The field of branding is constantly evolving, so it’s essential to keep up with the latest thinking and pair that with the tried and proven. One quick way to level up is to learn from books.

From ”Find Your Why” to ”Strategic Brand Management” and “Services Brand Management”, there will never be one best book, but these are the essential books on branding; an essential guide. I own a hard copy of each of these books, so the books were picked from my personal library.

Here are 12 things you can learn from the following 12 best branding books:  

12 best branding books

  1. Start With Why
  2. Find Your Why
  3. The 22 Immutable Laws of Branding
  4. Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind
  5. Building a StoryBrand
  6. Marketing Made Simple
  7. ZAG
  8. The Brand Flip
  9. Steal Like an Artist
  10. Strategic Brand Management
  11. Services Brand Management
  12. Design and Identity

Start With Why and Find Your Why

Start with Why by Simon Sinek
Find Your Why by Simon Sinek, David Mead and Peter Docker      

Discover how leaders inspire everyone to take action through the insights shared in the best brand strategy books.








Start with why is not technically a branding book, but I will argue that once you have found your why – the reason why you are in business – that provides clarity and a hook to hang your branding on. Patagonia, the outdoor clothing brand’s Why is to “limit ecological impacts” and to “save our home planet”. Aligned with this Why the owner recently basically gave away the company to fight climate change.

Start with why makes the case, with case studies, that organisations, people and causes with a strong why are more successful. Knowing your why and making your why known is what rallies people behind your cause. The author’s TEDx Talk is one of the most popular talks ever and worth listening to.

The golden circle with the words why, how and what, representing a concise exploration of brand strategy methods.

The book’s main contribution is the golden circle, which shows that it starts with Why as the inner circle, then How in the middle and What as the outer circle. As an example, let me apply it to Brand for Success:

Why: do we do what we do? To help people and businesses grow and succeed.

How: do we do it? Through expert knowledge of the power of brand building.

What: do we do/offer? The simplified 3-step Brand for Success brand-building process via workshops, consultation, coaching, publications, talks etc..

As you saw from the heading of this section, I included Find Your Why with Start With Why. I group the two books together because Start With Why makes a strong case for Why but I found the companion Find Your Why a very handy workbook to find your why so that you can start with your why.

The workbook even provides agendas for your discovery meetings, with expected duration and facilitator tips. These books will not make you a branding expert, but set aside a few weeks to work through the two books and clarify your why. Feed what you discover into your company’s brand as a start to a great brand. My head is spinning from all the whys…  

The 22 Immutable Laws of Branding

by Al Ries and Laura Ries

One of the best brand strategy books available, "The 22 Immutable Laws of Branding" provides essential insights into creating and maintaining a strong brand.








If you are into branding, then you have to read this book: The 22 Immutable Laws of Branding. It will be one of those books on branding that you won’t be able to put down once you start reading it and you can finish it over a weekend or absorb one law per day, with only about eight pages per law. The laws include The law of Marketing, The law of quality, The law of the name, The law of extensions, The law of the company, The law of colour, and so on.

One of the laws I strongly believe in is that it is category first and then brands, in consumers’ minds.  

Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind

by Al Ries and Jack Trout  

Positioning The battle for your mind Al Ries Jack Trout








Sadly, both of the pioneers of brand positioning, Al Ries and Jack Trout, have departed, but they left us Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind.

The book makes a case for positioning (no surprise there) and explains what it is. We are all aware of how crowded and competitive the marketplace is, but the same is true of the consumer’s mind space. The easiest way to get into the consumers’ minds is to be first with a new offering or sub-category, and if you can’t be first, then you have to position your brand relative to your competitors.

You will learn about the ladder in consumers’ minds (also called the evoked set or consideration set) and how to position your brand as a leader. Concepts such as brand names and extensions from the 22 Immutable Laws of Branding appear again. Don’t forget that how brands are positioned should meet customer experiences.

What I find especially helpful are the six extensive case studies that show positioning in action. You will find the chapter about how to position yourself interesting and who won’t like to know the 6 steps to success?

This book was probably the seminal non-academic marketing and branding book for me. Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind is a must-have and a keeper to refer back to again and again.  

Building a StoryBrand and Marketing Made Simple

Building a Storybrand by Donald Miller
Marketing Made Simple by Donald Miller and J.J. Peterson      

Building a captivating story brand crafted by Donald Miller, known for his expertise in brand strategy. This book is regarded as one of the best within the realm of brand strategy literature.








Again, I bundle of two books. Building a StoryBrand is one of the books that I thought, “what is the hype about”? I wondered about the genius of the book for months because the concept presented is not new.

The concepts have been used and are still used for scripting movies, but the genius is the application of these known principles to marketing strategy. The idea and the elements that make up the concept are so easy that it took me a while to appreciate the application value.

Okay, the book is all about clarity achieved through the StoryBrand framework. Not quite five and a half steps, but the story goes something like this; a character has a problem and meets a guide who gives them a plan and calls them to action, which helps them avoid failure and end in success.

The framework only works if you realise that your brand is not the hero (similar to The Hero Trap by Thomas Kolster), rather, the consumer is the hero and your brand is the guide. So, once more, your customer is the character who meets your brand (the guide) and your brand gives your consumer a plan to solve their problem.Your brand calls the customer to take specific action to avoid failure and to solve their problem.

As with the companion books Start With Why and Finding Your Why, Building a StoryBrand makes a case for the topic, in this case, the StoryBrand framework, but Marketing Made Simple is the workbook to take you through the process as you apply the framework to your brand.  

Zag and The Brand Flip

by Marty Neumeier  

The best brand strategy book with a distinctive cover, zag.








Marty Neumeier has an exceptional talent for design and distilling important branding concepts – he straddles strategy and design to shorten the distance between business strategy and brand strategy.

In Zag, the author highlights how cluttered consumers’ minds are, as in Positioning by Al Ries and Jack Trout, and proposes radical differentiation as the solution to get noticed – when they zig, you zag! A 17-step process is offered to help think through the process systematically.

As a bonus, a brand glossary is included that is similar to the brand glossary I developed. In The Brand Flip Marty Neumeier provides a guide to branding with a customer-centric approach. He urges a shift from old-school branding to a customer-focused, agile model.

Neumeier emphasizes “brand commitment” over “brand positioning”, advocating adaptability and customer engagement as essential in the digital era. PS: I keep ZAG and The Brand Flip on my desk for their brilliant cover designs. I have seen few cover designs like these – simple black and white with few words, but wow… you will have to see the two not shown for yourself.  

Steal Like an Artist

by Austin Kleon  

"Steal like an artist audiobook cover art featuring the best brand strategy books.







Can I, as with Marty Neumeier’s books, get a moment to get over how beautiful this book and the other two from the same author are…

When I became aware of this book, I looked it up on Amazon and ordered three of the author’s books in part to make the delivery costs worth it and when it arrived, I was so glad that I ordered the physical books. I wasn’t expecting square books. I guess the books measure about half a ruler by half a ruler (you see, I do not have to worry about cm and inches).

Books that are dimensionally different and beautifully designed with clever titles are hard to find. I guess this is the advantage Neumeier and Kleon have being designers first and then authors. Oh yes, Steal Like an Artist… for brand strategists, designers, developers, copywriters, etc., it is acceptable and necessary to “steal” ideas from others.

It is best to get inspiration from multiple sources and then make it your own. As I told my wife, who enjoys painting, about the book… if you copy Picasso, you are a copycat, but if you copy elements from various artists and make it your own style, then you are unique.

This is the premise of Steal Like an Artist. Not one of the top books on brand strategy, but the book includes other valuable tips like “do good work and share it” (social media), “creativity is subtraction”, and others. Another trilogy worth keeping, if only for its beauty.  

Strategic Brand Management

by Kevin Lane Keller and Vanitha Swaminathan  

Finding the best brand strategy books for strategic brand management building, measuring, and managing brand equity.








I started using this book from the second edition and think Professor Keller brought out the first 3 or 4 versions under his name only, and the book is co-authored from the 4th edition. As Al Ries and Jack Trout are the pioneers of positioning, Prof Keller and David Aaker are the godfathers of brand management.

This book is the bible of brand management and is based on extensive academic research. This book cannot be read over a long weekend while watching the game. It needs to be studied and is often prescribed at master’s level at universities. I studied and taught this book cover to cover multiple times over many years and continue to do so at different universities.

This is my brand management foundation for very serious brand management students and brand strategists. This book covers it all to develop a strong brand from basic components like new product development, visual branding, and digital marketing examples and will help businesses attract customers.

It is definitely worth reading, in relatively plain English. Strategic Brand Management is the complete guide with expert insights but not a light read.

Services Brand Management

by Pieter Steenkamp and Kuhle Zwakala  

Services brand management book








Fact! Most brands are services. Yet there are few books on the topic of services brand management. That was until now…

As brand strategists and academics Kuhle and I know very well that brands are businesses’ most valuable assets, and most brands are services or have a significant service component.
Services Brand Management, like Strategic Brand Management, is an academic book for higher education aimed at graduate marketing students. The book has two parts. The first part is an in-depth analysis of the history of brands and brand management, strategic brand management, and the most prominent brand equity models.

The second part emphasises the importance of services and how services brands can be managed effectively based on scientific evidence. The authors provide two new and comprehensive services brand management frameworks. Both parts combine as a guide to building brand equity.

The article The most complete history of brands and branding is the first chapter of the Services Brand Management book and includes a link to a free flipbook of the first chapter.

Design and Identity

by Alina Wheeler  

One of the best brand strategy books, showcasing the essential principles and techniques for designing a captivating brand identity.








It started as a visual identity guidebook but includes many important brand management topics. Appreciating comprehensive books like these, I can’t but spare a thought as to the effort and time that must go into developing and keeping up to date a book like this.

As with the book Zag, Design and Identity, includes a glossary of terms – maybe my brand glossary isn’t such a bad idea after all. You will go far to find a more comprehensive book on all things design – logos, packaging – with examples by the 100’s, processes and much more.

Design and Identity always leave me with the realisation of how many areas of specialisation there are in the field of branding. As a brand strategist, this book reminds me to leave design to designers but to know at more than a surface level what good visual identity design entails.

Sadly, Alina passed away towards the end of 2023, but her work continues through a capable team.


You would have noticed that I did not include books by Seth Godin or Malcolm Gladwell and the likes. It is because because I wanted to stay close to brand management. Similarly, personal branding wasn’t the aim but you could develop your personal brand strategy with these books.

This list and the key takeaways may be useful for business owners for business strategy, graphic designers for visual branding/ designing visual brand identity, brand managers and the whole branding team as they build the best brands. These great book contain best practices and practical advice.

I hope that these titles will help you build your successful brand and they deserve to be on your reading list for brand building.  

How to create a brand strategy blueprint

Over many years I distilled insights from the books listed in this article, education and from consulting into a logical guide about how to create a brand strategy.  

Additional learnings

From the 10 books included in this review, it seems that the following can work well for book authors:

  • Structuring the book according to short “daily readings”.
  • Have one clear main topic.
  • Make a case for one topic repeatedly.
  • A companion/second book should be a workbook.
  • Involve a co-author(s) at some point in the series or editions.
  • If you are first with a concept, it can run for decades.
  • You can build your entire career based on a topic.
  • Topic extension may be lucrative.
  • Beautiful design.
  • Clever titles.

Frequently asked questions

Q: What are brand strategy books?

A: Brand strategy books are resources that provide insight, guidance, and best practices for developing, managing, and maintaining a brand’s identity, positioning, and market presence.

Q: Why are brand strategy books important for businesses?

A: Brand strategy books are important for businesses as they offer valuable knowledge on creating a strong brand identity, building brand equity, and effectively differentiating the brand in the competitive market.

Q: What are the best brand strategy books to read in 2023?

A: The best brand strategy books to read in 2023 include “Brand Gap”, “Designing Brand Identity”, “Building a Story Brand” and “Services Brand Management”.

Q: How can brand strategy books help in creating a brand identity?

A: Brand strategy books provide techniques, case studies, and insights that can help in creating a consistent, compelling, and memorable brand identity that resonates with the target audience.

Q: What is the significance of distinctive brand assets in brand strategy books?

A: Distinctive brand assets play a crucial role in brand strategy as they are unique elements that contribute to brand recognition, recall, and differentiation in the market, which are often emphasized in brand strategy books.

Q: Which brand strategy books offer insights into building brand equity?

A: Books like “Strategic Brand Management” and “Services Brand Management” offer university-level insights into building brand equity and creating a strong brand foundation.

Q: How do brand strategy books contribute to developing a strong brand narrative?

A: Brand strategy books contribute to developing a strong brand narrative by providing guidance on storytelling, brand positioning, and leveraging brand elements to create a compelling and memorable brand story.

Q: What are some graphic design books that align with brand strategy principles?

A: “Designing Brand Identity”, and even “The Brand Gap” are examples of graphic design books that align with brand strategy principles and offer insights into visual branding and brand communication.

Q: How can brand strategy books help in aligning business strategy with design?

A: Brand strategy books provide frameworks, case studies, and methodologies that help in aligning business strategy with design, ensuring that the brand’s visual and experiential elements reflect the overall business strategy and goals.

What Are the Key Elements of an Effective Brand Strategy?

A cohesive brand strategy explained includes several key elements. Firstly, a well-defined target audience is crucial, as it helps in creating relevant messaging. Additionally, a strong brand positioning statement helps clarify what sets a brand apart from its competitors. Consistent brand messaging across all channels reinforces the brand identity. An effective brand strategy also includes a unique brand voice and visual elements that resonate with the target audience, ensuring brand recognition and differentiation. Lastly, regular evaluation and adaptation of the strategy based on market trends and consumer insights are vital for long-term success.

Q: Which brand strategy books are recommended for individuals looking to develop a personal brand?

A: Individuals looking to develop a personal brand can benefit from books like “Brand You,” “Me 2.0,” and “Brand Against the Machine,” which offer insights into personal branding and brand building for individuals.

Meet Dr Pieter Steenkamp

I am a brand strategist, founder of Brand for Success and academic. I hold a PhD specialising in brand management. As a brand management lecturer and researcher at a university in Cape Town, South Africa and an occasional visiting professor at universities in Germany, I stay up-to-date with the latest brand management developments. This affords me the incredible opportunity to help entrepreneurs and business owners/leaders Brand for Success.