Branding is highly conceptual, process-oriented and quantifiable, but reconciling these things (in a way that doesn’t make your head explode) is a challenging feat indeed. But just ask brands like Apple, Nike and Amazon: Branding pays off tremendously when you go to market.
We’ve rounded up 10 must-have books that demystify brand and break down all of the art — and science — behind any brand initiative.
1. The Brand Gap: How to Bridge the Distance Between Business Strategy and Design, by Marty Neumeier
Clear, beautifully-designed and full of insights, The Brand Gap ditches the jargon and simplifies brand building by outlining five key disciplines to start mastering today. Neumeier highlights a wealth of examples (though some may be outdated) to illustrate each of these disciplines, giving you a practical perspective. It’s a must-read for any business owner wanting to communicate value in the most effective and strategic way.
“A brand is a person’s gut feeling about a product, service, or company. It’s not what you say it is. It’s what they say it is.”
2. Designing Brand Identity: An Essential Guide for the Whole Branding Team, by Alina Wheeler
It’s considered one of the most comprehensive books on the concept of branding — and reads a lot like a textbook — so don’t expect to knock this one out in a day. With more than 400 quotes from brand gurus all over the world, 700 illustrations of brand touchpoints, 100 branding subjects, checklists, tools and diagrams, the sheer volume of information can be intimidating. But if you read this piece-by-piece and strategically refer back to it during a branding project, this one will quickly become your best friend.
“The best brands speak with one distinctive voice. On the web, in a tweet, in a sales pitch, in a speech given by the president, the company needs to project the same unified message. It must be memorable, identifiable, and centered on the customer.”
3. Building a StoryBrand: Clarifying Your Message So Customers Will Listen, by Donald Miller
Donald Miller has become one of the most influential business consultants in the modern world, and Building a StoryBrand makes one thing clear: The key to building a brand that people want to do business with is clarifying your message. The best way to do this is through storytelling principles that put your audience as the main character. The Story Brand Framework, outlined in this book, leverages the basic elements of effective storytelling, offering an easy-to-understand process to clarify your company’s message and make it more client-centric.
“Brands that help customers avoid some kind of negativity in life (and let their customers know what that negativity is) engage customers for the same reason good stories captivate an audience: they define what’s at stake.”
4. Be Your Own Brand: Achieve More of What You Want By Being More of Who You Are, by David McNally and Karl Speak
In a digital world riddled with overly-filtered selfies, fake news and photoshopped photos, Be Your Own Brand highlights the homegrown “self-brand” rather than a bigger, more corporate brand image. Great for instagrammers and influencers, the book focuses on authenticity and trust, and how to lean into your purpose while also being aware of our impact on others.
“Everybody already has a brand. Your brand is a reflection of who you are and what you believe, which is visibly expressed by what you do and how you do it.”
5. Brand Identity Breakthrough: How to Craft Your Company’s Unique Story to Make Your Products Irresistible, by Gregory V. Diehl
An ideal read for young entrepreneurs, this book also covers core business fundamentals like marketing and sales programs best practices — all essential in the grand scheme of your brand. It also outlines pitfalls to avoid in the process. Diehl’s book has been hailed for its powerful (almost poetic) way of describing some of the most complex business and branding concepts today. It could be more hands-on in tactical approaches and applications, but as a concept overview, it’s incredibly insightful.
“Traveling the world on my own terms taught me that human beings make decisions based not on the reality of things, but on the stories that fill their heads about how things are.”
6. Brand Thinking and Other Noble Pursuits, by Debbie Millman
On the heels of her acclaimed podcast “Design Matters”, Debbie Millman looks at branding through the eyes of the most respected design minds in the world. Each chapter spotlights a dialogue between Millman and a branding expert that will leave you with a fresh and inspiring perspective on brand.
“I think market research is extremely valuable when it is used properly. But you must not use it to tell you what to do.”
7. How to Launch a Brand: Your Step-by-Step Guide to Crafting a Brand: From Positioning to Naming And Brand Identity, by Fabian Geyrhalter
When you’re ready to make the shift from conceptual know-how to hands-on application, this book will have your back every step of the way. Every chapter is a new, concrete step to build and launch your brand, and it even references additional resources for deeper dives on topics. It’s full of proven frameworks and tools that are described clearly and simplistically.
“So much of the world of branding is about creating a specific perception. I won’t guide you to fake it — I want you to make it. “
8. Hello, My Name is Awesome: How to Create Brand Names That Stick, by Alexandra Watkins
A nice break from a more comprehensive look at brand, Hello, My Name is Awesome zeroes in on one critical component: The very name you give your business. Watkins spent years in the business naming industry and cracks the code on what the most effective (and ineffective) brand names have in common. It has become a glorified go-to for entrepreneurs when brainstorming brand names that pack a serious punch.
“The most powerful brand names connect with people and move them to buy because they are based on familiar words and concepts that they understand and appreciate.”
9. Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration, by Ed Catmull and Amy Wallace
While not a book specifically about brand building, this book from one of Pixar’s own cofounders is an invaluable read on creativity and innovation — essential traits of any successful branding project. Ed Catmull draws from his experience working with most creative storytelling movie studio on earth, shining a light on what it takes for teams to hit their creative strides and thrive. It will take you far beyond brand and into culture and leadership for the long haul.
“If we start with the attitude that different viewpoints are additive rather than competitive, we become more effective because our ideas or decisions are honed and tempered by that discourse.”
10. The Skype Brand Book (The World According to Skype)
To conclude our powerhouse lineup of books, this is an actual example of a branding project manifesting into a 33-page brand book that communicates a truly unified look and feel for the Skype brand. You’ll see how Skype outlines a specific brand voice (and how that’s carried through the entire document), their mission and the nitty-gritty of their visual identity (from fonts to color palette, how to treat their logo and more). It’s a super fun read filled with great design and humor.
“So once again, Skype is for the people. Skype is everything that a teleco is not: generous, interested and proactive. We allow people to talk to each other and the world for free. That will always be news.”
So there you have it: 10 books that will inspire you to build a brand that truly rocks.
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