Dave Murray

Working with Ann Arbor’s Branding Team, Pt. 2

Working with Ann Arbor’s Branding Team, Pt. 2

In Working with Ann Arbor’s Branding Team, Pt. 1, I walked you, our latest gutsy entrepreneur, through the first three parts of our zany branding process. We helped you figure out your “why.” We taught you the importance of focusing on one product per brand. And finally, we did the research so we could come up with all kinds of little tricks and strategies to keep you top-of-mind when it comes to current and prospective clients.

And that was just the beginning!

Our Gutsy Branding Process

Naming Your Gutsy Brand!

It’s time, gutsy entrepreneur. It’s time to come up with one of the most important parts of your brand – and yet, a part that is far too often governed by ignorance. But fret not! Because naming your own gutsy brand is one of the reasons we get paid the big bucks!

Not the huge $80,000 that some firms charge for brand naming, of course. Maybe we should just get into the naming business. Kidding!

The topic of naming your gutsy brand could take a few blog posts on its own – hmmm, that might not be a bad idea – so here are the highlights:

Use a Made-up Word!

We start out trying to come up with made-up words for three reasons:

1. Google loves a branded search
2. You likely won’t run into trademark problems
3. Your made-up word may end up standing for the category, like “Kleenex” for tissues

Those are gigantic upsides to coming up with a made-up word, which is obviously why we do it. But if you, our gutsy friend, are allergic to having a killer brand – ah, my legendary bluntness – then we’ll use regular words. But there’s a catch.

We won’t use generic words!

When we say “generic words,” we mean words that are far too common, or have multiple meanings, because if they’re already defined, they can’t define a category.

When Vanessa and I went out on our own, our first brand was called “Good Stuff Studios.” And, my gutsy entrepreneurial friend, it doesn’t get much more generic than that. “Good” is subjective, so it doesn’t really mean anything. “Stuff” is about as generic as it gets. And as for “Studios,” that could be any kind of studio – design, music, dance, video, movie, etc.

Mayniax Branding - Name the Branding Mistakes in the Good Stuff Studios Logo!

What I’m saying is we chose an awful brand name early on. But when it comes to you, we know better! We wouldn’t dream of using words like “group,” “technology,” “business,” “solutions,” “systems,” “company,” “good,” “stuff,” “studios,” etc.

Name the Branding Mistakes!

Especially since the goal in the first place is to use a made-up word.

Sidenote: I should’ve been way more into Dr. Seuss.

The “Word”

This is one of the easiest parts of branding for us, because you likely won’t fight us on it!

At this point in the game, we’ve chatted quite a bit. We’ve gotten to know ya, and have probably all drank 10 times our combined body weights in caffeine. We have a good idea of who you are, and you have a good idea of who we are.

And so we start throwing words out there that remind us of you. The ultimate goal being that the word we all come up with will remind people of your brand, which will ultimately remind people of the category your brand’s in. It’s another top-of-mind thing.

We come up with the right word, we all celebrate over some red eyes, and now it’s time to start bringing this whole thing together!

And notice we haven’t even gotten to your logo yet! That’s because that’s part of the strategy, and we’re still nailing down your culture. Don’t worry, we’ll get to it.

It’ll just require a little more caffeine.

In Closing

Stay tuned for Pt 3 of our Working With Ann Arbor’s Branding Team series, and we’ll catch ya next time.

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!