Top 18 Brand Strategy Books For Ambitious Branding Pros In 2021

There is no shortage of content in the world, especially when it comes to branding.

As much as I love a good course, program or well-researched article, it’s hard to beat a good brand strategy book.

From positioning to storytelling, from purpose to processes, this collection of books was the foundation for my growth as a brand strategist.

Here are my favourite brand strategy books for 2021 and beyond.

There is no shortage of content in the world, especially when it comes to branding.

As much as I love a good course, program or well-researched article, it’s hard to beat a good brand strategy book.

From positioning to storytelling, from purpose to processes, this collection of books was the foundation for my growth as a brand strategist.

Here are my favourite brand strategy books for 2021 and beyond.

18 Best Brand Strategy Books in 2021
(For Ambitious Strategists)

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The Brand Gap – Marty Neumeier

I start with this ground shifting book by the godfather of branding Mr Marty Neumeier for two reasons.

First, this was the book that set me on a journey of brand strategy discovery that doesn’t look like coming to an end anytime soon.

Second, this book is such a great primer for strategy that closes the distance between business strategy and design.

More of a manifesto than a comprehensive book that you could get through in hours rather than days, The Brand Gap brings words to the idea that a brand is an entity that is bigger than the sum of its parts.

Although this book doesn’t get down to any nitty gritty details or techniques, the 50,000 foot view is a great starting point to understand the high level concept of modern branding.

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Branding In Five And A Half Steps – Michael Johnson

If you’re wading into brand strategy waters for the first time, Branding In Five And A Half Steps by Michael Johnson is a perfect place to dip your toe in the water (especially if you’re a brand designer).

He separates branding into investigation; strategy and narrative, before bridging the gap to design, implementation then engage and revive.

This book is highly visual with hundreds of images and graphics to illustrate his points and provides you with a basic framework to develop strategic brands from scratch.

If you’re looking for a practical and applicable entry-level to strategy, you can’t go wrong with this easy to digest, yet comprehensive book.

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Start With Why – Simon Sinek

Simon Sinek introduced the concept of starting with why in 2009 with this industry-leading book. His idea is focused on what is now more widely known as brand purpose.

Hey uses his Golden Circle concept to illustrate that mist brand know what they do, some brands know how they do it but very few brands know why they do what they do.

He goes on to state that people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it and what you do simply proves what you believe.

Now I have to say I really enjoyed this book as he illustrates how the world’s most influential leaders all had a clear and passionate “Why” which was the reason they had such a strong following.

Now my opinion, a strong why is not enough, but it’s a really valuable foundational pillar.

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Building A Storybrand – Don Miller

This book is the go-to when it comes to brand storytelling.

Before he became a marketing consultant, Don Miller was a factional writer and he studied the best storytelling frameworks including The Hero’s Journey and he’s used these frameworks to hook readers into a story so they stay engaged from start to finish.

In Building A Storybrand, he promotes the idea that the customer is the protagonist and hero and the brand plays the role of the guide. Using an adaptation  of the Hero’s journey, he provides a framework for brand storytelling designed to hook the customer into the brands message.

A really interesting read and a great perspective on how you should look at the customer.

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Shoe Dog – Phil Knight

I found this book such an enjoyable read because it’s a chronicle of the birth and growth of one of the biggest brands of all time Nike.

Phil Knight tells the story of how he stumbled on the idea of building a shoe company through his passion for track and filed and a trip to Japan in his early 20’s.

Through Blue Ribbon, which was the brands original name, you see the same struggles that you would see throughout any small business today with banks chasing payments and suppliers playing hardball.

My favourite part of the book was the story of how Phil Knight wanted to call Nike Dimention6 instead and how the famous swoosh was created by a young designer from Portland for $30… Which Phil also wasn’t a big fan of in the beginning.

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Positioning: The Battle For Your Mind – Al Reiss & Jack Trout

Although this ground-breaking book was written in the early 80’s it’s never been more important than it is today.

This book pioneered the idea that in order to be remembered, brand’s need to define their “position” as to what they should be remembered for.

It also took branding into the realm of science with the idea that a brand’s “Position” wasn’t a physical place but an idea that lived in the mind of the audience… Hence the title; “The Battle For Your Mind”.

When you read through this book you hear references and examples of brands from the 60’s and 70’s including the well-told Avis “We try harder” campaign. Although this is a reminder of just how long ago this idea was presented, this book is an absolute essential when it comes to understanding the role of positioning in brand strategy.

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Purple Cow – Seth Godin

Seth Godin is a marketing genius and his unique perspective makes him a breath of fresh air in a world of marketing gurus.

The overarching premise of the book is that the old way of creating products and services that lean towards “Safe and average”, no longer works.

Instead, the only way for a brand to gain traction in the market is to create products and services that are remarkable in order to delight the customer and entice them to spread the word.

Or in other words, A brown cow is boring and isn’t worth talking about. A purple cow on the other hand is worth sharing.

This book was an important one for me when I was diving deep into the important topic of differentiation.

I would say this book is written more for the big corporate brands of the world as ground-breaking innovation is a constant theme though you shouldn’t be put off if you’re dealing with smaller businesses…

There’s still plenty to learn on the topic of differentiation from one of the best marketing authors out there.

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Zag – Marty Neumeier

Zag has been named one of the 100 best business books of all time and has informed and influenced the likes of Steve Jobs, Bill Gates & Elon Musk.

I would argue that this is one of the best-named books of all time and provides you with an insight (if you read between the lines) of what you’re gonna get inside.

The premise of the book is that when everyone Zigs, you Zag. Or to put it another way, your brand needs to do the opposite of what everyone else is doing to be that breath of fresh air and unique alternative in the market.

While “The Brand Gap” was Marty’s overarching position on the idea of a brand, Zag gets into much more detail about the importance of differentiation and designing an experience across all touchpoints.

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