Published May 20, 2008
Volume 16, Number 5

Oilpress! Helps Find the Character Behind the Brand  

Katherine and Mark Oehlschlager have focused their consultancy on brand identity. (Photo courtesy Oilpress!)

By Nicole Zaro Stahl

Branding is a hot topic in corporate strategy sessions these days, and not just because the culture has become so label conscious. With so many markets inundated by a flood of competitors, a well-articulated brand identity helps products stand out from the clutter. “Smarter companies recognize the long-term value of a strong brand that generates feelings of trust, affection, or loyalty,” comments brand-design expert Mark Oehlschlager “A strong relationship with the customer can help weather a lot of challenges.” 

With his wife and creative partner Katherine, Oehlschlager has been operating Oilpress!, a brand design consultancy, in Hacienda for the past four years. “We help clients define and articulate the brand personality and demonstrate the value proposition they can offer, and then translate that into a visual identity—brand mark, logo, type face, color scheme, and whatever collateral (brochures, reports, etc.) that follows.”

According to Oehlschlager, there are many textbook definitions of “brand.” “In my view, it is the spirit of an organization, product, or service that conveys a value proposition and the earned reputation. Companies like BMW or Starbucks are seen as having certain attributes. They stand for something, they have a value proposition that’s unique. This is the basis on which not just customers but employees and other stakeholders form tight, loyal relationships.”

Both graduates of UC Davis, Katherine zeroed in on graphic design early in school, while Mark came at it “through the back door,” his academic training in set design. “In retrospect, I can see a clear and natural overlap between theater and my brand design interests. In the theater, the work centered around character analysis and understanding the story line, translating them into visual expressions in terms of costumes and settings,” he explains. “There is a direct parallel between that and the analysis we do with commercial entities, trying to animate something abstract, finding the person or character within and giving it visual form.” 

Targeting itself as a design shop for small and mid-size firms, Oilpress! has the capabilities to help entrepreneurs build a brand from scratch or assist established operations with brand repositioning. When starting with a clean canvass, the team tries to isolate the unique opportunity the client has discovered and uncover the driving passion. “The discovery process pinpoints the overlap between opportunity and passion--the meaningful and unique position to own in the marketplace. This is the core of a strategy to develop a brand, before translating it into a visual identification.”

Repositioning entails a different line of thinking. An established brand might not be aging well, or perhaps there was a loss of management focus. “Looking backward, we determine whether there was an original, well-conceived sense of purpose. We also ask which values invested in the brand as it is currently understood does the client want to carry forward to sharpen its focus? It goes far beyond questions of type style and colors. We pride ourselves on the fact that our designs are connected to a meaningful strategy.” For more information, visit www.oilpress.net.


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