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 unusuallastname.com
– 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!