My building brand reading list

My building brand reading list

Nearly every organisation I work with gets a bit of a reading list from me. I can’t seem to help myself because much of my thinking about brand has been informed from the most unexpected places.

So after sifting through my shelves and reading list, these are a selection of books that I believe will help you get your heads around what it really takes to build a brand. I’ve written about some of them and quoted others, so some of the names may be familiar. And while none of them are of the “how to brand” genre or even have the word brand in their titles or text, they all have great advice and information that will help you build your brand.

In no particular order of recommendation (I have deliberately not hyper-linked them because I assume you all can find your way to the bookstore of your choice!):

Let My People Go Surfing, by Yvon Chouinard

This is one of my top three books I recommend people read. It is hard to beat for a blow by blow, the good bad and ugly look at building clothing and equipment company Patagonia through the eyes of founder and reluctant businessman Yvon Chouinard.

It touches on many of the topics I cover here: the need to define what you mean and really understand it; staying true to what you care about and weaving it into every aspect of your organisation. If there was ever a prize for the best how-to guide for building a brand this would have to in the running.

Built to Last, Good to Great and Great by Choice, by Jim Collins

I am still amazed how many people haven’t read Good to Great despite it being the biggest selling business book of all time. Usually I steer well clear of anything that popular, but in this case its popularity is for good reason.

Whether helping you figure out what you need to think about for the foundations to lasting success (Built to Last) or how to take what you have and make it enduringly great (Good to Great and Great by Choice), Jim makes surprisingly practical ideas born of rigorous research easy to grasp.

You can’t build a strong resilient brand if you don’t have a strong resilient business. This set of three books will give you plenty of food for thought on what it takes to do that.

Logic of Failure, by Dietrich Dorner

The small, eminently sensible steps people take to certain disaster. It’s almost impossible to be successful if you can’t think about failure. This is the book that encouraged me to talk to people about thinking beyond the immediate couple of steps – how the ripples of actions and decisions can make or break what you are trying to build.

A Simpler Way, by Margaret Wheatley

The brand is a result of the organisation. So how can we think differently about what we are trying to build? What does the way life organises itself have to show us? How do we combine our endeavours into something that matters?

Margaret Wheatley has a way of exploring things that you didn’t realise you wanted to think about until you read her thoughtful and insightful questions.

Made to Stick, by Chip and Dan Heath

Being able to talk about what you care about in a way that will engage others who also care about it is fundamental to building a brand. You can’t hire the right people or find the right customers if you can’t do it.

This little tome offers some great practical advice and even has a checklist so you’ll know if you’re on the right track. I’ve lost count of the number of copies I’ve bought and given away.

Profiles in Courage, by John F Kennedy

This is probably the most unconventional one on my list. Building a brand takes courage. Putting what you care about in the line of fire is not for the faint of heart. The names in this book may not be familiar but the stories paint a timeless portrait of grace under pressure that can help anyone navigate through the fantastic struggles likely to come along.

(Note the term “fantastic struggles” is via friend Dave Curtis – great option to the overused challenges.)

The Myth of Excellence, by Fred Crawford and Ryan Mathews

No organisation or brand can be all things to all people and this book provides a good simple and practical model for how to think about what your thing is and how that can and should impact on what and how you do things.

Nothing is more fundamental to building a brand than knowing what you care about and how to make it visible. Written in 2001, the examples can feel a bit dated in spots but the underlying thinking is as relevant today as it was in a pre-digital world.

In nearly every book I read I find some piece that inspires some new or expanded way of thinking about the capricious, complex and at times confounding process of building a brand.

Recently, The Slow Fix by Carl Honoré, The Rise by Sarah Lewis and An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth by Chris Hadfield provided fantastic inspiration about the need to slow down to speed up, how creativity and failure go hand in hand and the necessity of being prepared even when things go right.

Do you have a great book that helped you build your brand? Please share it below with why it helped you.

See you next week with “Growing the brand”.


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