Lightly Salted. Be Saline. Over the years, the City of Saline and its community partners have adopted new brand campaigns.
Is the City of Saline ready for a new brand?
Representatives of Saline Main Street appeared before Saline City Council seeking feedback on its new “destination brand.”
Chris Kochmanski, of Design-Hub, and Holli Andrews, Executive Director of Saline Main Street, spoke to Saline City council at the Jan. 7 meeting. Saline Main Street is a non-profit organization dedicated to revitalizing downtown Saline. It works closely with the city on issues like parking, economic development and aesthetics and is funded to some extent, with city tax dollars. Last year the organization’s communications strategy team worked with select members of the community on a new destination brand. They were assisted, at no cost, by Ben Muldrow, of Arnett Muldrow & Associations, on a rebranding effort.
A consultation process helped the communications team zero in on several brand personalities and attributes that Main Street wants to build on. Saline is upscale, friendly, relaxed and family-oriented, they concluded. It is bolstered by a culture of education and while it looks traditional, it has a modern outlook.
“Saline already has a strong brand image. It’s very family-friendly and a great place to raise your family,” Kochmanski said. “We have a destination brand as well. We’re a nice community, very easy to assess and easy to navigate.”
As a result of the process, Saline Main Street has adopted a new destination brand. It starts with a brand story (see below) that traces Saline’s roots back to the Sauk people while playing up modern attributes, such as the downtown restaurants and boutiques.
It spells out brand colors (including the Hornet blue and gold), fonts, and a logo that represents the “four corners” of Saline’s main intersection, as well as the four main subsections of Saline Main Street. Many designs include brick architecture – a nod to the historic buildings downtown. In fact, Muldrow recommended Saline Main Street characterize downtown Saline as “historic Saline.”
“We are an historic downtown. By saying this, it’s shown time and time again, it helps distinguish this part of town from other parts of town. You’re not going to the strip mall areas, you’re going to the traditional center of Saline,” Kochmanski said.
The plan includes potential marketing campaigns centered around the historic nature of the town, salt and taste. It features a series of banners, with slogans like “a perfect pinch of home,” “small town Michigan flavor,” or “Michigan flavor, impeccable taste.” It also features other potential marketing campaigns. One features a salt shaker with the slogan “shake it up.” A potential sweatshirt reads “get salty” and includes the “historic Saline Michigan” logo common to a lot of the marketing pieces.
Saline Main Street has already adopted elements of the campaign. But will it get buy-in from the city? It’s not clear what that would look like or what that means. It could be as simple as changing the city logo to reflect the new typeface and incorporating new design elements.
Councillor Dean Girbach said he liked Saline Main Streets approach was a little concerned about the emphasis on Saline as an upscale town. Girbach said Saline is already sometimes seen as aloof to other communities.
“We’ve been called the Birmingham of Ann Arbor and we have a number of citizens struggling to pay for their needs,” Girbach said.
Kochmanski said that is a concern. He noted that one reason Saline Main Street backed away from “Uptown,” what many old-timers still call Saline, is because of the connotation of snobbishness.
“On the other hand, Saline is what it is. It’s very upscale,” Kochmanski said. “It’s one reason why people come here. We want to convey that it’s a really nice place that provides a great experience with terrific restaurants and wonderful stores. In positioning, you can’t win everyone. You go for the best positioning.”
Girbach also expressed come opposition to some of the marketing slogans, like “get salty” or “toss the salt.”
“I don’t mind fund, I just don’t want controversy,” he said.
Holli Andrews said it’s meant to be fun and a little edgy.
Councillors Linda TerHaar and Heidi McClelland also expressed support for the campaign.
Mayor Brian Marl said the city will continue to talk about the branding issue in the future.