Build Better Brands - simple tools for success | Nigel Reyes | Skillshare

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Build Better Brands - simple tools for success

teacher avatar Nigel Reyes, Creative Director at Agency-R

Watch this class and thousands more

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

8 Lessons (33m)
    • 1. Build Better Brands Intro

    • 2. Brand Process Basics

    • 3. The Brand Audit - Part One

    • 4. The Brand Audit - Part Two

    • 5. Brand Audit Tools

    • 6. The Brand Platform

    • 7. Bonus - Client Case Study

    • 8. Outro

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About This Class


In this class, you will learn how to craft better brands from the outset by following a few critical steps before any design work begins.

We first break down the branding process into its basic steps and then focus on helping you to get the most out of the preliminary information-gathering phases.

Students will learn about some easy-to-use tools they can adapt to their needs and put them to use in the class project.


  • We tackle the importance of the Brand Audit 
  • Provide tips on how to run a Brand Lab or Brand Workshop with staff or clients
  • Advise on key areas of research to fully understand and define a brand

Finally, we show you how to create a simple Brand Platform which will become the launchpad for the design and creative work. The platform combines all of the findings and insights into a framework that summarises the core values and characteristics of the brand. 

Tools and methods shown are based on tips and techniques that we use at our agency but suitably adapted to the needs of small companies, start-ups and freelancers.

Some basic prior knowledge of the Branding Process is an advantage, but not essential to follow this course.

Meet Your Teacher

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Nigel Reyes

Creative Director at Agency-R


Creative Director & Senior Consultant at Agency-R, a global branding consultancy focusing on SMEs, Technology Start-Ups and Brand Education.

Previously Director of Marketing & Communications in the Airline, Aerospace, Retail and Start-Up sectors.

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1. Build Better Brands Intro: everybody. My name is Nigeria's on the creative director at Agency, our global communications consultancy, specialising in the design and development of brands and brand identities. It's my pleasure today to be able to step up to the school share challenge on deliver. The first in a series, of course, is where we will share with you some of our favorite tips, techniques and ways of working that will help you to craft a solid brand strategy. Now, this course, we're gonna be focusing on the earlier information gathering steps. This is essentially everything that goes on before you pick up a palomino six to start sketching or before you launch into your favorite administration software as creative director, I fully understand the temptation that exists, who want to skip all of the procedural stuff and hope that someone actually read the clients brief in the first place. But I hope that after we've worked through the next few, Joe's will have a better appreciation off why we need to do some of this work up front on before any of the design and creative work actually begins. By the end of the cost, you'll be able to confidently establish What we refer to as a brand platform on this is a simple but very powerful document that will guide and accompany you through the rest of the branding process. So do join me for the first in the series and the building better brands. 2. Brand Process Basics: following a branding process is good practice to ensure that nothing gets left out of the equation. Think of it as a sort of workflow or check list of tasks that needs to be accomplished. When we apply the blending process. We have two main goals in mind. The first is to find clarity to find the purpose and meaning for the brand. And the second is to achieve coherency both in the way that the brand will be designed and eventually had the brand will be expressed. Achieving parity is all about organizing and filtering everything that can be said about your brand product or services and finding a uniqueness or point of differentiation that will make you stand out and be noticed once this has been found. It is then the role of design, communication and brand management that will help you continue to craft and express the brand in a coherent manner. The process of building of brands can be broken down in a number of different ways. In the case, I show here referred to a simple model than our agency uses. Organized mainly around the services that we provide, it tends to reflect the composition of the different teams or individuals who will contribute a different stages of a project. But it's equally applicable to your needs, even if you are the sole employee or a freelancer, setting out to create a brand for yourself or for your client are run Building Process Recognizes six Key Stages. Brother Research, Grand Strategy, Brent Creation, Brent Communications Brand Management on brand measurement I've deliberately shown the process. Here is a cycle even if some of these actions will obviously run concurrently, The reason is that a brand's never really sleeps. It continuously evolves, and it could go through a series of changes throughout its lifetime, including rebranding. You see that the later stages of this process focused on what happens once you brandis designed and deployed brands need to be measured and benchmarked for performance. Think of a less a sort of health check that allows you to repeat the process and make adjustments in the future. Brands also need to be managed whether it is keeping assets updated or ensuring that partners outlets and marketing collateral or reflect the core values and principles of your brand. We're recovering these subjects in more depth in future courses If you're a smaller organization or working freelance and only part of the process, then it's likely that your role will end with a final set of deliverables, such as branding elements or an identity kit. In this case, the process could be simplified to research design, implementation on delivery, leaving the metrics and the management to another agency or to the client themselves. The main point to retain here, however, is that there is work to be done upfront before any of the design work actually begins. So today we're going to be focusing on the earlier steps of the process, beginning with research on leading to the development of a robust strategy for your brand. The next module will look at what needs to be done as part of a brand. 3. The Brand Audit - Part One: welcome back. I'm sure many of you have experienced a similar situation at some point or another, where we receive a client's brief on its relatively clear about what they want. And if you're really lucky, they'll have provided all of the information that they deem to be relevant, at least according to their point of view. So we'll rummaged through a limited set of images and knowledge in our heads, and hopefully someone will suddenly and instinctively think, Well, I think I've got the solution. The reality, unfortunately, is that even with these rare moments of inspiration and enlightenment, it would be extremely unwise to jump straight to Step three the design phase and start designing. At best, we only really have half the story at this point. So in order to make our best judgment, we need information. Now. This is not masses of data or theory, but instead simple, relevant, targeted info that reveals the essence of the brand and the environment in which is going to operate. And this is where the brand old it comes in. I mentioned the word audit, and most people will run a mile. Rest assured, it doesn't have to be boring. I certainly hope that it won't be on. There's no reason to be afraid of it. It's simply a great way of obtaining insight and information to help reveal the unique aspects of a brand or your client's brand A brand or did offer needs to be scaled according to the type of organization that you're dealing with. For instance, a large multinational will have multiple touch points. Transcend cultural and political borders on may even be perceived as completely different in one country compared to the next. By comparison, if we take a smaller business, they may be starting out locally. They were primarily interface directly with neighboring communities. But who knows? With a little prompting. You may actually find out that they do have ambitions for international expansion, and you need to take those into account. In both cases, we see the importance of obtaining the big picture and balancing it with the longer term view. So whilst the death of our inquiry may not be the same, the principles of what we're trying to achieve through the brand on it will be the same handled. It will involve some or all of the following techniques. First up is research, which can be conducted both online and offline. A competitor analysis, which looks at both direct and indirect competitors we can use question is to conduct surveys of prospects, consumers or existing customers of the brand. And finally, we can use targeted interviews. These are can be held with, for example, key decision makers within an organization or with a range of company stuff. But not your organization's interviews are probably best suited to a brand workshop where sessions are held with the range of stuff from different parts of the company. This can help stimulate conversation and make it feel a lot less formal. Depending on the scope of your brand project, you can, of course, simply conduct the interview in the form of a question and answer session, which you raise directly at a meeting with your client. So let's take a look at the different types of audit in the next module 4. The Brand Audit - Part Two: when I conducted Brando did. I like to think of it in these terms. We need information that will give us a snapshot of where the brand is today, and we need information that will help us compare it to where we want to go. The gap between the brand today and the brand of the future is really the problem that we're going to solve by applying the entire branding process. So with the brand audits, what we're trying to do at first is benchmark compare performance. We've taken a look at how the brand expresses itself, how the brand conducts itself and we're taking a reality check, really were laying all the cards on the table, which could be a real eye opener for the client at times, even though they often think that they know everything about their brands. We're also pulling in information that is more visionary information that is of strategic importance, and it will help us project the brand into the future on decide what strategy will have in the longer term. The good news is that a lot of this comes from interviews and from observation. When we talk to people who interact with the brand, for example, their customers or on behalf of the brand. Their sales and support staff were essentially trying to identify the main areas of concern and those that require change. At the same time, this exercise is likely to reveal those elements that worked particularly well on could be advantageous to keep even as part of a rebranding. They could come in the form of historical anecdotes or an interesting back story as to how the company came to be or could simply be a. Some element of the logo or visual identity, which perhaps reflects the core values of the brands on could be an interesting start point for the design. So remember, you're going to need to adapt your did technique to the complexity of the project on perhaps the size of the organization will look at some of the tools that you can easily deploy for this in the next video. But first, let's take a look at the different types of audit on what the rains are stop is the visual or that this is where we collect elements such as website screenshots, photos, samples of marketing. Broch is another collateral packaging logos colors, topography, basically anything you can get your hands on to show what the brand looks like today. Build a file, but try and convince your findings into something like a mood board or a similar charts that can be presented easily. Verbal owed. It is a study of the language and style used by a company in both written and spoken communications. This should ideally include samples from press releases. Spokesperson's. If a company has them on the range of printed and digital communications, take a look at the style and tone of voice used. Is it different for different purposes? And what are the preferred words and phrases that the brand uses? Be sure to compile a summarizing documents because no one really wants to read all of those articles again. A behavioral lord, it is particularly useful for services and brands that have direct customer interactions. So, for example, restaurants, check ins, hotels or educational establishments. But it's also applicable to other cases, too. We all see ourselves in a particular way, which may be very different to how others perceive er's, and this is very true for brands. Sometimes brands will be saying one thing for example, we care will do anything for our customers. And yet a quick call to one of their more neglected brand touchpoints, for example, customer services or support will reveal quite the opposite. Two methods that are popular for this type of audit are the structured interview with employees or a blank test where an agency test different channels for themselves by activists. If they were the customer, a sort of external quality control, the competitor analysis can be conducted in two parts. The first part would consist of a broad sweep off the competitive landscape, looking for any perceived threats, barriers to entry or any potential stumbling blocks on the horizon, which could prevent the adoption or the propagation of a brands product or service. The second part would compile a summary off the visual verbal and the behavioral audits that we discussed so far, but this time applied to the brand's top competitors with appear on natural markets. Or that's what we're essentially doing is a study and benchmark off other companies that would fit into one of two criteria. There are organizations that the brand would like to become or aspire to be in the future or they operate in dissimilar markets, but they have certain traits or qualities that could be relevant for the brand, particularly when it projects itself into the future. So now let's take a closer look at some of the tools that we can use during the audit process. 5. Brand Audit Tools: welcome back branding agency were often called upon to tackle accompanies issues. Using an outsider's perspective, there's plenty of reasons why this is best done by an external party. Firstly, it can often be hard for a company's employees to challenge the chief executive head on, for example. It might put them in a position of potential conflict, and many may not feel inclined to speak up about the issues that matter. In some cases, even with a great company culture, it's likely that staff did not fully understand what constitutes their brand, or even what their role within it is, so they need to be guided to volunteer relevant information. This is where using an external resource such as a brand consultancy ensures that a maximum of information can be obtained across the company and can then be presented impartially to the decision makers. Having said that in recent years, many of the techniques and tools have crossed over to the client side. So whether you're going to be taken part in the workshop or you're preparing to conduct yourself, I'm going to show you some of the tools that we use with our clients in order to gain further insight about a brand first up is a classic too many of you may recognize from the marketing community the classic SWAT analysis on a SWAT diagram. You can conveniently plot what people consider to be the strengths and the weaknesses of a brand, as well as identify real or potential threats and opportunities. If you're running this in a workshop, the advantages that everyone will have their say in my experience, one person's comments will often prompt others to contribute to the conversation. And this would not normally happen if you simply conducted individual interviews. And so how do you use the information you record in a SWAT diagram? Well, you'll find that the issues raised in the strengths and the Weaknesses section would often show you those elements of the brand that actually resonates and still resonate with the participants. They themselves are part of the brand or ambassadors of the brands. You will highlight what people value on It reveals issues that create a certain level of doubt about where the brand is headed or could be headed. The opportunities and threats will provide you with valuable insights to help you devise a strategy for the brands. They identified trouble spots or areas that you will need to negotiate or avoid altogether , or at least limit the exposure of the brand on those topics. When it comes to brand communications, they'll also help you to identify niches in the market where the Brighton can really shine through or offer something truly unique. If the number of participants in the session is limited. Or you simply need to cut to the chase because you conduct in this with, say, the CEO, for example, you can use a modified version of the swap tool has shown here. This version tends to be more direct. It sets the ball rolling by provoking the reader, first of all, with some assumptions or statements about the brand that we list us fax. What this tends to do is put people on the defensive. Initially, participants will try to despair, will dismiss any information they don't agree with. But very quickly. I think they'll move into providing what they believe to be the correct version of the facts and so the information will flow, do the same with the barriers and opportunity sections, or simply leave them as a free contribution area and see what roles in. For all of these charts. Raw information should be captured using sticky notes, which can be moved around or mapped accordingly. Don't forget to record the session by simply taking a photograph of the final board. Try the same session with different groups of staff. If possible, this will help to obtain multiple levels of feedback, and it will also prompt further discussions. People agree or disagree with what has been said. We can also run a simple exercise that will help lay the groundwork for creating the brand narrative. Simply put, a brand narrative is going to be the back story about who the brand is, who they are, why they exist. And it may also even produce ideas for content to be used in future brand communications. To make this work, teams will need to be able to sort out what we do from the why we do it. The ideas can be easily captured on the brand's Functional Benefits and Emotional Benefits board. It's important here to capture information that identifies with the core values of the brand or could be seen us. Such a simple example could be to record a functional benefit. Our company policy is to provide you with free 24 hour support for up to 12 months. After your first purchase. The emotional message would be we care, or we embody the spirit of generosity before the audit sessions. Take some time to research the target markets of a brand and compare this with information that you obtained your in the audience. What you may actually find, however, is that many companies and organizations don't really know who their customers are or how to reach them. So make sure you also have a chat with their marketing and sales teams. See if they have produced any customer persona profiles. These are profiles that typically identify or define the type of customer that they expect to interact with and therefore will be trying to sell their services and products to in the future. Marketing would normally produced these, but we've also seen them used by Web designers or people who run the website for the company in order to structure the way that the information is presented online. If you don't have access to these or none exist, use the brand workshop sessions to quickly gather information that will help you create a range of personas. Simply asked participants to describe the customers or people who they typically interact with, and you may need to be specific. In your request, you need to get enough detail to help you identify demographics on be able to segment your audience in the future. This is important because knowing where you will be trying to reach will come in handy later when choosing the type and style of brand communications. Last but not least, is the ring chart. This is a simple way of capturing Q words or phrases that resonate within the organization . It's a valuable exercise where stuff comm plot the core attributes of their organization as they see them in three different areas the past, the present on what they imagine to be the future. I find that this diagram helps identify the core values that could be retained. A swell is flagging up any potential problems that may exist within the organization. The areas of overlap will also provide some useful indication off the extent to which the employees understanding of the brand is actually aligned with the organization's ambitions . The example shown is taken from one of our clients, a technology startup who helped recently to rebrand as the technology start up with a disruptive product and service. They had already broken into the market and started to raise awareness for themselves. However, as an organization, they were also rapidly expanding and found themselves at a crossroads with somewhat of an identity crisis on the hands we can see in these ring diagrams taken from one of the earlier or did sessions that there is a need for the brand to align itself behind the common story, especially as new people come on board and the organization grows internationally. There's a need for coherency in order to gain credibility and respect that's recognized in these charts as well as is the ambition to become global and ubiquitous, which is where they're headed. The two by two matrix. If you're coming from a technical background into the world of branding and communication, you may be more than a little bit surprised to see the relative simplicity of chats used. However, once you start to construct and use them, you realize that they can hold a huge amount of useful data. I guess we just found the lazy way to display it'll, so don't hesitate to construct a two by two matrix that will help you capture information, but also to show the results to your plans, be providing further examples and templates. 6. The Brand Platform: Let's take a look at the components of the brand platform. These are the main areas of the Brown platform, where we record specific statements and informations about the brand. These include a strategic and marketing statement for the brand. Remember, the marketing statement or strategic statement is aspirational. It communicates what you hope to achieve us a company, and it paints a picture of what company's success will look like. Some might compare this to a vision statement, however. In this context, it tends to communicate the role that the organization stands to play in the industry and reflects the goals and priorities expressed in a company strategic plan. We also list the top three values associated with the brand, sometimes called the brand pillars. Next comes a summary of the key targets of the brand. Your target audiences who you plan to reach with your communications. This should be based on market and consumer research to ensure that you're targeting the right people who are likely to be interested in purchasing your product or service. Creating a strong brand will depend on the longer term objectives of relationship building and loyalty, depending on what the company's objectives are the key targets here could also be to reach influences governments or even non profit organizations as part of a long term strategy. Balance this with the key targets from a sales point of view, which might be to reach retailers or end users of a particular product. In the shorter term, the goal here is to align business objectives and brand objectives to a certain degree, and they must be agreed by all stakeholders. Otherwise, it could lead to internal conflict within the organization or simply dilute the brands potential by sending out mixed messaging in the drivers of demand section, we indicate what aspects of the brand product and service will most appeal to the consumer . In other words, what drives their desire to interact with your brand and eventually purchased your products and services? Once again, this is a kind of reality check, combining what we've learned through consumer behavior and the market landscape on bringing in those features that will need to be exposed the most effectively, This is going to be your competitive advantage. What were simply answering here is what does the market want on what will motivate people to want me as the brand at the intersection of the brands, Ambitions and Aspirations lies the brand positioning. What does your brand offer with an emphasis on How do you do it? The goal is to create a unique impression in the customer's mind. So the customer associates something specific and desirable with your brand that is distinct from the rest of the marketplace. Some things you can consider when crafting this statement up. How does the brand fit into the competitive landscape? How is it different to other friends? How do you want customers to perceive your brand? Positioning your brand correctly may mean the difference between being annihilated by the competition or finding that market in sweet spot that allows your brand to be successful. Are you a low cost alternative? Do you want for something that has never been seen before to go with this statement? Whatever you decided is is to make it abundantly clear. The lastly sections of a brand platform are a kind of cascade of concepts that are derived and interpreted from the information that we've recorded so far. The end with a simple but pivotal statement. The brand expression, which serves as the driving force for the creative process that follows. Describing a brand personality is a concept that may seem a little abstract for many at first, but it's a really good way to breathe life into a brand, and it's something that an audience will relate to. The brand personality must showing through in future communications for it to be the most effective on would be a driver for defining the brand voice, a topic we will cover separately in a future course, try and get to the soul of the brand. Define the qualities and values that live at its core and try and imagine the experience of interacting with it. A civet were person brand Personality summarizes the distinct impression that a brand should make, both visually and in written and spoken communications. The brand proposition. This is intrinsically linked with the brand positioning and has to do with the creation of value for the customer. Here we're trying to put everything into the mix the brand personality, the brand values and practical considerations such as the marketplace on the target audiences. The goal is to provide a clear, easy to understand message. We're looking to define the overarching benefit that the brand delivers. Some might call this the brand promise, which is also a valid term. I prefer proposition because it feels more dynamic, something that needs to be done and will be done while supremist can come across a something that remains passive unless it is actually delivered. Either way to get to this one sentence, you'll need to perform the exercise of organizing and prioritizing all of the brands benefits. The result, however, is that we will find clarity, which is something I mentioned in the opening video about the branding process. Last but not least, is the brand expression. If we can take everything, our brand stands for what it offers, what it promises and how it delivers on this will arrive at something that encapsulates your entire brand in only a few words. Although this statement is not necessarily the final strap line tagline or even the motto of the brand, it certainly does lay the foundations for creating one. One way of thinking about the brand expression is that it's a sort of thumbnail or snapshot that will help people understand the brand in an instant and want to interact with it further. It will help in organization. Define an articulate itself both verbally and visually, and it will influence the messages that you want your customers to receive, not forgetting that to build a successful brand. It is ultimately these messages that you will want to control in the marketplace. Let's illustrate this with a real example. 7. Bonus - Client Case Study: So let's illustrate this with a real example. In the past few years, we've seen exponential growth in what many are calling the next technological revolution. Some have dubbed it the Internet of Things or I O. T. There are many facets to the universe of the I O. T. But essentially it's about collecting objects and sensors to the Internet so that they can send us their data. In doing so, we can remotely monitor these devices and receive alerts and then take the appropriate action if required. For example, we can embed sensors in agricultural fields so that crops can tell us precisely when they're thirsty. In that way, we can water them on only when necessary. You can imagine that the industrial and domestic possibilities are endless. The market, unfortunately, has become a hotly contested battle. With numerous players proposing their own solutions, these competing technologies struggled to impose themselves. US. The leading connectivity solution choosing between them is largely a technical decision on not necessarily easily understood or necessarily relevant anyway for the end user or the consumer. One of our clients was a relatively newcomer to the Internet of things. Market on day wanted to rise above the constant technological comparisons. Instead, we helped to craft a solution for them whereby they could make more of an emotional connection with their audience. In doing so, it would serve the purpose of distinguishing the solution from those of their competitors. And it would also make some headway to helping their audience understand the importance of the Internet of things from the earlier audit sessions that we conducted with them, as well as further competitor analysis and research that we carried out. One thing stood out to us. It was the need to try to show that the technology is a simple and it's accessible as possible for the end user. If it was too complicated and not seamless like some of the other competitors, it would turn most people off. In our case, our clients technology was such that it could almost be used without the end user actually needing to be aware that it was there. Furthermore, regardless of the type of object or device, the collectivity solution that they were proposing was all about giving a voice to the physical devices, letting them speak to us in a way in the form of sending data. This effectively gave us the ability to interact with the surroundings and in ways that have not been possible before at such low cost and using such little energy. In order to encourage massive adoption, the company was effectively giving away its protocal basically the way in which the devices could connect to its network. The business reasoning for this would be that they would recuperate costs through brand loyalty, exponential growth of connected devices on the value of big data flowing through the network. Putting all of this information together, we realized that we were dealing with a disruptive game changer. They were the first to be doing this, and it succeeded against all odds by being passionate and challenging the norm. We therefore crafted a strategic statement to include three main points. The network which is their core business, the communication aspect with the physical world and making it abundantly easy for people to have access to the Internet of things. And we highlighted the brand values of simplicity, being a pioneer, being generous on being passionate about what they do. The key target lists grew to include the wider ecosystem of manufacturers and solution providers, hooking them in would mean that they were more likely to propagate the solution us the technology of choice and we listed the general public as a secondary target. In order to boost awareness of these type of solutions, This would set them apart. As a thought leader for this relatively new industry. We settled on a small set of drivers of demand from our market research questionnaires and some interviews that we conducted with analysts and tech journalists in our network. Most of the concerns were centered around these of use, low power or autonomy of the devices as well as reliability. We would have to respond to all of these to ensure future customers are satisfied and ensure that we address these issues in future communications. All things considered, we decided on a positioning statement of providing the simplest solution to access the Internet of things anywhere and everywhere and at the lowest cost. So here what we're really doing This carving a niche for the brand in what has already become a rather saturated than confused marketplace Compared to his competitors, the free protocol approach gave us the idea of pitching. The brand's personality is visionary and generous and we kept disruptive in there to show a sort of mild aggressiveness against some of the industry's giants who had already tried to dismiss their efforts from the outset for the brand's proposition. We had a couple of contenders. The first used the imagery of breathing life into something which we eventually discarded for a more appropriate voice analogy. Similarly, we started out on the road off, talking about making I o T happen sort of version of making it happen with the brand at the center of it as the key enabler. But after much discussion, we felt that this perhaps would go against the idea off them being the brands that was generous. Instead, we turned the idea on its head. I made it all about the customer on the customer's devices. Instead of talking about wheat as a brand, we decided that the brand expression would be about enabling your things and bring in your Internet of things, experience to life, with a few additional tweaks. Here is the final example, as we would have expected it to be signed off by the client. Defining a brand platform means stating all of the elements that make a brand unique. The target groups, which it wants to address the vision that it expresses its personality, its values, its ambition on the promise that it makes to its customers. The brand platform serves a strategic platform from which the positioning of the brand, its message, its visual identity and all the elements and codes which go into forming its identity can be defined. A powerful brand platform is one that reveals what makes the brand singular and unique. Unable to reach its various target groups, it helps to mobilize teams behind a shared vision, and it brings the brand to life, which is essential to sustain in it in the longer term. 8. Outro: thank you for following the first of our courses, helping you to build better brands. I hope you soon be able to apply some of the brand orders and brand platform tools that we've discussed in this course. Remember, without a carefully crafted strategy. Brands always run the risk of being badly designed. If we do not have all of the elements to properly feed the design brief, we may end up with an identity on a brand expression that will best turn out to be confusing. At worst, it may miss your target audience altogether. So while this is still fresh in your mind, take a moment to run an audit or cellphone did of your brand and try constructing a brand platform. Don't forget to share your results and please comment on each other's projects right here on skills. I look forward to seeing your contribution on welcoming you to another course very soon.