Branding is a never-ending education.
Whether it’s a new stumbling block or good old stagnation, it’s a challenge to stay relevant. It’s also complicated. From strategy to design, there’s a lot to think about, but you don’t have to go it alone.
There are lots of books on branding (our office shelves are packed with them), but there are a few standouts that we’ve found especially helpful. So, to pass it on, we’ve rounded up nine of our team’s favorite books.
These recommendations cover everything from branding theory to digital design, but each can contribute something valuable if you’re building a brand.
For anyone who works in this field, time is in short supply. That’s why a nice, short read is such a relief. This book is more of a quick and dirty guide than a book. It’s basically the distillation of Neumeier’s decades of branding knowledge, presented in a cleverly designed book. Best of all, it can be read in a matter of hours. It’s nicely organized for quick reference, plus the helpful glossary of branding terms (“The Dictionary of Brand”) helps you understand the nuances between seemingly interchangeable words.
2. Zag: The Number One Strategy of High-Performance Brands by Marty Neumeier
Obviously, we’re big fans of Marty Neumeier. Luckily, this book is another in his whiteboard overview series, which makes it just as easy to get through. If you don’t know about the art of the zag (aka standing out), this book walks you through it step by step. Neumeier covers everything from finding your zag to differentiating through design—plus plenty of his trademark gems of wisdom.
If you’re looking for a substantial guide to designing an awesome brand, Wheeler’s book might become your bible. Whether you’re an established designer or just diving in, she offers great wisdom on everything you need to know about branding: what a brand is, what makes it successful, how to design a visual identity, and even how to create a proper brand brief. It’s a great mix of design theory and practical tips from an expert.
4. Branded Interactions: Creating the Digital Experience by Marco Spies
For design geeks, this book is a fantastic resource. Athough a brand is the composite of many elements, the digital experience is more important than ever. Luckily, this book breaks it down into five intuitive steps: discovering a demographic, defining an action plan, designing an interface, delivering a quality product, and distributing the design to the marketplace. Plus, it’s packed with illustrations (more than 300), so you get to see everything at work.
5. Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind by Al Ries and Jack Trout
Even though this book is nearly 20 years old, it’s still plenty relevant in our age of content shock. Written in plain English, it offers tips on how to position yourself in the public’s mind, identify your strengths and weaknesses (as well as your competitors’) and learn to communicate in ways that reinforce your position at all times.
6. Purple Cow by Seth Godin
Not everyone’s a fan, but it’s pretty much impossible to compile a best-of list without including something from vaunted marketing expert Seth Godin. In this classic, he dives into his simply philosophy: that great marketing starts with great products. Whether you’re a SaaS company or a cosmetics brand, his book encourages you to think deeply about how to make the best products or provide the best service you can.
A strong brand isn’t just about products or consumers; it’s about who you are, how you act and the culture you cultivate. That’s the philosophy of Zappo’s co-founder Tony Hsieh, who shares his personal and professional wisdom in this fascinating book. The book is especially helpful for high-level executives, who should always lead by example.
8. Playing to Win: How Strategy Really Works by A.G. Lafley and Roger L. Martin
Procter & Gamble CEO A.G. Lafley and his strategic advisor Roger L. Martin doubled P&G’s sales, quadrupled its profits, and increased its market value by more than $100 billion while Lafley was at the helm, and this book outlines how they did it. If your company is stuck in a rut, this book might bust you out of it.
When it comes to branding, storytelling and truly creative content, who better to learn from than the co-founder of Pixar Animation Studios? This fascinating book takes a behind-the-scenes look at Pixar and the lessons learned through its success. It’s major creative inspiration for management, storytellers and pretty much anyone who wants to cultivate a creative atmosphere.