Building a brand is no easy task. A lot of people assume that their brand is just a logo or a specific selection of colors, but the truth is that there’s so much more to it than that. A brand is actually a company’s reputation – the things that people think about them, and the image that they have both online and offline. In today’s digital world, every company has a brand whether they like it or not. A world of review forums and social media channels means that there’s a constant conversation happening about today’s businesses, and the only way firms can set themselves up for success is to take control of their brand image. Here’s how groups can define their brand in 2018.

1. Begin with an Online Audit

The first step in effectively defining a brand, is figuring out what people are already saying about the company in question. Unless a business is brand-new, it probably already has some reviews and information lingering online. Conducting a quick google search and using social media listening tools can allow companies to find out what people are saying about their organization, and whether public perception fits with their image goals.

2. Establish a Vision

Once a company knows what people think or feel when they see their brand, they can begin to decide how they want to alter perception. Some brands will want to come across as sophisticated and professional, while others will want to be seen as friendly and informal. Companies will need to decide in advance what kind of personality they want to embrace for their brand, and how they can start taking steps to put that image in place.

3. Create a Verbal Identity

After a business chooses its personality, it will need to start taking steps to bring that identity to life through things like content marketing, advertising, and even social media marketing. The things a business does and says online shines through into their brand. A good way for organizations to make sure that they’re choosing the right verbal identity, is to evaluate their customer personas and mimic the voice and tone their target audience uses. This will help to create a brand that resonates.

4. Create a Visual Identity

Once the company has finished setting its verbal identity, it can begin to build on that image with visual assets. For instance, a playful company might choose animations and illustrations to bring life to it’s website and marketing materials instead of brand photography, to give it a more “fun” atmosphere. On the other hand, an organization looking to create an identity of authority and trustworthiness might use photos, graphs, and colors that promote feelings of loyalty, like blue.

5. Maintain Consistency

Finally, no matter the type of identity a company chooses to create, it’s important to maintain consistency. Customers develop relationships with the brands they get to know, and it’s hard to do that when the company is always changing its image and values. Consistency creates a sense of familiarity that can eventually lead to loyalty and commitment.