Brian Howard Clough and the brand that is Nottingham

Brian Clough and his trademark green Jersey
Brian Clough and his trademark green Jersey

I have just read the book ‘The Damned United’ about Brian Clough’s time at Leeds United. To any of you who have read this blog for a while, you’ll realise that I am a bit of a fan of Cloughie’s, so wanted to look at him as a brand to see what he stood for and what made him stand out – two vital elements for any branding programme.

I have read two others about him in the past and will now publicy claim to be one of the people that has edited his Wikipedia page to ensure historical accuracy.

The first thing that struck me was I could see why the family didn’t like the book as it paints Cloughie as a heavy drinking, smoking maniac – which he clearly was not. It does however paint him as a very strong family man – which I am far more certain he was.

So what did he stand for in a brand context?

He stood for straight talking – never letting anyone misunderstand what he was trying to say. Some of his quotes were just legendary – we will be referring to them for many, many generations to come. Perhaps it has taken losing him to realise the brilliance (and accuracy/honesty) of some of the things he said. Interestingly for us, this ‘straight talking’ came out as a feature of Nottingham people when we did the research for the brand for Nottingham back in 2005.

He stood for doing things brilliantly and his own way – whether this was as a father, a player or as a manager.

And for me, he stood for consistency. You always knew what type of reaction you were going to get – even if that reaction was to be an over-reaction.

These three values, would be the making of any brand these days – consciously or sub-consciously – any brand that did these three things would be half way to success.

So what made him stand out?

It could be the green jumper – a remnant of his time at Leeds if the book is to be believed – to get back at Don Revie who believed the colour green was unlucky – and is actually an old Leeds United goalkeepers jersey. All of the iconic pictures of the man show him in this top, from training ground to European Cup success with Forest. In his early days at Derby he was never out of his suit and tie.

But I’d like to believe that he stood out for just doing things so well. I met him once in a newsagent in West Bridgford and I was with my then seven year old daughter wearing her Forest top with her name on her back (a gift from the club to encourage young fans and financed by Capital One) and he was lovely to her. She stood there in awe as this enormously famous man, got down and spoke to her face to face – on her level – and she loved him for it.

You can see a different interpretation of his consistency and success living on through Nigel with his time at Burton and by what he seems to be quietly building at Derby County.

I think we all know, there was a bit of a wobble at the end. It all went a bit wrong at Forest and he lost a battle to drink – but so what? He was a slightly flawed genius.

But he was still a genius, who will be remembered for the great things he did, not the few bad things

Brian Clough is, for me, one of the best brands the City and the people of Nottingham have ever had. I think it is just a question of who is going to make something of it first.

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