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The Brand Management Required Reading List
We define brand a couple different ways. We talk about brand as a promise, as the sum of all interactions, and as an expression of an organization’s mission and values. How all those things come together seamlessly and consistently is brand management.
As marketers, what we say, how we say it, and where we are saying is changing faster than it ever has, but the core idea of brand management, as the delivery of the brand’s promise, remains constant. That said, defining brand management seemed simple when I first started at Percolate, but truly understanding it has been more of a process. There is an art and science to brand management that is evolving, but in many ways circle back to a few simple principles, and that’s what I’ve been coming to understand.
Having access to an exceptional team of seasoned marketers and a pretty big library here in the office, I’ve gotten great reading recommendations to help me feel more confident in my understanding of what Brand Management is.
Here are five books that have influenced how I think about Brand Management — and should be a part of any marketers required reading list. I also note a single lesson I took from each book, but these lessons are by no means the only lessons to be learned from the books. Enjoy.
1. How Brands Grow by Byron Sharp
In How Brands Grow, Sharp turns conventional marketing wisdom on its head by taking a scientific approach to branding. He outlines the “laws” of marketing and how those laws govern the growth of a company.
Brand Management Lesson: Brand building is about creating and reinforcing memory structures. The best brands are the best because they make themselves available to customers at the moment of purchase — both in terms of being on the shelf in front of them, and in their minds as the right thing to purchase. This is the argument for governing brand consistency. If a message, package, logo, or product is totally different from one day to another, there is no way for a brand to construct strong memory structures.
2. Brand Thinking by Debbie Millman
Millman, a brand designer herself, compiles 22 interviews from brand executives, strategists, and critics in her Brand Thinking. Through the conversations with these marketing leaders, she explores what brand thinking is and how companies can fully embrace the modern challenges of formulating brand identity.
Brand Management Lesson: Among Brand experts, there are varying definitions of what brand is too, but ultimately successful brand thinking is very human thinking. A brand is not just an idea, but it’s how it connects with people and emotionally resonates with them that solidifies a brand’s value. It’s a reminder of how every customer touchpoint should be designed with the human being at the center of it.
3. Rising Tide: Lessons from 165 Years of Brand Building at Procter & Gamble by Davis Dyer, Frederick Dalzell, and Rowena Olegario
The history of brand management might not sound like the most riveting of reads for some, but Rising Tide: Lessons from 165 Years of Brand Building at Procter & Gamble’s view into a company that defined and then redefined consumer products (a few times) over the course of its 178 year history is particularly compelling. It divides P&G’s history into four eras and demonstrates how in each era the business was able to capture the moment in history — whether it was a technological or cultural shift, by applying a disciplined approach to both R&D and marketing.
Brand Management Lesson: We’ve talked about P&G founding the idea of Brand Management in 1931 and how this 85 year old idea was the original system of record for the first generation marketing. While understanding this history has informed much of our own thinking, it offers lessons in how brand building requires an investment in the product itself, but also a keen understanding of the people, culture, and moment in history.
4. What Great Brands Do: The Seven Brand-Building Principles that Separate the Best from the Rest by Denise Yohn
What Great Brands Do examines several of the world’s greatest brands and explains seven strategies that have brought them to where they are. The book reviews both internal structures, philosophies, and practices that position brands for enduring growth.
Brand Management Lesson: For the cliff notes version, read our post, Nine Things Every Great Brand Does, but the lesson I think is most valuable is the idea that brand building starts internally. It starts with defining the value and mission of the brand and building structures and a culture that expresses them at every level throughout an organization. Brand becomes standard operating procedure.
5. Ogilvy on Advertising by David Ogilvy
David Ogilvy, perhaps the father of advertising in many ways, wrote his first book on advertising in 1963, but wrote Ogilvy on Advertising twenty years later in 1983, updating some of his ideas after having another two decades as an ad man. Indisputably, marketing is very different today, but there are certain creative lessons that still apply. From how to write to how to design, his ideas will resonate. You also can’t help but imagine Don Draper as the guy doling out these pieces of advertising wisdom.
Brand Management Lesson: Often we come up against a false tension between creativity and systems — especially software systems. We don’t see creativity and systems at odds and Ogilvy does a great job of validating that. His philosophy for advertising mixes brilliant creative with research, discipline, and results. He explains the science in great creative and how rules can actually enable better, more thoughtful, and more impactful advertising.