"Choosing an effective name for your business"


The government’s Business Link website claims that “choosing a name for your business is a creative and enjoyable process.” They are wrong. It is a process guaranteed to give you the blues; a thankless task on par with doing the washing up, minus the guaranteed results.

As anyone who has actually gone through this process (clearly not Business Link) will tell you, choosing a suitable trading name is a tortuous task. After an initial naive wave of optimism that the process will be quick and painless, you’re soon confronted with the usual obstacles:

  1. Every person you ask will have a different idea of what sounds good. They will probably also disagree on which aspects of your business (if any) are important to convey in the name.
  2. Roughly 80% of your good ideas have already been thought of by somebody else.
  3. Roughly 99.9% of your good ideas already exist as domain names.

Let’s address these unwelcome stumbling blocks.

What makes for a good name, anyway?

Consensus around this question is hard to come by, but everybody involved should at least agree that a good company name should be short, i.e. “Nike” rather than “Nigel’s emporium of sporting goods and assorted fitness miscellany.” It’s also easy to conclude that the name should be relatively inoffensive, although conjuring up offensive names arguably represents the creative and enjoyable part of the process that Business Link were referring to.

From here on in, expect an ever greater level of disagreement among the group. Often foremost among the points of argument is the question of whether the company’s area of business, corporate values, location or favourite type of biscuit should be reflected in the name. Coherent arguments can be made in support of all of these – even the inclusion of biscuits – but they are by no means immovable targets. Naming your company “Macclesfield Honest Goldfish Hob Nob & Co.” might have some dubious SEO benefits, but it also boxes you into a corner: you will never do anything but sell goldfish in Macclesfield. Nor will you ever credibly enjoy another biscuit more than the Hob Nob.

At the other end of the scale, the last 20 years have seen an explosion of successful companies with ultimately meaningless names. Moonpig sell cards; they do not launch farmyard animals into space, at least not yet. Apple do not sell fruit. eBay has no discernible meaning whatsoever.

The fact is, either approach is fine. If you can get an appropriate word, phrase or search term into your name then that’s great, but failure to do this will not prematurely bring about the downfall of your company. Besides, you have a much bigger problem, which is that…

Everybody has already thought of everything

If the internet is a pivotal part of your business (and it’s hard to think of many cases where it may not be) then this is where your sanity really starts to hang in the balance. The breadth of registered domain names out there is simply unbelievable, with every last URL – even the ones you were convinced would be unique – already taken. The people who do this are the type of pondlife who long ago decided that their singular contribution to society would be to buy domains that they don’t need en masse in the hope that one day, somebody somewhere would invent a magic sponge and they’d be set up for life.

The reality is that squatters like this are everywhere and there’s not a lot you can do about it. Don’t even think of forking out, because you can’t afford it. Also, each time somebody does pay up, the squatters’ phony business model gains legitimacy and apparently somewhere out there a puppy will die.

Although a decent domain name may be a key requirement, arguably of more importance is the ability to type your company’s name into Google and see yourself at the top. This is how most people use the internet anyway – even if they know the exact URL, for most people Google has become the de facto way of navigating to a particular site. If your competition in this area is fierce then go straight back to the drawing board, which by now is probably rather scary to behold.

So what about us?

Arriving at the name Draw and Code wasn’t an easy process. Nor was it enjoyable. We did, however, churn through a vast number of candidates. In the end, Draw and Code won because:

  1. It was short
  2. The domain was available. Rejoice!
  3. It gives a very (very) loose idea of what we do
  4. It was the only one that almost everybody we asked liked

Frankly, we felt that couldn’t ask for a lot more than that And if nothing else, the process has given us a new-found respect for people who do this kind of thing for a living. That, and a new-found curiosity about what they’re smoking in the offices of Business Link.