Dave Murray

Personal Branding in Ann Arbor

Personal Branding in Ann Arbor

I love Ann Arbor

I mean sure, it has its problems – For instance, Ann Arbor was voted the most educated city in the United States in 2015. Wait, how’s that a problem? Well, ya see, what that study really said is that people in A2 stayed in school for a really long time. And, when your job is to build brands around entrepreneurs, when many of the most successful ones in history didn’t graduate from college or even high school, that doesn’t impress one all that much.

Then there’s Plymouth Road, where there are blinking yellow lights that are supposed to mean “stop.” And while we all know yellow lights – even the blinking kind – are supposed to mean “caution” or “slow down,” in reality, we all know they really mean, “Hurry so we don’t have to stop!” Hooray for staying in school a really long time, A2 denizens!

And finally, there’s the reputation Ann Arbor has outside her fair limits – a reputation of snobbery. I have to say, I’ve lived here for over nine years, and have yet to come across that. Of course, I’m classically unobservant, so a lot of people have said I probably just don’t notice when people are being snobs. I certainly make room for that scenario – but the fact remains, I haven’t noticed untold snobification.

“Wait, I thought this guy said he loves Ann Arbor?”

Before I go on, I’d be remiss not to mention this blog post was suggested by our social media queen, Stefanie Mitchell – Twitter: @stefcherelle – who sent me an email that read, “Write something like this about Ann Arbor.” “This” is a Forbes article entitled “9 Personal Branding Reasons to Love New York.”


And so I was gonna write something similar, talking about A2’s young professionals and tech scenes. I was gonna write about networking and my firm belief that if you can make it here, you can make it anywhere – thus borrowing from the aforementioned article and proving NYC’s just a proving ground for Ann Arbor. Heh heh.

But I’m not gonna do that. Instead, I’m gonna tell you why I love Ann Arbor – with a personal branding twist, of course. Because it’s actually very personal to me.

Mayniax Branding - Red Glasses and The Cube - a match made in A2!

Growing up in Jackson, Michigan

Yours truly, along with my sister, parents, Hortence and Sniffy – our two cats – moved to Jackson when I was nine. And I was mad! You see, mom and dad had done a lot of research on area schools, and decided to enroll me in Catholic school. I, of course, had no idea what that meant, but I do know that – to this day – I hate navy blue pants. I was mad because I had no idea what Catholic school was, I just knew I’d always gone to regular schools in California and Nevada, prior to moving to Jackson.

I attended Catholic schools in Jackson from the middle of fourth grade through senior year. And I gotta tell ya, while it was never explicitly stated, there was an underlying message: love thy neighbor unless they’re different.

Now before I go on, I wanna say that I got along with everyone. I was – and obviously still am – insanely short, but that wasn’t enough to raise the ire of my classmates. I was, after all, a straight white kid.

In fifth grade, I had to stop a fight because a heavy kid was about to get beat up – in front of a throng of parents.

In high school, more kids sold drugs than we had kids who weren’t white.

Also in high school, a girl committed suicide because she was mercilessly teased for the “sin” of being gay.

Love thy neighbor unless they’re different.

I was lucky to get out of there still being the man my parents taught me to be, but I still fight those with that “love thy neighbor unless they’re different” mentality.

Who Wants a Throwdown?

I argue with people whose asinine beliefs say simply being gay is a sin. How exactly? They’re just out there doing their thing like everyone else. Besides, I’m pretty sure whichever deity’s actually in charge is shaking his head saying, “How the crap could you think I meant that’s a sin!?!” And then he goes to get drunk on whiskey before realizing he created a place where even he can’t get drunk. D’oh!

Love thy neighbor unless they’re different.

And I’m absolutely speechless whenever I encounter racists. Seriously, they make me so mad I can’t even speak. Not to mention I’m in awe of the sheer stupidity required to be a racist. To be a racist, you have to hate just to hate. And have the I.Q. of a dead earthworm, of course. I saw too much of it growing up, and encounter it nearly every time I’m in a rural area. And I simply don’t get it. I never have. And I never will.

Love thy neighbor unless they’re different.

My friend, Chris – Twitter: @radiohostchris – who will be helping us launch a podcast in the next couple months, used to work in Farmington. He told me whenever he’d go for a walk and say hi to a little old lady, she’d just look away and hurry passed him. “But whenever I’m walking around Ann Arbor, if I ask a little old lady how she’s doing, she’ll say, ‘I’m fine, young man. How are you?’”

Mayniax Branding - Chris Lee Potcaster Extraordinaire and Lover of Our Logo

I’m not one who likes the words “tolerance” and “acceptance” – I think they denote having to put up with something. But Ann Arbor, in spite of the problems I mentioned at the beginning of this post, doesn’t seem like it’s accepting or tolerating anything. Instead, it seems to be welcoming, even embracing, everyone.

And Ann Arbor’s not just about embracing people for things they can’t – nor should they want to – control. Nope, Ann Arbor’s gonna welcome the weirdest, craziest people they can find. Hell, Ann Arbor welcomed me! And no one bats an eye when I walk around downtown with a red t-shirt and red Chucks. Because Ann Arbor doesn’t care. Ann Arbor’s cool with ya just being you. And that’s the greatest thing ever for a personal brand – told ya I’d get there.

Mayniax Branding - The Michigan and State Theatres

Your personal brand is simply who you are. And when you’re in an environment that won’t judge you for being that, you actually get to BE who you are. I never felt like I could truly be me in Jackson. There was too much I didn’t like about my experiences there. Too much “love thy neighbor unless they’re different.” Ann Arbor’s not perfect, and I’m not ignorant enough to think racism, homophobia – not to mention a whole lot of other judgment – doesn’t exist here, but I don’t know anyone who would use those words to describe it.

So why do I love Ann Arbor? Easy: I get to be me. And there’s nothing cooler for a person, or a personal brand.

So sayeth King Dave of Ann Arbor!

Dave Murray Mayniax Branding King Dave of Ann Arbor 2

Stay gutsy!

If you’re looking for branding help in the Ann Arbor / Ypsilanti area, feel free to get a hold of us at And don’t forget to visit our About page, just to see if you’d wanna work with us, anyway.

Oh, and you should probably fill your coffee cup. It’s getting low.

Dave Murray

Branding in Ann Arbor – The Basics

Branding in Ann Arbor – The Basics

For this happening post, I’ll be writing about branding in everyone’s favorite Tree Town: Ann Arbor, Michigan! This is a first for me, since I usually share branding and brand strategy tips for gutsy business owners and entrepreneurs everywhere. But fret not, denizens of fair Earth! You shall be able to apply these lessons to your happenin’ hamlet, as well.

And now I’m gonna stop typing like I’m from another time.

Naming Your Gutsy Ann Arbor Brand

What’s in a name? Well, everything if you’re thinking strategically. We constantly tell people brand names should be made-up words. That way, if good brand strategy’s applied, those made up words could one day stand for categories, such as Kleenex for tissue, Google for search, and Windex for window cleaner.

How do you come up with a made-up word?

– If you’re lucky enough to have an unusual last name, see if you can get
– What words describe you? Come up with a few, mix up some letters, and see what shows up.
– You could always do what Google and us did: come up with a new spelling for an existing word.

We like made-up words because they’re easy to trademark and – once your brand gets popular enough to be searched on Google – it’ll be the only thing that shows up. Plus, Google digs a branded search. Even with that rationale, many people want to stay general with their names. It’s not exactly gutsy, but we still do what we can to help. With that, what’s the one thing the entrepreneurs of fair Ann Arbor should never do when naming their brands?

This one’s easy. Ready? Ann Arbor area entrepreneurs should never put “Ann Arbor,” “Arbor,” “A2,” or any other names that stand for good old Tree Town, in their brand name.

That seems kind of counter-intuitive, doesn’t it. “But Dave, we’re in Ann Arbor! Why wouldn’t we want to use the town’s name?” Here’s why: because everyone uses the town’s name! That makes it even more general / generic that the already general / generic local business names that litter Ann Arbor.

I did a quick search “Ann Arbor” search on Google. The pic below’s what I found:


Reasons beyond “Ann Arbor” being too general in your brand name:

1. People don’t want to type a long name, and “Ann Arbor” is already three syllables and eight – nine if you count the space – characters. You want your name as short as possible, so adding “Ann Arbor,” or any variation thereof, is making things tougher than they have to be.

2. If your name starts with “Ann Arbor,” it’ll never be on page one for an “Ann Arbor” search, and might not even be suggested by Google in the search bar.

Designing a Logo for Your Gutsy Ann Arbor Brand

Check out this image – our second Instagram pic:


Notice the huge block M? Yeah, that’s the University of Michigan’s block M. And it’s kind of a big deal around here. Die-hard Wolverine fans worship at its blocky serifs. Die-hard Buckeyes fans grow angry at the very mention of it – or maybe they’re just angry because their team plays in a shoe. And gets cheap tattoos.

But I digress.

Even if some people in Ann Arbor don’t like the University of Michigan, or give a crap about the block M, they understand its power, and the power of its colors. So naturally, what do they do? They make their logos maize and blue. And even your humble branders aren’t immune to such things. Vanessa’s and my first business, Good Stuff Studios, fell prey to this thinking, as well.


See the history of Vanessa and I working together at our About page.

So what happens when everyone’s logos are maize and blue? Simple: they lose their differentiation. They’re just pretending. They’re just trying for their own block M.

In 2014, Vanessa and I did a logo study you can get to by clicking Do People Forget Your Brand Because Your Logo Sucks? If you want to know the right colors to use for your logo, check it out. And as a bonus, in a town dominated by yellows and blues, the right color to use is red.

Remember to keep your as simple at the block M, the Apple logo, or Target. Simplicity wins the day in everything. Even logo design.

Creating a Tagline for Your Gutsy Ann Arbor Brand

I could write a blog on just taglines. In fact, I could probably write quite a few of them. But for now, let’s keep it simple. Let’s assume you decided to keep your business in Ann Arbor. You may add a couple locations, but you want to keep them all in Tree Town. Well guess what, I’m gonna let you use “Ann Arbor,” now. That’s right, folks! If you plan on keeping your business in A2, you could throw it in your tagline. You could start it with “Ann Arbor’s Original…” and go from there.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned by having a business in Ann Arbor, it’s that people almost have an unnatural need to help our local businesses. So, while putting “Ann Arbor” in your name is bad for brand strategy reasons, putting it in your tagline could have a great impact on your future earnings.


If you’d like to know more about our tagline process – or anything branding-related – fill out the form on our Contact page. Hell, ask us about Ann Arbor and we’ll get back to ya. We dig this crazy town!

Well, I think that’s all I’ve got to say about that. Remember to get a hold of us with any questions. Remember to have fun. But most importantly, remember to never set foot in an oversized horseshoe.

Stay gutsy, gang!