Our home city of Nottingham is a place fabled for its connections to many famous names – from Robin Hood and D.H. Lawrence, to Lord Byron and Torvill and Dean. Cast aside the legendary people for a moment, and you quickly uncover a number of world-beating brands that have called the capital of the East Midlands their home, over the years.
We therefore felt it was about time someone put the spotlight on Nottingham’s brand kings, as we focus on what we admire about these names from the world of commerce.
It would be wrong of us to not kick off with Boots. Solid, stable and a mainstay of the highstreet since 1849 when Jesse Boot opened his first store on Nottingham’s Goosegate – Boots can be admired for many of its qualities. The one we love the most however, is its authenticity.
When we run our brand planning workshops, we always talk about brand archetypes. One of these archetypes is the ‘ruler’. These brands are established and have cemented their place in folklore thanks to many years delivering a reputable service or producing quality products. Rulers tend to command authority through their authenticity. Royal blue is a common brand colour and an oval-shaped logo common – the reason for which we don’t know. Ford, American Express or British Airways would all conform to the ruler approach.
Boots has remained true to its origins throughout its 172 years. In fact in the past year or so, the brand has decided to pay homage to its roots by ditching the oval and reverting back to its nostalgic typeface. It’s this nod to its past, married with an unwavering commitment to authentically caring for its customers, that has set the Boots brand apart from its competitors and established it as a mainstay not just in our city, but in cities across the UK.
Although it’s experienced a lot of change since its inception in 1887, Raleigh is still going strong and can’t be ignored when we consider well known Nottingham names.
Today, Raleigh calls Nottingham’s suburb of Eastwood its home but in the 20th century, this brand was one of the big employers in the city. If you’re from Nottingham, you will often hear people refer to Raleigh Island – this was where some of the world’s most famous bikes were born – including the Raleigh Chopper. As the decades rolled by, Raleigh rolled with the times, manufacturing the next big thing in bikes. Despite now being owned by the Europe-based Accell Group, Raleigh continues to distribute bikes from Nottinghamshire to destinations across the world.
It’s the aforementioned adaptability that makes us respect Raleigh. The brand has had to keep up with the times by reinventing itself just as much as its products. Today, gone is the traditional Heron logo and instead replaced with just the name in a striking typeface that has to stand alone in order to appeal to the 21st century cyclist.
The brand has been forced to modernise its approach in order to cater for a world where choice is the main driver. An eye-catching digital presence resides where physical shops would have once stood. Bright colours, people and online sales now take centre stage in order to meet the needs of its current consumer. In fact during the pandemic, sales of bicycles sky rocketed – so this willingness to adapt to new trends has enabled Raleigh to cash in on the bicycle’s resurgence.
People of all ages still respect the humble bicycle, but the way we sell such products and market them is very different to the 1960s. Raleigh has been brave enough to recognise this and it’s thanks to its commitment to evolution that this great brand remains the best thing on two wheels.
Although not founded in Nottingham, Games Workshop has called the city its home since the 1990s and is still one of our most famous exports. Famed for manufacturing models and role playing franchises such as Warhammer, Games Workshop is still a respected name for hobbieists across the globe. Raleigh appeals to the outdoor adventurer, but Games Workshop is a brand which has helped to revolutionise how we play indoors.
Despite starting life as a manufacturer of wooden board games, in the late 70s and early 80s the brand evolved towards role playing tabletop strategy games. The use of print and futureistic visuals was pivotal in its success as it regularly issued its popular magazine, White Dwarf. The brand’s striking illustrations have brought mythical worlds to life for gamers over the decades – creating cult followings. It’s this loyalty to its cult audience that has kept the Games Workshop brand going – even when kids began turning to consoles.
All trends come in and out of fashion and in recent years, Games Workshop’s traditional model-based approach has seen a resurgence. The brand has also released computer games to rival others in the digital space and formed a strong alliance with Warner Brothers in order to produce spin off franchises themed around the Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit.
Games Workshop has, throughout the digital revolution, stayed true to its origins and this stubbornness is why we respect the brand. It hasn’t changed its appearance or its core offering, it has simply remained true to what made it a cult classic to begin with – minus a few adaptations along the way. Like the record player and many other trends that have come back into fashion, Games Workshop has earned the respect of the gaming world. It’s a brand that says no to extreme deviation, and yes to good old fashioned fun.
For our final brand, we move away from games and instead towards the world of high fashion. Paul Smith is synonymous with Nottingham and this charismatic designer’s first store was situated on the city’s Byard Lane. Even today, his much admired Paul Smith House is still going strong in the heart of Nottingham – as is his brand.
Despite first wanting a career in cycling, Smith turned to the world of fashion and design in the 70s. Cycling and classic modes of transport have in fact featured in many of his designs over the years, but it’s the iconic Paul Smith stripes and the brand’s commitment to eccentricity that has earned Paul a place in Nottingham brand folklore.
His shops retain his love of uniqueness. Whether you visit a Paul Smith store in Nottingham, London or Los Angeles, the experience is consistent through its uniqueness. Smith consistently creates an experience through his brand – you might argue he was one of the first to do so and today, consumers crave experiences more than ever before. No two stores are alike. The experience is tailor made to the city you find yourself in and this is where we find the charm of the brand.
Paul was ahead of his time and it’s for this reason that the brand is as relevant today, as it was in the 70s. Designed for the 21st century 30 years in advance, the everpresent multi coloured stripes reflect a fun and iconic brand which achieves an off the wall consistency that only a fashion designer can visualise.
Image credit: Paul Smith Sign – credit Visit Nottinghamshire