What the Notre Dame Fire Can Teach Us About Investing in Brand Building

Earlier this month I visited Paris on business and took a couple days to take in the beautiful city and enjoy it with friends. It’s one of my favourite cities in the world that I have visited often.

I stopped by the Notre Dame de Paris to see the damage first hand. As you probably know, this historic cathedral, which was completed in 1260 — more than 7 centuries ago, suffered a devastating fire earlier this year which saw the roof and famous spire completely destroyed.

Just two years prior, I had visited with my daughter Charley and we both marvelled at its splendour.

The good news is that the majority of this solid structure is still standing — mainly for the fact that it was built to last due to its extremely solid foundation.

Like this magnificent structure, brands that stand the test of time are built on solid brand foundations.

Brand foundations or pillars include the brand promise . This can be as simple as a pledge to always offer the best quality product or service. It can also be a brand value — one that becomes synonymous with your organization. For example, this could be a demonstrated commitment to environmental sustainability as a primary consideration for all your corporate decision making.

Stella Artois is a brand that has a remarkable track record of of building brand value. Established in 1366, 653 years ago — this brand has managed to stay relevant and successful (even through some missteps in modern times) by establishing and continually supporting its brand value rooted in its commitment to quality ingredients and focus on a premium market positioning

Whatever your brand promises or values, brand pillars must be supported by continual investment in resources and action. It’s a disciplined, strategic process that is too often derailed by some organizations singularly focused on bottom-line driven decision making.

No matter if you are a large enterprise or small business, your organization will experience challenges and setbacks at one time or another. In those moments, you’ll find that a solid brand foundation is something you can fall back upon to make a stand, regroup, retool and reenergize your brand for future success.

Apple is a great example of a brand that teetered on extinction when it veered away from its core design, innovation and customer centric values in the 1990s.

The brand was rejuvenated by its original founder (Steve Jobs) who realigned the business to its foundational brand values, and in so doing, steered a brand to iconic cultural and business status (becoming the world’s first $1 trillion company) in the 21st century.

Over its 7 centuries of existence, Notre Dame also survived many challenging times including its desecration during the French Revolution. But due to continual investment in repairs and architectural updates over hundreds of years, it has never crumbled to the ground.

Within weeks of the recent roof fire, billions of dollars were pledged by private and public institutions and citizens to rebuild the roof for the 21st century.

One standout architectural design proposed by Vincent Callebaut Architectures, envisions building a glass roof that incorporates a greenhouse which would grow fresh produce. Twenty-one tons of fruit and vegetables annually— enough to distribute free of charge to all those in need in Paris. Amazing.

Just like Notre Dame, you should continually invest in your brand foundation so that your organization remains on solid footings. Establish your brand pillars and invest the time and monies to ensure they remain strong and true. Walk your talk, and always live your brand.