A seven book guide to brand building

“My ordering of these books has a step-by-step logic” says Professor Tavassoli. Here’s his top seven books on building strong brands.


1. Simply Better: Winning and Keeping Customers by Delivering What Matters Most

by Patrick Barwise  (Author), Sean Meehan

My colleague Paddy Barwise, and his co-author and LBS alumnus Sean Meehan, remind us just how important it is to consider the total product-service offering. There is much room to differentiate a brand by being“simply better” at providing the basic category benefits.

2. Brand Relevance: Making Competitors Irrelevant

by David A Aaker

3. Grow: How Ideals Power Growth and Profit at the World’s 50 Greatest Companies,

by Jim Stengel

Both Dave and Jim’s books take on the topic of total product-service offering as well. They remind us to consider the offering from a customer perspective, and to provide and communicate value on their terms. For example, Jim Stengel’s chapter on Pampers describes how the brand was rejuvenated – tripling sales over 10 years – by not thinking about the product attribute of dryness, but how this leads to better sleep and as a result, baby development.

4. The Experience Economy: Work is Theatre & Every Business is a Stage,

by B. Joseph Pine II and James H. Gilmore

This is a classic, one more relevant today than ever. It takes brands beyond promising and delivering benefits – which is increasingly difficult to do on functional dimensions in today’s competitive markets – to designing and delivering experiences. This requires an entirely different toolkit for organisations, whether in terms of gaining customer insight or delivering value across multiple touchpoints, to assessing customer satisfaction.

5. Uncommon Practice: People Who Deliver a Great Brand Experience,

edited by Andy Milligan and Shaun Smith

6. Employees First, Customers Second

by Vineet Nayar

7. The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business, 

by Charles Duhigg

These three books are all about building brands from the inside out, by changing employee behaviour. Without changing your people and organisation – something that Grow and others also touch upon – all the other brand work is for naught. Worse yet, if you raise customer expectations through great insight and communications without improving the delivery of that promise, the whole branding exercise is likely to backfire! 

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