Three Branding Books Every Higher Ed Marketer Should Read

Posted: March 16, 2016

Tony Poillucci Vice President & Creative Director

I was recently asked to recommend three books on branding to help an institution’s marketing team prepare for the rebranding process. I applaud this group for proactively preparing for what is often an oversimplified undertaking. Narrowing it down to three was certainly a challenge, but I gave it my best shot.

The books I chose to recommend are a well-rounded trio that provide insightful and sometimes conflicting theories of brand.

The Classic

“Building Strong Brands” by David Aaker

Building Strong Brands

This classic “business” book on brand building uses famous case studies to illustrate how brands can garner great success. In this book, Aaker introduced the ideas of “brand-as-person”, “brand-as-organization” and “brand-as-symbol” and he covers now widely accepted concepts about brand identity and brand positioning.

The Rebel

“Cultural Strategy: Using Innovative Ideologies to Build Breakthrough Brands” by Douglas Holt and Douglas Cameron

Cultural Strategy

This book pushes against some of the more traditional, business-based theories on branding and offers up some very interesting ways to use culture as an ideology to build successful brands. It encourages brands and brand managers to: “Champion a better ideology and the world will take notice as well.”

The Fun and Easy, Yet Important and Inspiring

“A Smile in the Mind: Witty Thinking in Graphic Design” by Beryl McAlhone and David Stuart.

A Smile in the Mind

This highly visual book is not your traditional brand book. In fact, it features mostly visual work and does not get deep into brand theory. However, it provides an important lesson about branding: the most impactful visuals are adept at telling a story in a simple, clever way. We feel strongly about the idea that a great brand is a great story; and great stories CAN be told very simply and in a delightful manner.

The Bonus

“The 22 Immutable Laws of Branding” by Al Ries and Laura Ries

The 22 Immutable Laws of Branding

I was only asked to share three, but since I’m not much of a rule follower, I couldn’t resist recommending a fourth book. The 22 Immutable Laws of Branding is an easy to read, go-to book that breaks down what can be a very complex subject into manageable chunks that you can refer back to over and over.

With so much to be said about branding, there are plenty of other books, website and other resources out there. What are some of your favorites?