Anyone who knows me knows I love books and self-development. It's so important to keep your mind-expanding and continually improving how you do things.
I've been getting lots of requests recently for recommendations of good strategy books. Obviously, there are loads out there and I'm constantly digesting them - but here's a list of the ones I've found most helpful in my work as a brand and culture strategy consultant. Some are old classics - others I've read in the last month or so. If you spot one you've not heard of before why not pop it in your Amazon basket and stretch your horizons!
If you have a book of your own that has helped you with your brand strategy work and its not on my list please do message me - I'm always on the hunt for mind-stretching ideas!
So, in no particular order, here are 13 book recommendations for anyone who is interested in brand building. Enjoy!
The Brand Flip - Marty Neumeier
What can I say about this book? Probably the most influential brand book of all time in my view. One of a handful of “whiteboard” books by the master that is Marty Neumeier. This book explains why every company needs to take brand strategy seriously. It places customers firmly at the heart of business thinking and explains why it is that now customers actually run companies. Easy to read. Easy to grasp. Fast to get through. Deep and meaningful. My kind of book.
Branding in 5 and a half steps - Michael Johnson
One of the best books I’ve acquired and read this year. A practical step by step guide to developing a brand strategy and then making it live. This book is beautifully written and well presented. It gives great tips on the types of strategic questions every business should be grappling with. What I love about it most is the superb examples and case studies - especially because many are UK based (and being from the UK this is very helpful!).
What Great Brands Do - Denise Lee Yon
I always enjoy the calm clarity of Denise Lee Yon. This book runs you through seven key brand-building principles giving superb examples along the way. Not only that it shows you exercises you can run with leadership teams to develop a strategy yourself around these principles. Recommended.
Traction - Gino Wickman
Not really a “brand” book per se - more of a way to run a business. However, the principles on which Traction is built and the ingenious Entrepreneurial Operating System (EOS) are essential learnings for anyone seeking to understand how businesses can scale and grow. This book also shows the power of applying a “design” approach to business systems. A must for a business advisor.
Storyategy - Matt Davies
I’m not sure if one can include one's own book in a list of favourites but I do believe my book adds huge value to the space and I do continually refer to it to remind me of key principles. It’s been described as “your field guide to building a brand strategy”. I wrote it in an easy to read, step by step way which contains real actions for leadership teams looking to align around what they stand for. It uses the psychological principles of storytelling and shows how these can be used to align teams and manage meaning.
Blue Ocean Strategy - W. Chan Kim & Renee Mauborgne
This book is brilliant. Win by making the competition irrelevant - not by trying to beat them. This book is all about how you can create differentiation by changing the rules. The analogy is that of leaving a red ocean - where everyone is competing and eating each other - into a blue ocean - where you are the first and there are no other fish to take chunks out of you.
The Smart Strategy Book - Kevin Duncan
I love this book. It shows how brand strategy fits alongside seven other essential business strategies. In a pithy, easy to read and punchy way you can get the essentials of brand and business strategy in a non-complicated and easy to digest way. A superb book.
This is Marketing - Seth Godin
Anything written by Seth Godin is usually brilliant. In this book though his genius really shines. He challenges businesses to not simply say things but to do things. To create meaningful customer experiences. To be more than a simply a product. To put customers at the heart of everything you do in order to create value and base your marketing strategy around solving their problems.
ZAG - Marty Neumeier
When everybody zigs. Zag. This is the #1 strategy of high-performance brands. Another masterpiece by Marty Neumeier. In it, he explains why we should stop trying to be better but try to start being different. When you do this you get noticed and, assuming you are different for the right reasons you can add value and grow. An essential read for anyone interested in differentiation strategy.
The Hero and the Outlaw - Margret Mark and Carol S Pearson
Although 20 years old the principles in this book are phenomenal. This is the foundational work on archetypes and how they can be used by brands to connect deeply with consumers. The ideas of this book are universal, deep-rooted in human psychology. If you want to create meaning in your brand positioning you must read this book.
Start with Why - Simon Sinek
The simplicity of the idea of ensuring you can define “your why” is profound and powerful. In this book, Sinek explains why “why” matters. That people join you because of your why. Not because of what or how. That people engage emotionally with why. The ideas he shares are so helpful to understand when applied to brand and culture strategy.
The Experience Economy - Joseph Pine & James Gilmore
If you want to create value - create experiences. A mind-blowing book which explains how creating quality customer experiences sits at the top of the ladder of economic value for today's businesses. The book argues (and shows) how that by creating these experiences businesses generate deep meaningful connections with their customers ensuring that they view time spent with your brand as “time well spent”.
The Culting of Brands - Douglas Aitkin
A fascinating read about the parallels between brands and cults. Do brands fill an aspect of the human mind once filled by religion - Aitkin argues they do. By understanding these key drivers brands can help to build deep connections with consumers ensuring that they turn customers into 'True Believers'.
So - there you go. Read yourself rich! I hope you enjoy my list. What have I missed?!