Why online name generators are a bit of a joke
If you’re thinking ahead and have real aspirations for your business, you’ll want your business to have a brand name, not just a name. And you’ll almost certainly want a no-compromise, single word .com domain. That will make your brand name more ownable and findable - it will also add a useful dose of credibility and authority.
You might well do the smart thing and start to look for a brandable domain name - in other words, you’ll start by finding an available .com domain and use that as your business name. This makes sense, but it’s not easy, because most good domains have already been registered by someone else.
The age of the company name generator
This is where online name generators come in. It’s a tempting option - and a quick Google search will show that there are lots of them available. What’s more, they’re usually free.
These domain name generators are really pretty clever. You just enter some specific parameters, like initial letters, key words or even maximum letter count and the generator will magically produce a list of domains that are available to register.
The opposite of creative
So if your business is in precision engineering, in the hunt for a great engineering company name you might enter the keyword Precision. If your surname starts with the letters Gu, you might set these as the starting letters. And if you want a nice, short name, you can even set the maximum word length to be be, say, 7 letters. The system will then generate names for you, and present you with options that all have available .com domains.
The trouble is, name generators are by definition, powered by algorithms, not humans.
So when you enter your parameters - they will automatically add some pre-set letters to the start or end of your keyword to produce (in our example) Precisionbit.com, Hotprecision.com, or Guadva.com.
At worst, they produce gibberish or compound words that sandwich your keyword with another common word, or part of a common word. At best, they produce words - or arrangements of letters that look a bit like words - that could be used as business names.
Algorithms aren't very ...human
But humans are generally more like Homer Simpson than Mr Spock. We don’t work on algorithms. And brand names are subtle things which have nuance. They allude, suggest, and infer. They deliver attitude, tone, or style. They’re not entirely logical, rational things.
Asking an algorithm to produce a brandable business name is like asking an algorithm to produce a joke. You input your requirements: a set-up; some characters; a punchline - and it produces a hilarious joke. It’s not likely is it?
Jokes don’t work like that. To be effective, a joke needs to have intangible qualities like surprise, incongruity, cleverness or timing. These aren’t qualities that can be generated by an algorithm.
By the way, other people think online name generators are funny, too - check out the rather excellent Hipster Business Name Generator.
Generators don't make brands
Beware of relying on these online name generators to do the hard work for you. They might seem like a good idea, but they’re unlikely to produce a business name that delivers on the promise of being truly brandable. You might get lucky. But you probably won’t.
Instead, you’ll need to use them as part of a creative process - by being imaginative about the parameters you set and using the automatically-generated suggestions as a prompt or stimulation for your own, less-rational thinking.
That way you might end up with a company name which is both distinctive and memorable and which - subtly - says something about your business. You’ll have a business name that’s genuinely brandable.