9 of Our Fave Books on Branding (If You Have No Idea What You’re Doing)

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.

We’ve come across plenty 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 9 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. (We hope they help you on your branding journey, and if you pick any of them up, let us know what you think.)

1) Brand Gap: How to Bridge the Distance Between Business Strategy and Design by Marty Neumeier

Recommended by: Katy French, Managing Editor

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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

Recommended by: Josh Ritchie, Cofounder

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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.

3) Designing Brand Identity: An Essential Guide for the Whole Branding Team by Alina Wheeler

Recommended by: Nate Butler, Creative Director

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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  

Recommended by: Abheeth Salgado, Art Director

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For design geeks like us (who mainly work in digital), this book is a fantastic resource. While 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

Recommended by: Asher Rumack, Director of Strategy

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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

Recommended by: Josh Ritchie, Cofounder

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It’s pretty much impossible to compile a best-of list without including something from marketing genius 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.

7) Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose by Tony Hsieh

Recommended by: Ross Crooks, Cofounder

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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 Cofounder Tony Hsieh, who shares his personal and professional wisdom in this fascinating book. The book is especially helpful for high-level leadership, who should always lead by example if they want their brand to thrive. 

8) Playing to Win: How Strategy Really Works by A.G. Lafley and Roger L. Martin

Recommended by: Ross Crooks, Cofounder

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If you want tips from some major pros, Procter & Gamble CEO A.G. Lafley and his strategic advisor Roger L. Martin have them. The pair doubled P&G’s sales, quadruple its profits, and increase its market value by more than $100 billion while Lafley was at the helm of the company, and this book outlines how they did it (spoiler: with five essential strategic choices). If your brand is stuck in a rut, this book might bust you out of it.

9) Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration by Ed Catmul

Recommended by: Ross Crooks, Cofounder

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When it comes to branding, storytelling, and truly creative content, who better to learn from than the cofounder of Pixar Animation Studios? This fascinating book is 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.

More Branding Resources For You

We know building a brand can feel overwhelming, so we do what we can to share our hard-earned knowledge, whether it’s mistakes to avoid or tools that can change your life. For more tips, check out our branding archive, or take a look at these useful posts:

If you ain’t got time for none of that, we’d be happy to lend a hand.