BEST NEW BRAND BOOK: Brand Like a Rock Star
What do Bob Dylan and Whole Foods have in common? How come so many down-n-out artists were able to mount comebacks? Would KISS have sold as many albums had they kept their name Wicked Lester? Read on.
Hands down, this is the best fun-read brand book in a long while. Author Steve Jones loads up this 240 can't-put-it-down pocket book with examples on how some of the world's strongest "rock star" brands (e.g. AC/DC, Aerosmith, Johnny Cash, Elvis, Bob Marley, Bob Dylan, U2, the Beatles) built their brands. He relates their "lessons" to issues facing more traditional businesses. The book also deserves an award for "best book title."
BEST CLASSIC BOOK: Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind
A few years ago, one of my branding mentors, DemetriosVakratsas, lent me his copy of Ries and Trout's book: The Battle for Your Mind. It's a fantastic and insightful read. Although the original issue is approaching 25 years old, the book got a 20th anniversary update a few years ago. If you want an evening read that is a perfect blend of anecdotal stories and theory, this book is for you. It's the book that I recommend most (and have handed out most) for folks who need a really quick study on branding.
BEST TEXT BOOK: Strategic Brand Management
In my opinion, every brander ought to have a definitive "go-to" brand resource. There hasn't been a better one published than Kevin Lane Keller's Strategic Brand Management. Now in its 3rd edition (pictured left, 2008), this book is based on Keller's 1993 Journal of Marketing Article: Conceptualizing, Measuring and Managing Customer Based Brand Equity. The text (and research) focuses on the brand as an information node that exists in the consumer's mind. Therefore, to build a strong brand, that brand information node can be enhanced by improving awareness of the information node and associations linked to it. The text gives a pretty good summary of many of the ways to measure the brand (particularly in the consumer's mind) and an outstanding text book summary on approaches to build the brand. The author of the book, Kevin Keller, is also the defacto Godfather of modern branding. Brilliant works.
BEST 30,000 FOOT OVERVIEW: Brands and Branding
The Economist publishes a lot of good stuff and this book is no exception. Editor Rita Clifton grabs a subset of the "who's who" of brand experts and compiles her book with a lot of insights on brands at the 30,000 foot level. Chapter 1, written by Clifton herself, is maybe the best chapter that I have ever read on the importance and value of brands to businesses, non-profit organizations, and society. It builds a compelling case for why brands are a wonderful part of our society. The book also covers other less-written about topics like brand protection and ends with perspectives on the future of brands.
MOST CONTROVERSIAL: Buyology
One consumer-insights manager from Loblaws who has a deep interest in how the mind works put me on to Buyology a few years ago. In this book, Martin Lindstrom shares his perspectives and research on the subconscious reasons people buy. Some of his methods and perspectives are controversial too. For example- according to his research, the hideous pictures on tobacco packages actually excite a lot of smokers- the exact opposite of the pictures' desired effects. Lindstrom has a new book out (Brandwash) and we'll see how he follows up on his Buyology bestseller.