Brand Identity

Jose Mourinho. Manchester United. And thirty pieces of silver.


So, Manchester United fired Louis Van Gaal, and if we are to believe widespread reports in the media, is set to appoint Jose Mourinho into the Old Trafford dugout.

Louis Van Gaal had it coming though. His stats were damning. 1.29 goals per match (the worst since 1989/90) and a 2015/16 goal-tally of 49 (United’s worst in the Premier League era). These speak volumes for a coach whose team averaged more possession (58.47 per cent) than any other team in the league. United also finished the season on 66 points (their second worst point tally in the Premier League era). He was only usurped to the title of the worst point tally by – guess who – Messers David Moyes/Ryan Giggs, in the 2013/14 season.

The biggest accusation leveled against Louis Van Gaal by far though was his subjugation of the Manchester United’s ‘style’ or brand of footballer, a venturesome and gutsy style that had delighted fans and irked opponents. As Steve McClaren, once said “Manchester United never lose, they simply run out of time.”

For Manchester United, winning was never enough. How you won was just as important as the win ratio.

Louis Van Gaal’s rap sheet with the fan was as long as his obstinacy.

So enter Jose Mourinho.

If there’s ever a marriage of strange bedfellows, it is Manchester United and Mourinho on a red velvety bed whispering sweet nothings to each other.

No doubt, Manchester United needs to get back to winning ways as quickly as possible and nobody seem better suited to putting them on that path than Jose.

But at what cost?

It will be at the cost of all Manchester United ever stood for.

By appointing Jose Mourinho as its new manager, United will be betraying its brand essence and personality and selling its soul for a plate of porridge. Mourinho’s appointment will amount to no more than a quick fix and a shot in the arm. This is similar to what (persistent) sales promotions are to brand building efforts – a gradual erosion of hard-won affinity and equity.

Jose is the antithesis of what Manchester United stands for. He is abrasive, vainglorious, unenterprising in his football style and disdains nurturing budding talent, a key cornerstone of the United Way of Brand Building. That is the Jose we have known thus far. I cannot bank on the river not flowing downstream.

But perhaps it is so well and dandy to look at the goings-on at Manchester United through the prism of ‘brand personality’ and ‘preserving the brand.’ Ed Woodward – a commercial man – is probably thinking in more pragmatic terms. After all, Manchester United is a business, and as with a lot of businesses, you are as good as your last quarter – equity be damned.

Ed Woodward – the Ed of Wall Street– will be keen to remind all, especially his bosses on the other side of the Atlantic, that the various lucrative sponsorship deals and global patronage that Man United enjoy were possible only because the club won trophies. And Jose brings in trophies. Let’s ignore the trifle matter of the how. Plus there’s a need to counter the rising belief at the Etihad and the recruitment of the high-profile Pep Guardiola. And oh, there’s Liverpool to serve as reminder of how the mighty can get stuck in the miry clay.

It all feels like a sound commercial argument. But it isn’t. It is only discounting the future for immediate gain. It is making Manchester United another Chelsea or Manchester City, or a club without a clearly defined ethos. Brand loyalty happens when a brand consistently delivers on its promise, its essence and connects to the audience at an emotional level. A rational winning- at-all-cost style isn’t the stuff emotional connections are made of. It’s as hard as steel. And people don’t fall in love with steel. Except you’re Superman. And yea, steel is a commodity.

But maybe Jose is a changed man. Maybe he has learnt from his experiences in Spain and at Chelsea. But that in itself is a problem. A changed Jose is not the Jose Mourinho. And nothing damages reputation and performance like a pass-off.

I leave you with some fond Jose moments. You gotta love the fella though!


8 thoughts on “Jose Mourinho. Manchester United. And thirty pieces of silver.

  1. Tunji says:

    Mr Jide, from a brand point of view it pays to be consistent with ones essence all the time. However brands usually have different stages in their life cycle and they encounter different challenges along the way . What you do as the brand manager is make decisions that not only impact on long term plans , but understand what you do short term is crucial to ur ability to meet does lofty long term objectives. Haven said that , the brand manager has an objective – keep customers happy , grow the base , and make them consistently buy your product.. In this case keep your fan base, grow it and consistently charge them for tickets , merchandise, tv rights etc.
    Times change and brands must adapt…
    Arsenal has remained true to their essence and we know where they are today .. Satisfied with being who you are the way you they’ve always been even if it does not bring you silverware! It is a choice . The brand is healthy, has a sizable fan base but not a top 5 club in the world – fact ! Even the almighty Barca lost fans when didnt win.
    Back to united, my view is that tactically MOU is a good decision because ManU is so big that is required to stay winning at the highest level in order to keep and grow its fan base…
    In my view to keep a club World class.. Winning is at the top, how you win though important is secondary… Winning with home grown talent is a nice to have – pls bear in mind that the objective is to be top 3 club!
    Very old and yesterday MANU fans can moan all they want – we are in the today . The club needs MOU more than he does them simply because the club is bigger than mou , consequently the benefits of a successful partnership to ManU will far outweigh that for MOu.
    If mou’s downside is that he falls out with players – Fergie had his fair share
    If it is that mou fights the press- Fergie had a fair share
    If mou complains about officiating- Fergie had his dose
    Mou did not play the same way in all the clubs he’s been .. Dude can adapt ( he doesn’t get enough credit for that) and I firmly think he is the best for ManU at this moment.
    He will respect Manu ‘s essence but clearly would not be FERGie ..
    If you hire FERgie in today’s world of football he must adapt otherwise will fail like LVG … LVG lived in past and called it Philosophy


  2. igbo Amadi-Obi says:

    Well. @ Mourinho considered not to fit the United brand at the time Ferggie retired, it has turned out to be the biggest mistake Ferggie would make in his United career. It took 3 seasons of floundering to correct it. Moyes didn’t fit the United brand either. He was a colourless, gumless, uninspiring mediocre who didn’t win a thing in 15 years at Everton. That decision was made out of respect for a retiring Ferggie, more than out of appropriate-ness.

    • Jide Alade says:

      Moyes was an absolute disaster, and I’m certain the decision to hire him – as well the recruitment of LVG – will always be a monkey on the back of SAF and Sir Bobby Charlton. But I can understand their thinking. But I do recollect there was a period SAF didn’t win the league for 3 seasons. That was enough at some clubs to throw him out, but United didn’t. They understand tough times will come. Hardship ought not make you throw out your values. Strong brands never do that.

      If Mourinho can play ‘breath-taking’ football, develop budding youth, win trophies and not be at war with everyone, he has my vote (not that I matter anyway!)

  3. igbo Amadi-Obi says:

    Hi Jide, I have to say that the argument about ethos and brand fit resolves itself by the mere fact of United hiring Mourinho, in spite of the concerns you raised. I’m afaraid that the level of analysis is rather too rigorous for something as simple as club hiring a manager who is more likely to win them trophies than not. Liverpool’s ethos are well known. Yet they bought Suarez not long after he had bitten a player in Holland, and soon after he would palm a goal-bound shot at the world cup in SA. They kept him despite a second biting incident, until he nearly delivered their first ever premiership title. Then there was a third biting! They would sell him, not so much for lack of brand fit as it was for money. And guess who bought him on the back of a celebrated biting scandal. The great Barcelona. Prior to Barca, Arsenal, reputed for being classy, had attempted to buy the badly behaved Suarez. I need to be convinced that hiring Suarez has hurt the liverpool and Barca brands in any significant way, more than it has brought them glory. Again, as Cantona was giving United a bad name for kicking a fan, SAF was doing all he could to persuade him to stay. Doesn’t that tell us that ultimatly clubs prioritize performance over ethos and brand fit and all that? That’s exactly what United is doing with Mourinho. Putting performance over ethos and brand fit.

    • Jide Alade says:

      LOL @ ‘I’m afaraid that the level of analysis is rather too rigorous for something as simple as club hiring a manager who is more likely to win them trophies than not.’ We brand people love to do that, don’t we? If only to prove to ourselves that we are ‘cerebral.’

      There was a reason why United overlooked Mourinho for Moyes when SAF left – despite the fact that he was available. Clearly it had nothing to do with his ability to win trophies, for he is a proven serial winner. It however had everything to do with his character and style. He didn’t fit the mould of a ‘United Manager’ at that time. And for good reasons.

      That being the case, the fact that they are opting for him now then smacks of desperation. While it may look like a practical decision, I personally believe it is not the right decision.

      As for players and brand fit, dare I say players tend to be held to a different standard from managers as far as ‘a face of the club’ is concerned. Imagine it was Kenny Dalglish that bit someone! Managers have off-field leadership roles that players are not usually burdened with. You know what they say about attitude and aptitude.

      All being said, you can’t help but feel the United job is going to be watershed for Mo. It will either repair him or ruin him. Pochettino looked more like a ‘Man United Manager. Funny I felt this same way about LVG!

  4. igbo Amadi-Obi says:

    I think that it has become both fashionable and convenient to ignore that Jose Mourinho can be adaptive. Two seasons ago, he managed Chelsea to play breath-taking attacking football, leaving everyone, included those reputed for attacking football, playing catchup all season.

    I also believe that it is not lost on Mourinho that given his antecedents, many people expect his stay at Old Trafford to be tumultuous and ultimately catastrophic. Therefore, he’s going to work to prove people wrong, and that will be to UNited’s advantage.

    • Jide Aade says:

      Hi Igbo, thanks for dropping in! I was particularly interested in the brand fit (or lack of it) between Jose Mourinho and Manchester United. While it is not impossible for Mourinho to play ‘breath-taking’ football at United, the football is just one dimension of the brand fit. There are still issues around values/ethos, brand personality and identity. You would have expected that, with his second coming to Chelsea, he would have learnt some valuable lesson about managing players ala his fall-outs with almost everyone at the Bernabeu. But not Mo. A club like United can’t condone all those things.

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