How do you build a brand?
Everyone has advice on brand building: there are the ziggers and zaggers, the differentiators, don't differentiate - just be distinct, or - find your voice, use an archetype, worry about loyalty - no, just find new customers, and the list goes on!
We've scoured through 60+ books on branding to find the best. Some are great beginner books while others are for the seasoned professional.
What's the best branding book? Well, it depends where you are in your learning journey and what you hope to achieve. Check out "The BrandOps Take" to get our view on each book.
Building a StoryBrand: Clarify Your Message So Customers Will Listen
by Donald Miller | Oct 10, 2017
The BrandOps Take: Building a Story Brand teaches readers to use a VERY methodical approach for structured storytelling. In essence, use: 1. A character with a problem, 2. who meets a guide, 3. who gives them a plan, 4. and calls them to action, 5. that helps them avoid failure, 6. and ends in success.
If storytelling isn't your strength - this is a cheat-sheet. Advanced storytelling practitioners will likely find this book overly prescriptive.
Brand Bewitchery: How to Wield the Story Cycle System to Craft Spellbinding Stories for Your Brand
by Park Louis Howell | Jun 1, 2020
The BrandOps take: Brand Bewitchery is another structured storytelling framework. It's similar to other methods, but places additional emphasis on the backstory, the stakes and disruption - which is valuable to high-tech branders.
It's a solid book that covers a lot of ground but is able to still convey gobs of information.
Brand Storytelling: Put Customers at the Heart of Your Brand Story
by Miri Rodriguez | Mar 31, 2020
The BrandOps take: Brand Storytelling doesn't focus on a prescriptive framework like most of the other books. Instead, it's strength is in describing what should occur after the story is established. For example, what's the role of the employee? How do you test your story? How do you measure it? How do you integrate the story throughout marketing? It's a good book - and we like the focus on execution and implementation.
Stories That Stick: How Storytelling Can Captivate Customers, Influence Audiences, and Transform Your Business
by Kindra Hall | Sep 24, 2019
The BrandOps take: Stories that Stick doesn't go very deep into the storytelling process like some other books do. However, it provides in-depth coverage on four specific types of stories: The Value Story, The Founder Story, The Purpose Story and The Customer Story. If you're having trouble telling one of the aforementioned stories, this book might be the cure.
Story 10x: Turn the Impossible Into the Inevitable
by Michael Margolis | Oct 8, 2019
The BrandOps take: Story 10X gives an overview of the story development process. It lacks a prescriptive framework like other books but offers some tips, tricks and tactics.
The book was just a bit too light / abstract for us.
Categories, Positioning and Messaging
COMPETITIVE POSITIONING: Best Practices for Creating Brand Loyalty
by Richard D. Czerniawski & Michael W. Maloney | Sep 1, 2010
The BrandOps take: Competitive Positioning takes a classic approach to identifying a brand's optimal position in the market. The book takes the reader through the steps of finding the customer (and their needs), identifying competition (and their strengths) and offers competitive evaluation frameworks. There's nothing new in the book - but it does a great job of presenting the fundamentals in an easy to read fashion.
BRAND is a four letter word: Positioning and The Real Art of Marketing
by Austin McGhie | Apr 15, 2012
The BrandOps take: Brand is a four-letter word is a surprisingly strong book. It starts off a bit slow but heats up at chapter 14, "Love Me or Hate Me - Just Don't Like Me". We love this advice - too many brands play it safe, lack an opinion - and fail to win any love/respect. The book goes on to discuss why it's best to initially "position narrow", to "own something", and so on. Don't expect to find a brand strategy canvas - instead you'll find strong, practical advice.
Obviously Awesome: How to Nail Product Positioning so Customers Get It, Buy It, Love It
by April Dunford | May 14, 2019
The BrandOps take: Obviously Awesome takes a very practical and methodical view to positioning. The book walks the reader through a ten step process. This is great for anyone who's new to positioning. That said, experienced marketers might find the guidance a bit too obvious.
Summary: Great book if you're new to positioning and need some initial guidance.
The Brand Strategy Canvas: A One-Page Guide for Startups
by Patrick Woods | Dec 9, 2019
The BrandOps take: The Brand Strategy Canvas is another light-weight framework for developing a positioning statement. It maps external concerns (customer needs, competitive environment, etc.) to a rather traditional positioning model (audience, description, benefit, proof, payoff). The book is for beginners only.
Owning Game-Changing Subcategories: Uncommon Growth in the Digital Age
by David Aaker | Apr 7, 2020
The BrandOps take: Owning Game Changing Subcategories by David Aaker tells the reader, "The only way to grow, with rare exceptions, is to create customer "must-haves" that define game-changing subcategories. Aaker makes a compelling case for his thesis and then tells the readers how to find the "must-haves" represented by an exemplar brand.
There are a couple weird chapters in the middle of the book that discuss digital marketing, AI, IoT, and other trendy topics, otherwise this is a great book.
Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind
by Al Ries , Jack Trout , et al. | Jan 3, 2001
The BrandOps take: Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind is a classic branding book. To read it today, many of the concepts seem obvious because the ideas were so correct that they became part of our everyday thinking. The book is easy to read and offers practical advice on various situations (e.g., positioning as a follower, line-extensions, etc.)
20 years later - it's still a solid book.
Eating the Big Fish: How Challenger Brands Can Compete Against Brand Leaders
by Adam Morgan | Feb 17, 2009
The BrandOps take: Eating the Big Fish focuses on the problems that are specific to challenger brands. Morgan defines the challenger brand via three attributes: state of market, state of mind and a rate of success. The key is to actually "challenge" the leaders on some aspect (a benefit, a driver, the way it's purchased, etc.) and to signal a new lighthouse identity that commoditizes the value of the old way.
This is a great book for the seasoned marketer.
Category Creation: How to Build a Brand that Customers, Employees, and Investors Will Love
by Anthony Kennada and Brian Halligan | Oct 15, 2019
The BrandOps take: Category Creation walks the reader through a rather abstract process of creating a category. A lot of people like this book - but frankly we thought it lacked the practical specifics. Kennada argues that customers create categories (not analysts) - but it all seems a bit dated (even though it's a new book). For example, there's a lack of discussion on the role of conferences, common terminology (and SEO keywords), but there was a nice piece on the role of reviews sites provided by Michael Fauscette at G2.
Brand Strategy and Process
Strategic Brand Management: Building, Measuring, and Managing Brand Equity
by Kevin Lane Keller and Vanitha Swaminathan | Oct 8, 2019
The BrandOps take: If you have only one book on branding, Strategic Brand Management should be it. It's written as a textbook but you can easily use it as a reference guide.
This is a book for the professional brander. Buy it - read it - reference it. Be prepared - this is a heavy undertaking.
Branding Beyond Logos: Stand Out, Sell More and Turn Customers Into Advocates With These 17 Brand Building Elements
by Ainsley Moir | Sep 15, 2018
Branding Beyond Logos is an introduction to strategic brand identity. Ainsley's background is in the food & beverage industry with an emphasis on packaging. Her book takes a very practical approach to designing the brand by looking at 18 specific brand elements. This book isn't for everyone, but if you're looking for information on branding consumer goods, this might be a good fit. It has strong discussions on pricing, distribution outlets, packaging, customer service, advertising outlets and strategic alliances. Per the title of the book, her references to color, fonts, etc. are intentionally meager. This is a practical book for the professional brander, most likely used as a reminder/checklist.
Lean Branding: Creating Dynamic Brands to Generate Conversion
by Laura Busche | Mar 15, 2019
The BrandOps take: Lean Branding proposes the steps that an organization would execute. The book covers the design of the brand, brand marketing, strategy and measurement. It doesn't go very deep in any one topic but does a good shop of walking you through the basics.
The book has nothing to do with "lean" (supply chain) but is a fast paced, surprisingly comprehensive overview; probably a best fit for SMB/SME marketers.
Building Brand Experiences: A Practical Guide to Retaining Brand Relevance
by Dr. Darren Coleman | Jul 28, 2018
The BrandOps take: Building Brand Experiences is another book that walks the reader through a rather generic series of steps to define your brand identity, values, essence, promise, personality and positioning. It reads like a text book but lacks the in-depth material you'd expect (e.g., case studies).
There's nothing wrong with this book - but there's not much new content either. Also, the title is a bit misleading (we thought it was going to be a deep dive on in-person or online brand experiences).
Soulful Branding: Unlock the Hidden Energy in your Company & Brand
by Jerome Conlon , Moses Ma, et al. | Jul 18, 2015
The BrandOps take: Soulful Branding is a pleasant departure from the process oriented books. Instead, the authors draw from their years of experience at top brands like Nike. The book discusses specific techniques like visual brand audits, competitive brand language audits, word and visual research, etc.
Many of the books we've reviewed are about 'what people should do' but Soulful Branding places more emphasis on 'what our organization actually did'.
The Brand Mapping Strategy: Design, Build, and Accelerate Your Brand
by Karen Leland | Jun 14, 2016
The BrandOps take: The Brand Mapping Strategy covers both personal brand and corporate brand management (yes, a bit weird). The book goes on to discuss the seven core elements (anchor statement, unique branding proposition, brand tone and temperament, brand energy, signature story, signature services and brand enhancers/reducers).
This book lacks substance, structure and story.
Brand identity: The Must have guide on Branding, Brand Strategy & Brand Development.
by Stephan McDonald | Nov 25, 2020
The BrandOps take: Brand Identity has virtually nothing to do with brand identity - and that's a problem. It's more of a brand process book - but without much process.
The book dances over everything from logos, to social media, to culture, packaging and stories but without giving the reader much information on any specific topic, nor does it really help to show how topics are related.
The Physics of Brand: Understand the Forces Behind Brands That Matter
by Aaron Keller , Renee Marino , et al. | Jul 21, 2016
The BrandOps take: The Physics of Brand discusses how brands and humans intersect over time and space. Although the 'physics' references are weak, this is a well written book that focuses on memories, trust, fame and branding moments. Keller and his fellow Minnesotans could have named the book, "An introduction to the cognitive aspects of branding" - but that probably wouldn't sell.
The book doesn't offer a specific framework but is packed with great insights, thought provoking questions, interesting diagrams and is well written.
Brand Now: How to Stand Out in a Crowded, Distracted World
by Nick Westergaard | May 1, 2018
The BrandOps take: Brand Now is a beginners book on creating a brand for your business. It covers brand identity, content, etc. but only at a superficial level. It's just too much of the same ole stuff.
The book was written by Nick Westergaard who hosts a wonderful podcast, and I will happily endorse the podcast, but unfortunately I can't do the same for his book.
Bold Brand 2.0: How to leverage brand strategy to reposition, differentiate, and market your professional services firm.
by Josh Miles and Andrew Davis | Sep 18, 2017
The BrandOps take: Bold Brand 2.0 offers an introduction to brand design and brand marketing. It's one of the few books that discusses channel implementations (web, social media, etc.) Because the book covers so much ground it doesn't comprehensively cover any one topic; it's a mile wide and an inch deep.
The Brand Bridge: How to Build a Profound Connection Between Your Company, Your Brand, and Your Customers
by Jerome Conlon and Langdon Morris | May 6, 2019
The BrandOps take: The Brand Bridge was written by Jerome Conlon who also authored Soulful Branding (which we really liked). Unfortunately, this book just didn't hold our attention. One nice element was the actual "brand bridge"; a seven step process: ideal positioning, needs assessment, revised positioning, gap analysis, brand initiatives, positioning strategy and feedback.
Brand Aid: A Quick Reference Guide to Solving Your Branding Problems and Strengthening Your Market Position
by Brad VanAuken | Dec 18, 2014
The BrandOps take: Brand Aid is like a lot of the other books we've reviewed with one exception: it specifies a brand management process. If you're a process-oriented thinker, you'll love the flowchart that VanAuken provides. He also discusses the need for audience and competitive analysis but the book leaves the reader wanting more. It covers dozens of topics which is great if you want to understand branding - but it doesn't go deep enough if branding is core to your profession.
The Meaningful Brand: How Strong Brands Make More Money
by N. Hollis | Oct 22, 2013
The BrandOps take: The Meaningful Brand presents the case for building brand strength using the premise, "Strong brands evoke an instinctive attraction and offer a ready justification for that attraction." Hollis discusses three layers of meaning: cultural, social and individual. Across the layers, a meaningful brand has clarity of purpose, an effective delivery, resonates with an audience and differentiates itself.
This is a well written book and offers clear guidance to those who believe brand differentiation is key to their success.
Building Better Brands: A Comprehensive Guide to Brand Strategy and Identity Development
by Scott Lerman | Oct 17, 2013
The BrandOps take: Building Better Brands has some really nice illustrations. Unfortunately, the discussions on branding are just really light compared to the other books we've reviewed.
Brand Admiration: Building A Business People Love
by Deborah J. MacInnis , C. Whan Park , et al. | Oct 3, 2016
The BrandOps take: Brand Admiration suggests that brands should enrich, entice and enable their customers, and in return the customers will give their admiration, which the authors define as a combination of trust, love and respect. The authors touch on adding/removing brand benefits to create an optimal alignment with the buyers; seems obvious, but +2 points for spelling it out! And to their credit, they devoted a chapter to measurement with an emphasis on brand equity. This is a good book for anyone who's dealing with an existing brand and needs a framework to consider how to make it more effective.
BrandFix: A Brand Strategy Guide for Busy Entrepreneurs
by Kady Sandel | Sep 14, 2019
The BrandOps take: BrandFix purports to be a brand strategy guide for busy entrepreneurs. It's been my experience that entrepreneurs will spend plenty of time to get their branding right!
This book lacks adequate guidance.
Power Up Your B2B Branding: And Make Your Competitors Hate You in 35 Days
by Rob Dalton | May 23, 2019
The BrandOps take: Power Up Your B2B Branding is a short book that discusses some steps in branding. Unfortunately, the book doesn't contain much about B2B and the content is way too light.
It's safe to skip this book.
Creative B2B Branding (No, Really)
by Scot McKee | Mar 29, 2010
The BrandOps take: Creative B2B Branding is a bad book. It has virtually nothing to do with B2B or branding.
Save your money.
Brand Purpose and Activism
Brand New: The Shape of Brands to Come
by Wally Olins | Apr 22, 2014
The BrandOps take: Brand New doesn't feel like it was written in 2014 - it reads like a book written just yesterday. Olins' prescient view on the impact of corporate social responsibility shines through. The book doesn't prescribe any solutions; it's more of a thought-piece... a book to scratch your chin and pontificate upon. Not everyone will appreciate the abstract nature of the work - but for deep brand thinkers, this is a solid book.
Do Good: Embracing Brand Citizenship to Fuel Both Purpose and Profit
by Anne Bahr Thompson | Nov 30, 2017
The BrandOps take: Do Good is a timely book on corporation's responsibilities related to bettering the world. Thompson articulates how brands are now expected to serve stakeholders beyond their shareholders. Doing good goes beyond traditional corporate philanthropy or CSR. It means advocating for issues important to employees, customers and the community.
Do Good answers the question of "why" but leaves the reader wondering "how". Regardless, this is a strong read with lots of interesting insights.
Brand Activism: From Purpose to Action
by Christian Sarkar and Philip Kotler | Mar 3, 2021
The BrandOps take: Brand Activism: From Purpose to Action suggests there are an 'ecosystem of wicked problems' that have led to societal issues, and mistrust between citizens and governments with an expectation that corporations are expected to fill the gap. The book walks readers through activism examples and discusses the effect on the brand. After laying out the case, a framework for implementation is presented. This includes, 'brand activism canvas', 'brand activism matrix', 'brand activism scorecard', etc.
If you're in the early stages of defining a brand activism program, this might be the perfect book for you.
Brand Activism, Inc.: The Rise of Corporate Influence
by Chris Du Toit | Jun 27, 2016
The BrandOps take: Brand Activism Inc. uses case studies categorized by cause to enlighten readers on how others have approached activism. The discussions are very light and rarely present the impact of the programs.
Skip this book.
Brand Identity and Design
Designing Brand Identity: An Essential Guide for the Whole Branding Team
by Alina Wheeler and Debbie Millman | Oct 16, 2017
The BrandOps take: Designing Brand Identity sets a very high standard. The book covers everything from the basics to advanced topics. Her process starts with eliciting brand ideals, clarifying brand positioning, and moves into incorporating the ideas into the visual identity. Assets are tuned for various touchpoints and managed for teams to share. The book presents great examples and case studies.
Great book from beginning to end.
Using Semiotics in Marketing: How to Achieve Consumer Insight for Brand Growth and Profits
by Dr Rachel Lawes | Mar 31, 2020
The BrandOps take: Using Semiotics in Marketing helps mere mortals to understand how to use semiotic signs to communicate more clearly. Lawes offers fun example to show how brands have mistakenly communicated on a global scale, but have been able to correct and win. The book describes the process of identifying 'signs', grouping them into 'codes' and presenting them as 'territories' that a brand can occupy.
If you're a designer and want to know more about semiotics - this is an educational read.
Building Distinctive Brand Assets
by Jenni Romaniuk | May 16, 2018
The BrandOps take: Building Distinctive Brand Assets discusses how humans (customers) need cues to help them remember a category and brands to buy in a situation. Romaniuk provides evidence to support the importance of various decisions that branders and advertisers must make (e.g., when to reveal the brand name, the importance of a brand on a physical shelf, etc.) To my delight, the book also touches on measurement using Fame and Uniqueness.
Brand Personality & Archetypes
The BrandOps take: Although Brand Breakthrough focuses on the personality of a brand, it also lightly covers many of the basics like messaging, voice, tone, brand touchpoints, etc.
This book is for the beginner. It lacks a meaningful discussion on brand personalities from a professional perspective.
Archetypes in Branding: A Toolkit for Creatives and Strategists
by Margaret Hartwell and Joshua C. Chen | Sep 13, 2012
The BrandOps take: Archetypes in Branding is beautiful book with wonderful examples, illustrations and a methodical framework. Hartwell and Chen describe the book as a toolkit for creatives and strategists. Sixty archetypes are introduced, along with their attributes (strengths, challenges, descriptions, family). The book also comes with a set of archetype cards to use in brainstorming strategy sessions.
Little Brand Book: Find Your Inner Influence Her to Work It, Own It, Bring It
by Kalika Yap | Apr 14, 2020
The BrandOps take: little brand book helps designers and strategists think about the personality of their brand. The book offers an inventory of twelve high-level categories (your major) and twelve characteristics (your minor), resulting in a specific archetype. Yap does a great job of identifying the 'power' of each archetype, and female examples of each type. (The book is devoted to female founders.)
This book is very similar to Archetypes in Branding; if I had to pick between the two, it would be close - but I'd pick this one.
Obsessed: Building a Brand People Love from Day One
by Emily Heyward | Jun 9, 2020
The BrandOps take: Obsessed reads like a typical business book. It offers high level guidance followed by references to companies that used the approach. However, the examples aren't very deep (like a case study) and the authors move on to their next point. If you learn by simple examples, this could be a good book for you - I just wish that the stories had a bit more data behind them (e.g., after doing X, brand awareness grew by Y%, etc.) It seems weird that you'd discuss so many companies, but not offer any data on investments, time commitments, return on investments, etc.
Brand Identity Breakthrough: How to Craft Your Company's Unique Story to Make Your Products Irresistible
by Gregory V. Diehl and Kyle Gray | Mar 7, 2017
The BrandOps take: Brand Identity Breakthrough seems to be targeted at entrepreneurs and offers a small identity framework: (getting to know yourself, create a unique selling proposition, identify points of differentiation, know your audience, define a personality), followed by steps on how to communicate.
The book doesn't really go deep in brand identity, nor any subject. It covers a lot of ground - but is too broad for me to recommend it to any audience, including a beginner.
The Handbook of Brand Management Scales
by Lia Zarantonello and Véronique Pauwels-Delassus | Aug 19, 2015
The BrandOps Take: Great book, if you're a true brand measurement geek. Brand Management Scales is not the easiest book to read - it's on the academic side, but it's full of specific measurement guidance.
If you're into scales, also check out the work by Gordon C. Bruner on marketing scales.
Behavioral Biases and Psychology
The Choice Factory: 25 behavioural biases that influence what we buy
by Richard Shotton | Feb 26, 2018
The BrandOps take: The Choice Factory identifies 25 behavioral biases that affect purchasing decisions. Shotton covers most of the commonly known biases such as social proof, primacy effect, distinctiveness, but also introduces several lesser known effects. The book is an easy read and can be used as a reference list to determine if the appropriate biases are being introduced into a buyer's journey.
Hidden Persuasion: 33 Psychological Influences Techniques in Advertising
by Marc Andrews | Jul 16, 2019
The BrandOps take: Hidden Persuasion is similar to the Choice Factory, but places more emphasis on advertising. Andrews covers 33 influences, and states his belief on how effective each is, as well as the difficulty to implement and what he calls the X-factor (the WOW effect). The book has great visual examples of the techniques and descriptions of each.
Love + Fear: Mastering the Primal Motives of Buyers
by Shantini Munthree | Feb 22, 2019
The BrandOps take: Love + Fear is literally about love and fear. Munthree makes the case that all other motives affecting purchase decisions are either secondary in importance or they are actually part of love or fear. The book indicates that love/fear is not an either-or decision (e.g., Wendy's was 2/3 love and 1/3 fear).
Munthree offers a simplified perspective that is usable by the practitioner. Is her thesis correct? I'm not sure but there are enough *right* ideas in the book that it's worth the read.
Best Practices & Examples
Brand Hacks: How to Build Brands by Fulfilling the Consumer Quest for Meaning
by Emmanuel Probst | Aug 17, 2021
The BrandOps take: Brand Hacks offers readers a set of tactics for branding. The advice ranges from "have you tried X" to specific techniques like the use of archetypes, embracing purpose, using a narrative, leveraging emotion, creating a brand club and so on.
To my delight, Probst includes behavioral biases like nostalgia and 'use of imperfections' in his inventory of hacks. The book is well written and addresses modern topics likes activism, tribes/culture and social constructs.
Aaker on Branding: 20 Principles That Drive Success
by David Aaker | Dec 31, 2020 (updated)
The BrandOps take:
This review is coming soon!
Brand Relevance: Making Competitors Irrelevant
by David A. Aaker, Mark Ashby
The BrandOps take: Brand Relevance takes a classic Aaker approach: create a category/sub-category, differentiate by using a 'spectrum of relevance' and disruption. Become relevant by framing your brand as the most appealing within the category, and reframing the category if necessary.
This is a great book for branders interested in medium-to-high consideration offerings. Branders interested in low consideration offerings might look at Distinctive Brand Assets or similar.
Global Brand Power: Leveraging Branding for Long-Term Growth
by Barbara E. Kahn | Mar 5, 2013
The BrandOps Take: Global Brand Power is part of an 'executive series' which means it's target audience is a non-marketing business executive who has 40 minutes to kill while they sit in the airport.
Unfortunately, the book reads like an "I'm smarter than you" treatise where the author gives bite-sized briefings on complex topics like metaphor elicitation, implicit associations, deep metaphors, laddering and brand valuation methodologies. These complex topics don't work in an executive briefing.
The Brand Gap: How to Bridge the Distance Between Business Strategy and Design
by Marty Neumeier | Aug 4, 2005
The BrandOps take: The Brand Gap is one of the older books on branding and reads a bit like a child's bedtime storybook: not a lot of pages, big fonts, lots of whitespace, not much guidance, etc. Hey, I realize that there are a ton of Neumeier fans - but seriously, WTF? The advice is really high level like 'narrowly focus', 'don't be bland', and 'be a contrarian' (aka, Zag).
There are so many other great books on branding, pick one of them.
Brand Flip, The: Why customers now run companies and how to profit from it
by Marty Neumeier | Aug 9, 2015
The BrandOps take: In Brand Flip, Neumeier suggests that we've entered an era where "customers now run companies". The book places significant emphasis on tribes (aka, the set of customers who often lean on each other for guidance and support). The notion of putting the customer first is lost in many branding books, and was a welcome emphasis in Brand Flip. Unfortunately, the book is really light on material so it's hard for me to recommend it.
The 22 Immutable Laws of Branding
by Al Ries and Laura Ries | Sep 17, 2002
The BrandOps take: Is it possible to love the authors - but hate the book? Apparently it is. I'm a big fan of the authors - but this book, The 22 Immutable Laws of Branding is ironically and hilariously wrong. It's not nice to pick on a 20 year old book and claim it's wrong, but the authors went out of their way to predict the future and landed some really bad calls.
Again - love the authors, but this book didn't survive the test of time.
How Brands Grow: What Marketers Don't Know
by Byron Sharp | Apr 12, 2010
The BrandOps take: How Brands Grow shook the branding world by refuting doctrine regarding the importance of differentiation, customer acquisition vs. retention, the impact of mass marketing and more. Without a doubt, this book has become one of the most talked about - and often contentiously disputed work in the modern branding era. Our criticism is that the insights resonate for FMCG but, in our opinion, require additional validation for high consideration B2B brands. Regardless - the book pushes readers to use data to validate brand concepts - and this alone makes it one of best reads on the list!
How Brands Grow: Part 2: Emerging Markets, Services, Durables, New and Luxury Brands
by Jenni Romaniuk and Byron Sharp | Nov 19, 2015
The BrandOps take: Romaniuk's work extends the prior work, offering new insights into mass marketing, mental availability, category entry points, use of distinctive assets (vs. differentiation), reconsidering the marketing channel mix, the ineffectiveness of word-of-mouth on casual purchases, and more.
In the series, this book is my favorite and wholeheartedly recommend it.
Wally Olins on Brand
by Wally Olins | Mar 30, 2005
The BrandOps take: On Brand takes a historic view of brands - where they came from, decisions they made along the way, and their outcomes. The book is insightful and rather entertaining (if you're a brand geek). If you learn by example or through case studies, this could be a good book for you. Special attention is paid to large conglomerates and nation branding. Don't expect any brand frameworks, lists of techniques, etc. - just good old fashion commentary on the evolution of brands.
Power Branding: Leveraging the Success of the World’s Best Brands
by Steve McKee | Jan 7, 2014
The BrandOps take: Power Branding is the kind of book the brand strategist would give to his or her peers who are not in marketing or branding. It reads like a typical executive primer with 3-page chapters and punchy chapter titles. The content is relevant but somewhat obvious to people in the trade.
This is a fine book for a non-marketing executive to read on why branding is important; pick it up in the airport - you'll be done with it before your flight lands.
UnBranding: 100 Branding Lessons for the Age of Disruption
by Scott Stratten, Alison Stratten
The BrandOps take: Unbranding is a list of 100 things that have been irritating the authors (husband and wife). I didn't find the list exceptionally informative (or entertaining). It all seemed a bit random to me. The authors might want to take their lesson #67 to heart.
Branding Is Sex: Get Your Customers Laid and Sell the Hell Out of Anything
by Deb Gabor | May 29, 2016
The BrandOps take: Branding is Sex is a short book on some basic branding topics along with some interviews. Deb suggests a messaging pyramid that seems similar to the standard pyramid / ladder.
Not much here.
What Great Brands Do: The Seven Brand-Building Principles that Separate the Best from the Rest
by Denise Lee Yohn | Jan 7, 2014
The BrandOps take: What Great Brands Do is a good old fashion business book. Yohn takes an old-school approach to branding: Run a good business and let the brand permeate out. Her premise is, if the business is solid, you'll create a strong brand and won't have to focus as much on brand marketing. That said, she goes on to identify her seven principles. The book is full of wisdom (not processes) and can be used as a sanity check for brand building efforts.
I enjoyed this book and recommend it.
Specialty and Esoteric Brand Books
Brand Portfolio Strategy: Creating Relevance, Differentiation, Energy, Leverage, and Clarity
by David A. Aaker | Mar 24, 2020 (originally, 2004)
The BrandOps take: Brand Portfolio Strategy is THE book on brand architecture. Aaker discusses how one should view the relationships between brands and provides guidance on the decision process. The book has extensive explanations on 'house of brands', 'branded houses', 'subbrands', 'endorser brands', etc. and gives real world examples of each.
Although this is an older book but is a must-have for any brander that manages a portfolio of brands.
Brand Thinking and Other Noble Pursuits
by Debbie Millman and Rob Walker | May 1, 2013
The BrandOps take: Brand Thinking is a collection of interviews with thought leaders in marketing, branding and related disciplines. Each interview is a few pages long and blends entertainment with education. The contributors are all legends, their dialog is straight-shooting and the honesty is refreshing. The book doesn't teach you how to become a branding leader - it's more of an analysis of the field, with an emphasis on very large brands.
In hindsight, I wish I purchased this as an audiobook.
THE BRAND RELATIONSHIP PLAYBOOK: Understand, measure, and manage brand relationships to develop brand love, increase brand loyalty, expand brand’s lifetime value and increasing overall profitability.
by Dr. Marc Fetscherin | Dec 20, 2019
The BrandOps Take: The Brand Relationship Playbook is a rare find. It's NOT about branding - it's about brand frameworks. The book describes the high level aspects of brand evaluation frameworks from Edelman's, Prophet, Accenture, etc. and describes how to use brand attitude information.
The BrandOps take: Your Brand - The Next Media Company focuses on consumers' insatiable appetite for information and the opportunity for brands to deliver it. The book discusses how large companies have created content marketing engines to provide relevant and timely information across channels. Many of the organizational design concepts and processes that are mentioned in the book have become mainstream. Regardless, the book serves as a good primer on content strategy and communications.
Delusions of Brandeur
by Ryan Wallman and Giles Edwards | Dec 23, 2019
The BrandOps take: Yes, I saved Delusions of Brandeur for last. What can I say? The book pokes fun at branding, branders, humans, well - everything.
Read it when you're in a slightly irritated mood (frustrated with bullshit branders) and have a pint of beer in your hand.
A Note to Future Brand Authors
For anyone who is considering writing a book on branding, here's our advice:
- If you run a brand agency, and feel the need to write yet another introductory book - DON'T. If, however, you have specific expertise that hasn't been written about, please do!
- If you're a professor, don't feel the need to dumb down the book for your audience. This is important to us - we'll learn.
- If you're a B2B brander and feel like you could write a great book - do it; none currently exist.
- If you're a kickass dual-disciplined brander and digital marketer, you should write a book about how the two fields are completely intermixed and need to be managed as an integrated discipline.
To all authors: the aforementioned books have lots of advice and very little accountability. Rarely is a study mentioned, or a customer case tracked with any rigor. We understand that it's hard to measure brands and branding efforts - but leaving it out of your books is inexcusable. No more zigging and zagging or other lofty abstract principles that get CMO's excluded from the board room. The branding discipline needs to shift toward repeatable frameworks, quantitative analysis, and a renewed focus on Return on Brand Investments. Stop the old fashion silliness and start thinking like a next generation brander. Branding is moving from 'pure gut feel' to 'creative experimentation with repeatable science'. Embrace your creative background and complement it with a better understanding of statistics (e.g., cohorts, linear regressions, correlations, etc.) This analysis might scare off some branders - and that my friend, is likely a good thing.
May the Best Brands Win.