The Best Branding Books: My Favorites for Inspiration & Learning

People know I’m a bookworm. 🤓 And people know I’m a brand strategist. So, it follows that I’m frequently asked about what I believe are the best branding books.

Yep… Aspiring brand strategists, my fellow entrepreneurs, and even students who are studying marketing, brand psychology, and brand strategy… They all want a peek at my jam-packed book shelf!   

So in this post, I’m excited to play a little ‘show and tell’ – and share many of my favorite branding books. BUT here’s the thing… my list may surprise you a bit. (More on that below!)

As per usual, you can read to get all my recommendations, or you can press play on the accompanying video below – if you prefer to consume content in that way. 

Oh, and one more thing before we dive in… You can also click on my Brand Book Kit link right here – for a visual listing and links to some of the favorites that I’m sharing below. 

📚 Preface: Sometimes the best branding books aren’t really branding books. 

Sounds rather funny, right? Let me explain:

I have read a lot of branding books in my day. But I haven’t read a new one in awhile! (Really.) Here’s why: It’s very important for me that when I’m creating course material, the knowledge I’m imparting to people is coming from my own brain, from my own experience, from my own experiments – like the work that I’ve done directly with my brand strategy and development clients.

I DON’T want to just regurgitate what other brand strategists are saying. THAT would be soooooo off-brand for me, as the Sage archetype

So I haven’t actually read a book that’s strictly “a branding book” in a really, really long time. (Like, I’d say a few years.)

Now, why am I telling you all this? Well, it’s all to preface 😉 (see what I did there?) this article. Because, it’s not just a list of some of my very favorite “branding books.” 

Actually, it’s a list of books that have *informed* my brand strategy work. And some of them are in fact about branding – and even have “brand” in the title. But many of them are not really about branding, per se. 

Make sense? Cool. Let’s proceed. 

Without further ado, I present to you… my all star line up. 📚📚📚📚📚📚  Let’s start with… 

The Brand Flip

I love all of Marty Neumeier’s books – but this one is particularly brilliant. It’s all about how consumers are now shaping the brands that they love. 

So instead of branding being an exclusively top down process – or simply an expression or activity of the business – consumers are shaping the conversation. The book posits that “customers now run companies” – and digs into how brand-builders can profit from this ‘flip!’

Marty is amazing and I really love these short, digestible, highly-quotable branding books. As I mentioned above, I don’t actually read a lot of ‘strictly branding’ books – but this one really captured my curiosity – and continues to do so. 

The Hero & The Outlaw

If you’ve been in my orbit for any length of time, you know that I’m ob-SESSED with brand archetypes. (And that’s saying it lightly!) 

You may know, dear reader 😉, that I created a brand personality quiz to help entrepreneurs uncover their innate advantages. That quiz has been taken more than 200,000 times over the years. (Crazypants!) And the Brand Archetypes* – and this book are the basis for the quiz. 

For the quiz and accompanying materials, I changed some of the archetype names to make them more applicable to brands. For example, I called the ‘Destroyer’ the ‘Maverick. Instead of the ‘Everyman,’ we have the Girl or Guy Next Door. I did this because I wanted to emphasize the positive attributes of each ‘type.

So, yeah. This book is pretty important to me. 

(*I believe that brands must tap into personality and emotion. I believe they must play a role in people’s lives that goes beyond the product or service – to avoid being just a commodity. That’s how we create affinity. That’s how we command a powerful position in the market – and higher prices. If you agree… you may want to snag a copy of this book!)

Okay next up is another archetype fave… 

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Awakening The Heroes Within

While The Hero & The Outlaw is more focused on branding with the archetypes, Carol S. Pearson’s Awakening the Heroes Within is uber-interesting, simply from a human perspective. 

It dives even deeper into each of the twelve ‘types. So if you’re fascinated by them like me, it’s a great read. (I went back and read this a couple of years ago and enjoyed it a lot!)

Brain Surfing: The Top Marketing Strategy Minds in the World

This book by Heather LeFevre is sooooooo underrated! I don’t see it acknowledged or referenced in many places, but it’s a gem. The author’s experience is more in the big agency world, whereas I tend to work with entrepreneurs and small to medium business owners – but it still holds an important place on my shelf. Here’s why… 

She took a sabbatical and traveled to marketing agencies across the globe, learning from the best minds in marketing. And she documented her learnings in this book. It does an incredible job presenting so many different frameworks – and how people are thinking about building brands. 

I love, love, love, love this book. Have I mentioned that? 😉 Okay, next up is…

The Positive Trait Thesaurus

This one, authored by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi, is a resource for fiction writers who are writing compelling characters. 

It helps me dive into thinking about brands as if they’re human… and how they might act and what traits are related to other traits. (Nerd alert 🚨, I know…!) 

So for example, let’s say I want a brand to be passionate. (Lover archetype!) Here’s an example of what this book offers:

“Possible causes of feeling passionate are… feeling things on a deep, emotional level, being in touch with one’s emotions, being deeply loyal to a person, relationship, ideal, organization, believing on a moral level, that one should stand up for what’s right…” et cetera.

And then the book also informs my understanding of associated behaviors. (Psssst…I love this so much for shaping compelling, on-brand Origin Stories.)

So here’s one associated behavior for example… Expressing a wide range of emotions. So maybe we have some really emotional, heart-string-tugging, marketing videos – or brand-building videos using big, excited gestures. Or the brand’s spokesperson could communicate this brand attribute by displaying these behaviors… You get the idea! 

Another example of a behavior associated with passionate… Intense loyalty. So, having a cause perhaps – one that you’re deeply in love with and to which you are exceedingly loyal… this would be on-brand. 

I’m fascinated just writing this… There’s so much gold in this “Positive Trait Thesaurus.” (Maybe THIS is my favorite! 😉 So hard to choose… Good thing I don’t have to!) 

Symbols: A Handbook for Seeing

Okay. Now, leaning more into the visual side of things… I love books like this one about symbols and their meanings. This one by Mark Fox and Angie Wang is so gorgeous and useful. 

(And, BONUS! It looks sooooo good in my brand photography and on my Youtube video set! 🤣)

“Symbols, A Handbook For Seeing” brings us back to what Carl Jung calls the “collective unconscious.” He noted that humans often will perceive the meaning of symbols on a very gut and primal level. Often this is based on the context we have continually seen that symbol show up in – in art, literature, television and other media… Even in the regular, everyday lives and functions we see those objects perform. 

An outstretched hand may represent connection and cooperation. A crown may represent order or luxury – or both. A certain type of flower (or a bud) may represent innocence… where another flower represents something entirely different, right? 

To use the content of this book (and others like it), you can search in it for the meaning that you want to convey – and then use symbols that are associated with that meaning. 

Alternatively, maybe you already have a symbol that you’d like to use in your brand (a wheel, for example?) – and you can look up the meaning to make sure it’s in alignment with your overall brand story. (If it’s not, maybe you need to change your story. Or maybe you need to change the icon. The goal is to align them.) 

The Book Of Beautiful Questions

I also love books with reflection questions – like this one by Warren Berger. You know… the ones that go deep, and help us know ourselves better. (This one is described as “The Powerful Questions That Will Help You Decide, Create, Connect, and Lead.”) 

Coaches and consultants often use these types of questions to uncover things with clients, too. 

In fact, the main reason I love this book is that when I’m working with one-on-one clients, I want to dive deeeeeeep into my client’s psyche. (Because my consulting work includes in-depth interviews in which I facilitate a process that extracts the genius of the client, so we can get it out of her brain and into the world. (And into the hands of her team, via the brand sourcebook we create for her.)

So my process relies on powerful questions to go into all of the nooks and crannies… to figure out what makes the client and the brand tick… to understand why the vision is what it is… and to identify what emotional stories we can tell. 

A few examples of the types of questions you’ll find within are… 

  • What positive result do I hope will come out of this work? 
  • What is motivating this urge to do this work? 
  • What do I struggle with on a day to day basis? 

And there’s a lot more where that came from in this book. It is part of a series. There’s a few others that are like it. And I love them all.  

The Power Of Moments

Okay, you now know that – when it comes to books that inform my branding work – I’m nerding out on both branding books – and books about human nature, psychology, character, etc.

I also love books that are about neuroscience. This one, “The Power Of Moments” is just such a book. And it is an excellent read about why certain experiences have extraordinary impact on us.

It’s about how defining moments in life… well… they define us! It digs deep into the reasons why humans tend to remember the best or worst moments and experiences, and how those are etched into our lives and define our viewpoints. 

As a brand-builder, if you know what makes a moment meaningful, you have the opportunity to design those moments – and add them into your brand experiences. So good. 🤓

Contagious

This last one (for today, anyway!) is one that’s more directly related to brand building. This crazypants-good read by Jonah Berger is about how and why things catch on in our culture. 

What makes things go viral? Or become the new thing everyone is talking about at the water cooler? 

As brand-builders, we’re always seeking to build demand. This book is a deep look at just that – and about what we can do to make *our things* “catch on” – like the newest ‘it bag’ or ‘it device.’ Reading this will help you build that kind of demand.

📚 Epilogue

So there you have it… some of the tomes that have earned (many times over) their respective spots on my office bookshelf! 

Clearly, I love me some books that further develop my brand-building acumen. And perhaps now what I shared above (in the preface; about not often reading branding books) makes more sense to you, dear reader? 

Occasionally I’ll read a book that’s actual about branding. But more often I’ve got my nose in a resource that’s simply about humans…how we see and interact with the world. And, those can be directly applied to brand building. 

Remember… You can also click on my Brand Book Kit link right here – for a visual listing and links to some of the favorites that I mentioned here (plus even more of my treasured picks!).

Oh, also… let me know in the comments… What is your favorite brand building book? What amazing ones did I miss? I can’t wait to add to my collection and my reading list – based on your suggestions! 

Kaye's favorite branding books

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