Why Choose a Nondescript Company Name?

Vague sign of the times.

Some signs say almost nothing.

In a previous post I discussed the juxtaposition of a name that conjures an image opposite to what the business actually does.

This time the name is so faceless it conjures virtually no image at all:

“Elite Global Solutions”

I’m not making it up. I don’t think I could’ve invented a more generic-sounding company name—and I do this stuff for a living. (Normally I try to avoid hackneyed clichés, unless that’s the desired effect.)

It’s like the trifecta of business jargon. Or a game of corporate bingo (which is now an iPhone mobile app). The name includes three of the most overused words in all of Corporatedom. (I thought I made that last word up, but evidently I’m not the first. It’s a neologism!)

Considering the highfalutin name, they don’t look very “global” or “elite” based on their modest exterior. Until I did an online search, I had no clue about their line of business—and I’ve driven or walked by this company hundreds of times. It’s on my way to practically everywhere.

What goes on inside?

Before venturing any guesses as to what Elite Global Solutions does, let’s talk about the pros and cons of using a generic name. Because, believe it or not, there are some pros.

Sometimes there are good reasons to be vague.

A good friend once explained why he intentionally chose a non-specific name for his company, albeit without any trite buzzwords: he didn’t want to end up pigeonholed by prospects or customers into one line of business. He wanted to be able to take on diverse projects and leave “branding room” for future expansion. And it worked. He’s added services and expanded quite successfully over the years.

Another reason for vagueness, especially with exterior signage, would be if the company doesn’t want passersby to know what they really do, in order to prevent theft of valuable equipment (like recording studios) or for other security issues such as defense or national intelligence reasons.

The downside of a nondescript name seems almost too obvious to mention: you have to market yourself that much harder to explain your business. Of course, that’s assuming you want people to know your business.

So, are you curious to find out what Elite Global Solutions does?

Take this multiple guess test.

Choose one of the possible answers below. Elite Global Solutions is…

a)     a front company for a clandestine CIA operation

b)    a premier software consulting group focused on “Taking your business to a higher level”

c)     one of the nation’s leading marketers of high technology electronic products

d)    a premium manufacturer of heavyweight melamine display ware

e)     a discreet medical marijuana dispensary

One answer is correct:

a) I don’t think so, but you never know. Then again, it could be a covert government contractor, like a Haliburton or Blackwater.

b) Close, but no cigar. However, the description is from a real company with a similar name. And for a group of software professionals, they could use a good web designer.

c) No, but it sounds a lot like the kind of language technology companies use.

d) Winner! This is the correct answer. They make melamine plates and export them worldwide. Who woulda thunk it?

e) Just kidding. Although such places usually don’t want to attract much attention. Not that I would know.

Now when you think Elite Global Solutions, maybe you’ll think of melamine plates, or at least food service. But for such a nondescript name, I do like their tag line: “Serving the world, one plate at a time.”

What are some of your favorite nondescript company names? Can you even recall them?

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8 responses to “Why Choose a Nondescript Company Name?

  1. As a kid, there was a business on the way into town with just the company name displayed on the signage, no tagline. They had a small parking lot full of company cars with, again, just the company logo and name: “Genus’. I thought it was a mis-spelling of ‘Genius’, but apparently not. They’re worldwide suppliers of top-quality bull semen. Wish I could remember what they’re logo looked like.

    • Wow, Tammy, that’s a beaut! I vaguely remembered the word “genus” from biology (but looked it up anyway), so that name makes sense. Some designer could’ve had fun with that logo!

  2. Thanks for clarifying things. I never would have guessed this company was about plates – though I did wonder about this same company!

    Now you need to solve the mystery of the building at the corner of Arroyo Vista and Empresa: GISH? (I may have forgotten the exact name.) They say they do bio-medical something. When we pass by, we guess about what this company actually does. You never see anyone coming or going from there.

  3. Thanks for alerting me to this company. My search for Melamine plates is over.

    Also having checked their website I can see that their ‘purpose’ is one that men with erectile dysfunction everywhere will understand.

  4. I think my favorite one of those was Kowloon Wholesale Seafood Co., the original name of the ad agency that is responsible for the Jack in the Box turnaround. The agency is called Secret Weapon Marketing now, but I loved that the name of an ad agency had NOTHING to do with advertising.

    • Tim, great example. Evidently the agency’s legal name is still Kowloon Wholesale Seafood Co., but they added Secret Weapon to avoid confusion. I was fortunate enough to hear the agency founder, Dick Sittig, speak at an ad club luncheon. It was sort of surreal hearing the voice of “Jack” coming from this guy standing at the podium. Very entertaining as well as intelligent. Here’s an interview where Sittig explains the story behind the Kowloon name:

      Q: Where did the Secret Weapon Marketing name come from?

      A: The legal name of the firm is still Kowloon Wholesale Seafood Co. When it came time to form an agency, I didn’t want to name it after myself, the tradition in advertising. I wanted the clients to be famous and us in the background. I thought, “We’re their secret weapon.”

      Q: Why Kowloon Wholesale Seafood Co.?

      A: I thought we should be really secret, so we needed a false name. Our original offices had the Kowloon sign on the door and a false front in the lobby.

      Q: What happened?

      A: We were too clever by half. When we started entering award contests, it confused the judges. City health officials came by to inspect our refrigerators.

      Q: How did it end?

      A: We went to Stuttgart for a meeting with Porsche. These German guys couldn’t understand why they were talking to the Kowloon Wholesale Seafood Co. about the launch of their new SUV. On the plane ride home, we decided to call ourselves Secret Weapon Marketing.

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