Branding starts with leadership. And most branding books just repeat leadership principles as if they’re this new, exciting thing. And that’s frustrating, because people need to realize we’ve had this for years. It takes discipline; a new, flashy book is not what you need.

But if you want a few books that you can read over and over again, put notes in and build on, here’s what I recommend…


A Failure of Nerve: Leadership in the Age of the Quick Fix

Dude died before he could finish writing the book, but Edwin Friedman was not about making excuses. So they published his book anyway. He was all about people exerting a “challenging” influence on society and whatever “systems” they found themselves in.

This book will challenge you to deepen your integrity, even as it helps you see the lies you’ve been falling for your whole life; lies that have prevented you from leading with strength and purpose.

It’s a little hard to read, so take it slow. But this book will make you brave.


Deep Dive

I used Horwath’s book to teach business strategy to my advertising students in their Campaigns capstone course. Why didn’t I use an advertising book? Because it’s more pure coming from a business consultant like Horwath who seems to understand strategy as a system of tradeoffs that align toward a business goal. Brilliant book. He also shares some of my frustration with consultants.

Horwath’s diving illustrations sometimes seem like a stretch. But the guy knows his topic.

Truth, Lies and Advertising

Now that I’ve said there are no advertising books that are good for strategy, I’m probably not giving Jon Steele enough credit. Because strategy, like logic, needs input. And Jon understands information gathering like nobody else I know of. And he writes about it in an interesting way that exposes what works and what doesn’t.

Jon’s attitude comes out in the pages: humble, experienced…I’d love to meet this guy in person someday.


Hey Whipple, Squeeze This

With Sullivan’s clarity on the issue, I wouldn’t even consider another book for my writing students. He’s clear, concise and funny. You only need 3 chapters in this book: 2, 3 and 4. But read the crap out of them. Especially useful for anyone managing or critiquing creative concepts.

I think Luke now teaches in Savannah. Those are some lucky students.

One Writing

The one book by horror writer Stephen King that I’ll read. Where Sullivan’s book focuses on selling in advertising media, King’s focuses on storytelling in principle.

King is a brilliant psycho. I don’t know if I’ll ever understand that guy.