Imagine a beautiful garden with pockets of flowering plants, tranquil ponds, and stretches of manicured lawns. Cobblestone walkways wind through the area, offering meandering courses to enjoy the flora. There’s only one problem.

People who need to cross from one end of the garden to the other don’t have time for twisting garden trails. So they cut across those well-ordered lawns, stomping on the flowers, ultimately creating a desire path: an improvised shortcut created by repeated foot traffic.

The lesson? People will always find the fastest route to getting work done. 

Whether at the office or on their regular route home, people crave efficiency and will default to the easiest, most familiar solution. 

To avoid desire paths — whether in the garden or at work — there are two options: create an elaborate system of fences and surveillance, forcing people to follow the path of inefficiency, or incorporate the path of least resistance into the design itself. 

Desire paths and brand policing

To extend this metaphor to a work setting: brand guidelines are the garden, the meandering walkways are inefficient and disconnected work tools, and desire paths are rogue employees going off-brand. 

Out of desperation, many marketing departments resort to brand policing — the metaphorical system of fences — in an attempt to “catch” offenders and protect the brand.

Not only is this highly inefficient (who has time to review every piece of business content?), it’s also frustrating for everyone involved. 

The solution for any large or growing company is clear: make staying on brand easier than going off-brand. 

Simple, right? 

Why staying on brand is so hard

It’s tempting to think that your company’s brand sits comfortably in the dedicated and capable hands of your marketing and design teams. But the truth is, every employee who creates business content has a stake in your brand equity.

Frustratingly, most workers do not care about brand integrity and cohesion as much as the marketing department does. They’re focused on their own tasks, and may or may not have the skillset to even recognize when something they create has missed the mark. 

Companies who have invested heavily in developing a strong brand are understandably interested in maintaining it: consistent brand presentation across all platforms can increase revenue by up to 23%. But the typical brand guidelines — hundreds of pages on the proper usage of colors, fonts, and margins — are inaccessible and overly complicated for daily use. 

Furthermore, employees may struggle to find the latest assets and materials they need to stay on brand, from logos and icons to disclaimers and slide templates. If these components are saved locally, how would workers even know they’re working with outdated materials?

Multiply these challenges by X number of employees at Y number of offices, and it’s clear that a strong system of organization and content distribution is required to maintain brand consistency. 

Make staying on brand the path of least resistance

At Ramboll, a global engineering and design consultancy, this problem of inconsistency and inefficiency was a growing concern. A lack of centralization made it difficult for users to find the material needed to create on-brand company documents and presentations.

To solve these issues, Ramboll introduced a business enablement platform to centrally manage and distribute all company assets. An integrated tool like this helps them keep their library of 200+ branded icons and infographics up to date and makes it easy for employees to access these materials from within the programs they already use like PowerPoint or Microsoft Word.

“​​It has become very easy for employees to use the most up-to-date slides and presentation layouts,” said Roos Nederveen, Senior Consultant at Ramboll. “The branding team can be more certain that content coming from Ramboll is in line with our brand guidelines.”

In other words: it’s now easier for everyone to stay on brand than to go rogue.

Avoiding brand anarchy

Let’s go back to that garden. Without proper planning, it’s crisscrossed with unsightly and unsanctioned desire paths — muddy alternatives to the intended stone walkways. 

But what if we incorporated those paths into the design itself? The garden maintains its integrity and people are able to get where they need to go.

This is what an integrated content enablement system offers: company-wide brand consistency while saving 95% of IT time spent on content management.

At the end of the day, people are going to follow the path of least resistance. Smart companies will make sure that path leads people to follow brand guidelines — or they’ll get stuck in the mud.

If you would like to learn more about Templafy’s solution for brand departments, visit our dedicated brand department page here or get in touch to ask for solutions for issues specific to your company’s brand.