By Elizabeth Brill, Graphic Designer

A few weeks ago, my husband Andrew and I decided to venture up into the North Georgia mountains and enjoy a weekend of peace, hiking in the beautiful outdoors. Now, we have very different opinions when it comes to hiking, and this fact will quickly come into play. I enjoy trails for the fact that they are clear (most of the time), and usually if you follow said trail, there is a minimal chance of getting lost. Andrew enjoys exploring and going off the beaten path, which can often result in getting lost.

The night before our first hike, Andrew mentioned to me that he found a “shortcut” that would take us right from our cabin and spit us out onto the trail – we’d just have to climb over a “very small” mountain to get to it. Thinking he was joking, I laughed it off until the next morning when I realized he was actually serious about it. Not wanting to be blamed for my husband getting lost in the wilderness alone, I decided I had no other choice but to go with him.

So, we started out on the hike and after climbing through dense bushes, over dead tree logs, and into several spider webs, I soon realized going off the beaten path was a grave mistake. To my disappointment, this “shortcut” ended up lasting the entire morning. We wove our way through the woods walking in one direction and then another, descending steep hills and keeping an eye out for any bugs, bears, or snakes. Our clothes were dusted with a thin layer of dirt, our limbs covered in scratches from briars, and our legs sore from climbing. Morale was at an all-time low. Although my husband put on a brave face, I did not hide the fact that I was feeling lost, scared, and confused. There were several times where I voiced my intention to give up and call the authorities to come airlift me out.

However, five hours later, we finally found ourselves on the trail. We walked until we saw signs of other people, which I had not seen all day. When we approached the waterfall we had set out to see that morning, a rush of relief and joy spread through my body. We made it, and we were still alive! This journey was probably the most difficult thing we’d gone through together, but we mostly kept a clear head and made it through to the other side.

As we were walking home (on the side of the road, because I vowed to not step foot back into the woods), I kept thinking about how I would tell this story and what lessons I learned from this experience, realizing that it could serve as a cautionary tale when it comes to branding. Your brand is your trail. The more you venture off the trail, the more you will confuse your customers until they (and you) are totally lost. Sure, it’s enticing to use those shortcuts that you think could take your company the right way, but if they aren’t consistent with your brand you’ll end up wasting time and possibly losing the attention of your patrons. Think about how bewildering it would be to drive up to McDonalds and not see golden arches, but a purple curly “M” staring back at you. If I were that customer I would think I drove to the wrong place and leave.

So, how do you get out of the woods? By staying on the trail. Stick to your brand – the logo, color palette and voice is all there to help you convey to your viewers that this is YOUR company. When everything is clearly laid out for you, the easiest choice you can make is the one we should’ve made on that fateful morning: to not get distracted and stay on the right path.