Who needs another list of the best branding books? Every year, it seems, dozens of new branding books are published. So many, one could be forgiven for wondering whether there’s really anything new to write on the subject! But then, every now and again, a book like How Brands Grow (2010) makes a huge impact, effectively answering that question. (And I suppose I’ve answered that question for myself, with last year’s publication of Brand Naming.) I’ll admit it: The majority of branding books—business books, for that matter—aren’t great. But while many books simply rehash the basics, I’m always on the lookout for something fresh, interesting—maybe even new.
If you, too, are on the hunt for the best branding books in 2023, I hope the list below inspires and informs you.
Best Branding Books to Look for in 2023
While this book’s focus on social media influencers means it doesn’t fit as squarely in the “best branding books” category, Influenced—publishing on November 30, 2022—is surely relevant to most brand strategists, brand consultants, and others in branding and marketing. According to a starred review from Booklist, the book “covers everything anyone would ever want to know about social media influencers.” The author, “Dr. Brian” Boxer Wachler, is no newcomer to the science of perception. His previous book, Perceptual Intelligence: The Brain’s Secret to Seeing Past Illusion, Misperception, and Self-Deception, aimed to explain how we perceived the world around us and make decisions within it.
With Influenced, Dr. Boxer Wachler dives into the impact of social media on the human brain. In short, “science is proving that our addictive reliance upon social media and its influencers is having a demonstrable impact on how we think, feel, and perceive everything around us.” Given how hard every brand in the world is working to get us to click “Like,” it’s probably in our interest to understand what’s happening to our brains when we do.
Emmanuel Probst’s Assemblage will be available on February 7, 2023. Probst is an SVP at Ipsos and teaches consumer market research at UCLA. Through research and his knowledge of consumer psychology (in which he also has a PhD), he explains the “art and science of creating transformative brands by combining personal, social, and cultural components.” The book will teach readers how to shape perceptions, why we relate to antiheroes, how to deliver a personalized, human-centric consumer experiences, and how brands can make a positive impact on people, society, and the economy.
The book earns its spot on this list of best branding books partly due to the fact that it’s endorsed by a who’s who of branding and marketing experts:
- Nir Eyal, author of Hooked and Indistractable (“a clear, concise, and actionable book”);
- Jonah Berger, author of Contagious and The Catalyst (Assemblage illustrates “how brands can do good for both consumers and society”);
- Rory Sutherland, author of Alchemy (“provides us with a much more helpful and versatile mental model for the way brands are built in practice”);
- David Aaker, author of Building Strong Brands (“a real contribution”); and
- Martin Lindstrom, author of Buyology and The Ministry of Common Sense (“offers a holistic understanding of brands and perceptions” … “a must-read”)
Probst’s previous book, Brand Hacks: How to Build Brands by Fulfilling the Consumer Quest for Meaning, is also well reviewed on Amazon.
Available since November 22, 2022, 100 Symbols That Changed The World takes a closer look at the world’s most recognizable symbols, from hieroglyphics and the dollar sign to the radioactivity symbol and pictograms used in the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. While not exactly a branding book, 100 Symbols makes this list of best branding books because anyone working in branding can benefit from a deeper understanding of the function, power, and history of symbols, including logos and icons.
There are many symbols of affiliation, not only to religious groups, but support of political causes or even brand loyalty.”
For the author, Colin Salter, 100 Symbols marks the eighth book in a series of “100” books, which started with 100 Books that Changed the Worldand also includes 100 Posters That Changed The World and 100 Speeches That Changed the World.
The only book on this list that’s already been published, Myths of Branding came out just a few weeks ago, on October 3, 2022. Written by Simon Bailey and Andy Milligan, a 15-year veteran of Interbrand and founding partner of The Caffeine Partnership, the book uncovers the many “misguided, mistaken and blatantly false myths that abound in the branding arena.” The first—that a brand is nothing more than a logo—likely won’t surprise any readers of this post. But other busted myths promised in the book, such as “the customer is always right” and “the digital revolution is making branding irrelevant,” may offer new insights. Myths of Branding relies case studies, examples, and anecdotes to debunk popular misconceptions, then shares “the reality of what it’s really like to work in the world of branding.”
This book is part of a “Myths” series, in which each book is written by a different author(s). Some other books in the series sound interesting—Myths of Strategy and Myths of Marketing, for example. And Andy Milligan’s previous work could probably make a list of best branding books, too: See, Feel, Think Do; Brand It Like Beckham; Uncommon Practice; Don’t Mess With the Logo; BOLD; and On Purpose.
Li Aihong, who’s already been featured on this list once, somehow has another book due out early next year—Logo Design for Beginners drops on January 30, 2023, just five days after Typography Design and Application in Branding, #1 on this list (isn’t writing one book at a time hard enough?!).
This book promises “detailed and easy-to-understand basic design principles” and “hundreds of logo designs in various styles.” As the title suggests, Logo Design for Beginners is a handbook for designers, analyzing “the fundamental elements of logo design” and providing a step-by-step process for designing “the perfect logo.” One feature that may set this book apart from other logo design books: As the author is Chinese, the book features both Chinese and English logos.
Available on January 24, 2023, this revised edition of Decoding Logos explores the stories behind logo development. The book blurb points out the increasing simplicity of logo design. Is it trending toward designs that are too simple, even (e.g., see my Instagram post, below)?
A subtle tweak to a logotype is starting to feel like too much design. The appeal of a simple logo is that it feels more honest.”
In addition to sharing the stories behind logos, Decoding Logos helps readers understand how a standalone logo can be extended into a fully fleshed-out visual identity system. It uses case studies, work from well-known logo designers, and interviews to detail the creative process of creating a successful logo.
Author Wang Shaoqiang is a professor at the Guangzhou Academy of Fine Arts in China and has authored many other design books, including Page Design: Printed Matter and Editorial Design, Duotone: Limited Colour Schemes in Graphic Design, and Shapes: Geometric Forms in Graphic Design.
BONUS BEST BRANDING BOOK FOR 2023
When I started this list, I fully expected to add Daryl Fielding’s The Brand Book, which was launched last month with great fanfare and appears to be selling quite well in Amazon’s “Branding & Logo Design” category. I saw it three or four times in one week on social media. It seemed to be making a big splash. But when I went to find it on Amazon, I saw that it only has—as of this writing—a single, two-star review. And the paperback is out of stock. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
According to the book’s Amazon page, it provides a “straightforward and practical guide to the fundamentals of brands and branding, enabling anyone in business to create their own powerful brand.” From what I’ve seen of the contents, it is a well-designed, engaging book, chock-full of examples and case studies. Apparently, the last chapter is full of templates and checklists to help readers develop their own brands.
I don’t know Daryl Fielding, who’s experience includes stints at Ogilvy and DDB, as well as client-side roles at Kraft Foods Europe and Vodafone, and I’m not ready to judge her book just yet. Hopefully it lives up to the hype on social media. Only time will tell. (Have you read it? If so, please leave your review in the comments below!)
Rob Meyerson is a brand consultant, namer, and author of the upcoming book, Brand Naming: The Complete Guide to Creating a Name for Your Company, Product, or Service. He also runs Heirloom, an independent brand strategy and identity firm, and hosts the podcast How Brands Are Built.