Best branding books/blogs

Best books on Branding and Business for 2019

These are the books that I have read that have influenced my brand and general business thinking. There may be more that I have forgotten about but this is my list to date. I’ve written brief reviews about some of the simple things I learnt from each.

1. Why Johnny Can’t Brand – Rediscovering the lost art of the big idea. Bill Schley & Carl Nichols Jr. This is one of the most exceptional books I have ever read. I have been working in brands for 25+ years and it made me think about things totally differently.

2. The Brand Gap: How to Bridge the Distance Between Business Strategy and Design : a Whiteboard Overview by Marty Neumeier. An exceptional and simple book. Again, its one of those ones that once you’ve read it will make you look at all brands and branding projects differently.

2a. Zag: The Number One Strategy of High-performance Brands by Marty Neumeier. Another great book from a very concise thinker and extending some of the thinking in the Brand Gap above. recommended by Chris Fitton. Thanks Chris.

2b. The Designful Company: What I love about this book is the simplicity of the thinking but the fact that it is matched to a great strategy. For me, no brand works without both. If you can’t get a concise message across to a customer as to why they should love your brand, how will they ever have time to hang around to find out. A great read.

2c. Scramble. I was lucky enough to get a preview edition of this and it was brilliant. I loved it. It’s a novel that’s been designed to teach you strategy.

I met Marty a while ago. He is a bit of a hero!

3. Lovemarks: The Future Beyond Brands by Kevin Roberts. Another exceptional one – He was the man that identified the power behind emotive brands and emotion within branding. Anyway, one you have to read to understand what makes Apple/Sony/Nike etc great.

4. Steve Jobs: by Walter Isaacson. This fabulous books details the rise and rise of Apple, Pixar and NeXT under the guidance of Steve Jobs. And if you take one line about branding being about differentiation, take this one. “It’s better to be a pirate than to join the navy”. Really, really worth the read. One of my favourite books ever – and that’s business and fiction books.

5. A Book About Innocent: Our Story and Some Things We’ve Learned by Innocent – A new entry at number four and a brilliant book. Read my full review here and a part review that I had to write (because I was enjoying it so much) here.

6. The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference by Malcolm Gladwell. This was one of my fave books ever until I went to see MG speak in London and then bought Outliers which became my new fave. It sall about creating and understanding what makes a business suddenly explode in success.

7. Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell – He is a great writer and an even better thinker. I just love this book. See a brief book review here.

8. The Momentum Effect: How to Ignite Exceptional Growth (Financial Times Series) by Jean Claude Larreche. A bit tough, but produces the thought that advertising is the tax you have to pay for being mediocre. If you create a better product, you will need to advertise less. With a bad product you have to work harder to even stand still. This is dull, but has some great points about focus on quality. The more you advertise a bad product the fast it’ll fail.

9. Buyology: How Everything We Believe About Why We Buy is Wrong by Martin Lindstrom. Research is dead, long live really powerful brain scanning consumer insight.
I’ve written a brief book review here, but it’s well worth a read.

10. Copywriting: To create a great brand, you need great copy. Mark is an extremely talented friend of many years and his books are the best I’ve ever seen for breaking down the process and igniting the imagination about creating compelling, effective copy for brands.

11. The Search: How Google and Its Rivals Rewrote the Rules of Business and Transformed Our Culture by John Battelle. A brilliant example of single minded determination to create a product that is better than anything else in the world. So many exceptional business lessons in this, it’s well worth the pain of the dull bits.

12. Wally Olins: The Brand Handbook by Wally Olins. This was the best book to understand branding, but i’m not sure it hasn’t been a bit left behind. For someone entering corporate life, it shows you how to not cock stuff up, but I don’t believe there are as many insights into how to create a great brand as there should be. You can read a review of this here.

13. E-myth Revisited by Michael E. Gerber. Why entrepreneurs never make money. They create jobs and not businesses. If you are thinking about going out and starting your own business, you’d be a bit of an eejit not to read this first.

14. The Richer Way by Julian Richer – Now in its fifth edition! Brlliantly relevant. The first version of this, was one of the first books I read that seemed to show incredible customer insight. Richer Sounds, were in the Guinness World records for years with the highest sales per SqFt and this book shows some of their secrets. I met him at a conference once and he was Hugely impressive!

15. The Art of War for Executives by Donald G. Krause. It may be all a bit MBA for most thinkers, but it does give a simple lesson (similar to ‘Who Moved my cheese’) about a business needing to adapt to change in order to survive and thrive. It talks a lot about business (and therefore brands) becoming amorphous and being able to flow around problems.

16. Principles of Marketing by Philip Kotler, Gary Armstrong, Veronica Wong, and John Saunders. Yawn. I remember this all too well from College and still have a current copy now as it is the book that you use as a reference point. The hole of marketing can be explained with four box charts, Kotler and his mates show you how.

17. Other Guy Blinked: How Pepsi Won the Cola Wars by Roger Enrico. Always a good reference point. An insight into a back to back war in the 80’s where Pepsi pushed Coke so hard they forced them into launching new Coke – an abject failure – and Pepsi claimed this meant they had won the cola wars. hmmm.

18. Iacocca: An Autobiography by Lee Iacocca. Again, more of a general business book, but when he saved Chrysler, he did it all the time with 80% of the information and had a dread of MBA’s and their paralysis by analysis. Just a brilliant summary of an exceptional business brain and awesome strategic thinking.

19. Thinking in 3d by Andy Hanselman. Our good friend and death-defying superhero. For a business to succeed, it needs to be clear and demonstrably different. Some fantastic examples (including my previous company Purple Circle on Page 54!!!) all through this book.

20. Boo Hoo: A Dot Com Story by Ernst Malmsten, Erik Portanger, and Charles Drazin. A very sad story of technology too advanced for the market and a company that got so consumed by its own PR that it forgot it needed to make itself easy to buy from and have a platform that actually worked!

21.Who Moved My Cheese?: An Amazing Way to Deal with Change in Your Work and in Your Life by Spencer Johnson. Mice, cheese and little people with some simple parables to explain how to deliver change to your business. You can read a review of this great little book with a max 30 minute read time here.

22. Purple Cow: Transform your business by being remarkable by Seth Godin. As with all of Seth’s work this is a clear and concise summary of differentiation. Why, with any brand, product or service, to get noticed and succeed, you not only need to be good, but you need to stand out.

23. Rework: Change the way you work forever by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson. This is the story of 37 Signals and how making things simpler, made them better. It’s the story of less is more and doing fewer things better. A simple and brilliant lesson for any brand or business and Basecamp, their project management software (that I use) is brilliant too.

24. The Advertising Concept Book: This is a book recommended by Al Davies (Find him on Twitter at @UnionGasworx) and what looks great about it is the fact that it focusses on the concept itself. You can put all the gloss and spin you want on an idea but a bad idea is still a bad idea, so this looks like it could be a great read. Thanks Al.

The Blaggers Guide to Branding by Johnny LyleI have now written own series of books as well. They’re called the Blaggers Guide Series and the first of these is now available online. There’s an initial series of four books with more to follow as soon as they are completed. All will be fast track learning guides to the essentials in the subjects I know well.

There are also lots of Websites that I love

These are the sites that I work with and use a lot.

Andy Hanselman Andy is a business advisor that we have worked with on many successful projects. He is my superhero as he is one of the few people I have found to give honest and brilliant advice every single time we have asked him

Some exceptional blogs that cover branding

As above, these are the blogs that seem to really matter. They are the brand gurus and leaders that i really look up to for inspiration and ideas.

1. Freakonomics – Brilliant book and fabulous differentiated thinking.

2. Seth Godin – Always worth a read.

3. Guy Kawasaki – He’s pretty visible on Twitter too.

4. Mashable – One that came out of the blue but has immense power.

5. Malcolm Gladwell – One of the greatest thinkers of our time.

6. Martin Lindstrom and his many branding brilliance related projects

7. Brand Strategy Insider

8. Ted
This is a site that has brought togther some amazing speakers from around the globe and delivers some of their talks, lectures, thoughts in a simple clear video format. Watch one of these a day and you will become very clever indeed.

If you just watch one lecture, watch Sir Ken Robinson talk about Why schools kill creativity and it will change the way you look at education.

9. The Do Lectures – Talks that Inspire Action

6 thoughts on “Best branding books/blogs

  1. Great list, along with The Brand Gap, I really like Zag by Marty Neumeier as well, it gives a simple breakdown on how to present and find your brand proposition. (and you can read it in a couple of hours!)

      1. Thanks John. There’s a quite few books on here that i have been recommended but have not read yet. Is the Lovemarks book good? I’ve been recommended that before but never took the plunge.

        I completely agree about the Waly Olins book, I was very disappointed with it.

      2. Lovemarks is a great book. May be getting a little left behind in some of the thinking but some killer points in there still. The main thinking is get people to love your brand over and above all reason.

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