The language used to describe a brand is just as important as its visual identity in connecting with audiences and building brand confidence. If you were to see a logo of an apple with a bite taken out of it, you’d know it represented tech giant Apple. What if you were shown a few sentences of copy from one of its ads or the company’s website? If there was no logo and no product names, would you be able to identify it as coming from Apple? Probably. That’s because Apple has identified a consistent brand voice that’s used across channels.

According to Lingua Brand, globally brands spend $13 billion a year on visual identity but only $2 billion on verbal identity. That could be due to the fact that with visual identifiers, such as logos, it’s easier to gauge feedback. Just look at Gap’s unsuccessful logo redesign in 2010. There was such backlash that the brand promptly went back to its dependable blue box logo. Brand language, on the other hand, is more difficult to assess. It can often be overlooked until a business realizes it’s losing traction with customers and falling behind competitors.

Identify the brand voice. Brands can begin to identify their voice by describing their customers. What matters most to customers? What are their likes and dislikes? Where are they in their lives? What things do they relate to? What adjectives describe them?

Then, it’s about ascertaining what customers should think about the brand. Does the brand want to appear fun, witty and exciting? Or maybe confident, innovative and distinguished. Once those key brand descriptors are identified, they can be defined. For example, what does being confident mean for the brand and its customers?

Set boundaries for a brand’s voice. Create a list of “we are” and “we are not” descriptors, such as, we are confident, we are not arrogant. These boundaries will help with creating an authentic brand voice that truly connects with the audience.

Consistency is key. If a brand uses inconsistent language, the personality doesn’t emerge. In fact, it can be confusing and even disconcerting for readers, which can negatively impact loyalty. Sending mixed messages reduces brand confidence and trust. That’s why it’s important for companies to identify their brand voice and develop guidelines to ensure it’s used consistently. These guidelines describe the personality, communicate language do’s and don’ts, identify the tone and provide direction on how to consistently represent the brand through words and visuals. Developing brand guidelines is especially important for companies with multiple locations and product lines. Every location should refer to the brand in the same way to ensure a consistent message.

Consistency is also important across channels. While social media may have a slightly different tone than print or TV advertising, the tenets of a brand’s personality should remain. Customers should be able to recognize a company across all media and have the same experience no matter where or when they interact with a brand.

Brand language and the consistency with which it’s used impacts overall brand strength, as well as customer trust and loyalty. When used to its full potential, it can be a highly effective differentiator in a crowded marketplace.