15 of the Best Books for Learning How to Brand

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Successful branding is the Holy Grail for all marketing professionals and business owners. Good branding means awareness, and with awareness comes recall. When people can remember your brand (in a positive light, of course), you are more likely to profit than if you were selling a less-recognizable product or service, even if it's the same or even better quality. There is nothing new under the sun, after all, so the competition for custom relies heavily on recognition.

However, brand marketing is by no means a walk in the park. Effectively telling people what you do (marketing) goes over more easily if they know who you are (branding). For consumers to remember who you are, you have to create a connection with them. To put into perspective how difficult this can be, imagine trying to make an impact on 1,000 people you meet at a convention.

No matter how charming or interesting you are, you cannot hope to connect to even half of them on a one-to-one basis. If you go up on stage and give a good speech, then most of them will at least remember your name — if you tell them clearly enough, that is. Now, imagine trying to do that with millions of people!

That is what branding is all about. To pull it off, you need to know exactly how. And while you're off to a good start paying attention to informative blog posts like this one, there's a lot more to it than what can fit in 1,500 words or less. If you are figuratively lost at sea, or need a little more inspiration, then here are some of the best resources you can use for learning how to brand effectively.

Some of them are way old, but no less brilliant. You don't have to read them all…but it can't hurt.

1. All Marketers Tell Stories (2009), Seth Godin

This is actually a relabeling of the original All Marketers are Liars, and they are the same book except for the foreword. The book focuses on worldviews, and shows that by telling true and effective stories, you can attract the people who share your worldview. In his new foreword, Godin says, “We believe what we want to believe, and once we believe something, it becomes a self-fulfilling truth.”

2. Designing Brand Identity: An Essential Guide for the Whole Branding Team, 4th Edition (2012), Alina Wheeler

If you are new to the business, this is the book to learn the basics of branding. It uses case studies and real world situations to explain a universal five-step process for branding. This updated version includes advice for tackling social media and mobile devices, among other topics.

3. Emotional Branding: The New Paradigm for Connecting Brands to People (2010), Marc Gobé


Today's customer is driven by an accumulation of their life experiences, so targeting consumers by appealing to their individuality as well as their demand for authenticity is a powerful strategy (and one Seth Godin will agree with, too). Gobé explains how and why you should defy the old marketing conventions and learn a new approach based on emotions and senses. It's a great resource for marketing students and brand managers alike.

4. Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations (2008), Clay Shirky

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Brilliantly written but perhaps a bit on the critical dark side. If you need to get down from the clouds about social media, and take a hard look at how SMM (social media marketing) affects society, this is the book for you.

5. Hey, Whipple, Squeeze This: The Classic Guide to Creating Great Ads (2012), Luke Sullivan


Great ads are part of great branding, so if you can get the lowdown on how to make effective ads while busting a gut, there's no crime in that. Hey, Whipple, Squeeze This is an easy read and demonstrates how the right words can make a world of difference. The 2012 Fourth Edition addresses interactive online media as well as traditional media. 

6. Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, Revised Edition (2006), Robert Caldini

Do you know how people, specifically your customers, make decisions? If you don't already, you should. Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion may be just the book for you. The book lists 6 universal truths about persuasion, and covers the methods and scientific principles behind manipulating how people think about your brand.

7. Little Red Book of Selling: 12.5 Principles of Sales Greatness (2004), Jeffrey Gitomer

This book may purport to be about selling, but it is actually a manual for understanding buying behavior. It's an absolute must for any branding and marketing person. And it's short, sweet, and to the point. 

8. Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die (2007), Chip Heath and Dan Heath

The Heath brothers point out that good ideas are a dime a dozen; it is the ones that go viral that succeed. The authors present some intriguing concepts such as the Velcro Theory of Memory, and “curiosity gaps.” The book covers 6 key traits that determine an idea's stickiness while using real-life examples of successes and failures. 

9. Ogilvy on Advertising (1985), David Ogilvy


It's an old book, yes, but this guy was talking about branding when most businesspeople didn't even know what the word meant. What he says about selling a brand still stands true today. The fact that David Ogilvy is also the founder of one of the most powerful advertising networks around, Ogilvy & Mather, should also help sell you on the book. 

10. Purple Cow: Transform Your Business by Being Remarkable (2003), Seth Godin


Before Godin wrote "All Marketers Tell Stories," he wrote "Purple Cow." The idea is simple. People remember purple cows. They're different, they're new. In marketing, they're the companies that take off when others are stuck in the mud. The book explains how, all other factors being even, some ideas are destined to succeed while others are doomed to failure. 

11. The Anatomy of Buzz Revisited (2009), Emanuel Rosen

Getting people talking about you and your business in a positive way is essential to success. The Anatomy of Buzz Revisited is a major update to 2000's The Anatomy of Buzz: How to Create Word of Mouth Marketing. It focuses on the importance of word-of-mouth in branding, with updates to 2/3 of its material. The revised version includes advice for dealing with social media. 

12. The Art of the Pitch: Persuasion and Presentation Skills that Win Business (2012), Peter Coughter

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Told in a humorous narrative style, The Art of the Pitch shows you how to create effective sales pitches and presentations. It covers every step of the process from drafting and organizing a presentation to connecting with your audience, and of course, rehearsing. 

13. The Cluetrain Manifesto: The End of Business as Usual, 10th Anniversary Edition (2011), Rick Levine, Christopher Locke, Doc Searls, and David Weinberger


The Cluetrain Manifesto was first published in 1999, just as the Internet began to truly change how people interacted. It was a collection of essays and a list of 95 theses about how the Internet impacted marketing strategies. It predicted how interconnectedness would lead to what we know refer to as social media. The original is online for free, and it's a fascinating read if you want the historical and scholarly background of the major changes that society is undergoing as we speak. You can also get the updated 10th Anniversary edition with new and updated content. 

14. The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference (2002), Malcolm Gladwell

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Wouldn't we all want to know just how far we should push to make a brand really take off? If we knew that precise point, we would all be millionaires! Unfortunately, it is more intuitive than scientific, but it is nevertheless a fascinating read. Gladwell, a journalist, uses anecdotes to examine the phenomenon and how the actions of a few people led to that "tipping point," the point at which an idea goes viral. 

15. Waiting for Your Cat to Bark? Persuading Customers When They Ignore Marketing (2006), Bryan Eisenberg and Jeffrey Eisenberg with Lisa T. Davis

If you know about Pavlov's dogs, then you already know something about classical conditioning and mass marketing techniques. This book points out that there has been a paradigm shift as customers today have more choices, and more channels for communication. You need to know this if you still think you can use Psych 101 to do your branding. Instead, like the other books on this list, the Eisenberg brothers and Lisa Davis advocate for relationship-based marketing. 

Books might seem passé in the digital era, but a decent hardcover can hold a whole lotta wisdom not found on the screen. Of course, quite a few of these are available as paperbacks or e-books, if you prefer. Pick up a few of these titles and put their strategies in action. While you're at it, tell us your favorite business or branding books in the comments.


About the author
Zack Rutherford

Zack Rutherford is a freelance copywriter. A combat sports enthusiast and poetic soul, he endeavors to create beauty through syntax, sentence structure, and the liberal use of hyperbole.

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