What’s a brand?
Hubspot defines “brand” as a feature or set of features that distinguish one organization from another. While Cambridge Dictionary defines “branding” as the act of giving a company a particular design or symbol in order to advertise its products and services.
When you think of some of the most iconic brands, the first thing that might come to mind is their logos. Or, perhaps their taglines. These components along with the consumers’ perception are what makes a brand what it is.
If you’ve ever scrolled through Mark Omlor’s posts on LinkedIn, you’d quickly see he’s an expert in all things branding. And, as a Tampa-based designer who specializes in brand refreshes and rebrands, Mark is a go-to resource.
In this Q&A, we learn about Mark’s background, how he gets himself out of creative ruts, and more.
What motivated you to pursue a design career?
I channeled my early childhood creativity into graphic design classes in high school. By sophomore year, I had the feeling that I could make a career out of it. I originally wanted to do t-shirt graphics, then poster and print design. By the time I graduated college, I was close to niching down to where I am today. If you’re fortunate enough to have a passion and a viable career path intersect, lean into it. I’m not saying you’ll “never work a day in your life,” but the daily grind will feel more purposeful. Not to mention these career paths are much easier to scale and nurture on a long-term basis.
We all find ourselves in creative ruts from time to time. What do you do to get yourself out of one?
A mentor of mine once told me “You have to stop working to start working.” It’s an idea that’s stuck with me for some time.
Creativity doesn’t spark up by sitting in front of screens all day. Lived experiences – in the physical world – are the driving force of creativity. Get outside, be in nature for a while, get your 10,000 steps in, soak in some sunshine and fresh air.
Take some time to unplug a little and allow inspiration to naturally make its way back to you. This is why living in Florida has been a big advantage. The natural environment–and all of its variety–is designed to make you feel good. But, wherever you live, there’s always an opportunity to step away from the computer and have creativity replenish itself.
What are some key components to building a strong brand identity?
A strong brand identity is simple, distinct, and relevant.
Simplicity in your design leads to greater versatility. This will also make it easy to reproduce in various formats and colorations. Your branding will rarely be seen isolated on a blank white page. Don’t design too plainly, but be mindful of where your brand identity will live in a real-world setting.
The right amount of simplicity will make a design distinct. Strive to create a brand identity that people can recall effortlessly. If they can roughly sketch your logo on a napkin, that’s a good thing. Memorability should never be seen as an insult. If your logo is easily remembered, so is your company.
Lastly, you want to consider the brand identity’s personality. Does it express the desired feeling you’re trying to present? A relevant brand personality can be brought to life through color choices, font stylizations, even something as simple as how an icon is constructed. Consideration to detail is crucial here. When the visuals and the persona match up, the overall brand identity feels natural.
When should a company consider a brand refresh? What are the benefits of doing so?
As companies evolve, their brand identities are expected to reflect the current marketplace.
A logo that looks dated will do you no favors. If you stayed the same while all the companies in your industry changed, refreshed their identities, and found newer ways of communicating with their audience, then you’d end up losing your competitive edge.
It’s important that your audience feels like your brand reflects them, and if your brand feels like it’s behind the times, that bond can weaken.
The attention to your brand identity is a reflection of the attention you give your company as a whole. So, from outdated logos to shifting audiences, the reasons to do a brand refresh make themselves known in one way or another.
When it’s time to do a brand refresh, it’s important to frame the decision as an investment into an appreciating asset. This is your first impression for many that are getting to know your business, make it count.
A brand refresh allows you to maintain consistency across all forms of media, breathe new life into your company, retain and attract customers, and ensure your company image keeps up with the constantly changing marketplace. In short, a brand refresh positions your company as a business of today.
Is there a national and/or global brand you think knocks it out of the park when it comes to branding? What makes it so powerful?
Nike will forever be one of my favorites for all aspects of branding. They are one of the masters of selling a feeling (as opposed to selling a product).
Nike’s core philosophy that every person is an athlete has become a versatile brand story that anyone can make their own. With each passing trend in design, they succeed at being timeless and with the times all at once.
Nike is one of few companies that has unquestioned brand power in their own respective industry. The swoosh is unmistakable, it triggers an immediate thought response, and you can hardly go a day without seeing it. Brand power like that makes you the cool brand, the refined brand, the worldly brand. Consumers want you, and the competition wants to be you.