Q, BASF)
Generally bland, hard to remember, and there are enough of them already in the world. Acronyms, like IKEA, are generally easier to remember. Worth considering, but probably as a last resort.
(e.g. Ben & Jerry's, Rolls Royce)
These can derive from real people, e.g. the founders (like Herrs Harmon and Kardon), or from an imagined/fictional character (like 'Starbuck' in Moby Dick). Names like this can be effective in telling a story, which in turn helps customer engagement.
(e.g Shopify, Spotify)
A recent popular naming fad, and one that many reckon has probably had its day (us included).
Random and invented names
These names, sometime invented, come from leftfield and usually don't mean anything (or at least nothing directly relevant). There's no process for generating names like this - they either come with inspiration, or they don't come at all. But they definitely require confidence, an open mind, and a certain "let's just see what happens" bravery.
Of course there are other name categories too, but that's enough to be getting on with. You just have to decide which categories might be relevant to your own business.
How to choose the right business name
After that, you just need to write a really, REALLY long list of relevant keywords, spend at least twenty hours (some ideally spent in a group) to develop a list of 100+ name ideas and hope for a bit of inspiration, filter the list down to 30-40 viable names. Then you need to start the real filtering: check against competitors, take a look through Companies House, identify any other potential conflicts or confusions, check out linguistics if you have a multilingual audience. Then comes the really hard bit: source a great, available and brandable .com domain...
...or you could try spending twenty minutes or so reading carefully through the list of Novanym names on this website, and pick out the ones that resonate with you (OK, technically it's cheating, but it might save you a lot of time and heartache!)