January 11, 2021

The Ultimate (LIVE!) Book List for CMOs, CEOs, and Serious Brand Builders

By admin

There’s no beating around the bush here – If you’re…

  • Building a business with the customer at the heart of your strategy
  • Building a legacy, not just a transactional business
  • Looking to elevate your business and brand to the next level

…then this reading list is a value-packed set of titles that you’ve got to get your hands on.

How This List Works:

  • This is a LIVE list. It’s a living, breathing resource that we’ll often be updating. Remember to sign up to receive these updates.
  • Each book title on this list is one that we’ve read within the Flow team or one that we’ve reviewed and validated with a bunch of great people to ensure it makes it onto the list.
  • While we’re heavily focused on branding, marketing, and CX books, there are also a few strong leadership and mindset titles on the list, because well, a great brand begins on the inside.
  • Oh, and, if you’re joining in for this Brand-and-CX enlightenment journey, then we’ve got something handy for you:

A reading list tracker for you to tick off as you go, jot down your top tips and such. You can also add, remove, and edit the list to make it your very own. This way for the tracker!

Ready? Let’s dive in.

1. The 22 Immutable Laws of Branding: How to Build a Product or Service into a World-Class Brand by Al Reis and Laura Reis

A marketing classic that could use an update to include newer brands, but still packed with principles that are worth pondering upon as you build your brand.

2. The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing by Al Reis and Jack Trout

With concepts like the Law of Leadership, the Law of Category, and the Law of Mind, this book’s got some ideas that you will find yourself quoting at your next marketing meeting.

3. Building a Story Brand: Clarify Your Message So Customers Will Listen by Donald Miller

If you’ve heard enough and more about harnessing the power of storytelling, but aren’t sure where to start, then this is a great starting point. Nurture your brand story into a powerful message and learn how to share it, and use it to drive brand influence.

4. Permission Marketing: Turning Strangers into Friends and Friends into Customers by Seth Godin

Yes, we know now that interrupting your ideal customer amid their cozy family movie night with a commercial doesn’t fly anymore. But isn’t social media attention-grabbing the same kind of interruption?

Here’s a book on how to have your customers lean into your advertising in today’s overwhelming attention economy. Seth Godin’s a marketing legend, so prioritise this one!

5. Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind by Al Reis and Jack Trout

Another classic on this list by this duo. Want to create big-time brand influence and learn how the big ad agencies do it? From reading trends to identifying and owning your niche to creating strong associations in your customers’ minds, this is a great resource for anchoring a clear, effective brand position.

6. Buy-ology: Truth and Lies about Why We Buy by Martin Lindstrom

Through a series of experiments in a massive three-year neuro-marketing study, Martin Lindstrom shares some intriguing insights into what influences our purchase decisions. Customer psychology nerds? This one’s for you.

7. The Brand Gap: How to Bridge the Distance Between Business Strategy and Design by Marty Neumeier

Have you felt these growing pains yet? If you haven’t already, it’s likely that you will as your brand and business grow and as you get more hands on deck. CMOs, Marketing Heads, CEOs – this book brings together the strategic and the creative sides of brand-building in a way that lets you manage and lead your brand like the leader you’re meant to be.

8. The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference by Malcolm Gladwell

Even if you’ve already read this one, you’ll see it with different eyes after having lived through the COVID-19 pandemic. Learn how trends are born, how messages, ideas, and actions pass between people and take on a life of their own—powerful stuff for brands.

9. Designing Brand Identity: An Essential Guide for the Whole Branding Team by Aline Wheeler

From anchoring the right brand terminology, so your whole team speaks the same language to translating vision into strategy, design, and copy, this book gives a great breakdown of the branding process and how it looks on the inside. Essential for a growing team.

10. Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert D. Cialdini

Listen, read, inhale – find a way to consume this book. Dr. Cialdini dives deep into our reasons for saying ‘yes’ – a handy bit of knowledge for a marketer! The book walks you through six universal principles you should know if you want to persuade, and you want to be able to spot when used on you. Strong, strong recommendation, this one!

11. Marketing 4.0: Moving from Traditional to Digital by Philip Kotler

For marketers, embracing change and dancing with it is key. Coming from a strong foundation in traditional marketing and applying these principles to a dynamic digital landscape, this title’s packed with strategy, tactics, and more to help you navigate a global, ever-changing digital marketing landscape.

12. Contagious: Why Things Catch On by Jonah Berger

You’ve either heard or asked this once on your brand-building marketing journey: ‘How do we make this go viral?’

Jonah Berger puts years of research into perspective to reveal the secret science behind word-of-mouth and social transmission. Why do some stories get shared? Why do some emails get forwarded millions of times? We all have a vague idea, I suppose – but this is a science-backed understanding of what makes things catch on.

13. Delivering Happiness by Tony Hsieh

This was a weighted title to add to this list. The late Tony Hsieh, former CEO of Zappos, put happiness at the center of his business growth strategy. Happy employees, happy customers, happy experiences. In this book, Tony shares lessons learned building a billion-dollar empire based on that principle. If you care about customer experience, this is a complete, absolute must-read.  

14. The Effortless Experience: Conquering the New Battleground for Customer Loyalty by Matthew Dixon, Nick Toman, and Rick DeLisi

Ok, for this one, I just want to pull this one line in from the book descriptor: ‘Everyone knows that the best way to create customer loyalty is with service so good, so over the top, that it surprises and delights. But what if everyone is wrong?’

Moving away from the fluff of customer ‘delight,’ this book decodes what makes a customer loyal and what makes them disloyal. It’s a power-tool for building customer loyalty and connection.

15. Hug Your Haters: How to Embrace Complaints and Keep Your Customers by Jay Baer

How many times have you seen pristine, perfect brands fall from grace when they’ve handled customer complaints terribly? It happens quite a lot, especially in today’s social, very public communication sphere. The truth is, there will be haters, and you’ve got to know how to handle them elegantly and turn the problem into a great customer experience. This book’s got some great advice on how.

16. Oversubscribed: How to Get People Lining Up To Do Business with You by Daniel Priestly

If that right there is the dream, then Daniel Priestly is the man with the plan. Methods tried and tested to get all his businesses oversubscribed; Daniel Priestly brings real-life strategies and tactics to his readers. Whether you’re a small business or a global scale-up, this book’s got ways for you to get ’em queuing up.  

17. The Thank You Economy by Gary Vaynerchuk

Gary’s got an energy that some people love, and some people just can’t do. Either way, there’s no denying that this book is gold. If you’re having a hard time jumping into the social game and harnessing the power of social media interactions for your brand, then this fire-starter is for you.

Tip for extra value: Listen to the audiobook if you can; Gary breaks his narration with insights, rants, and spontaneous thoughts while he’s reading.

18. They Ask You Answer: A Revolutionary Approach to Inbound Sales, Content Marketing, and Today’s Digital Consumer by Marcus Sheridan

While ad spends and marketing budgets will take you a long way, there’s a simple power in just showing up where your dream customer is asking questions and answering them. An easy read that is bound to launch you into a customer-centric, profit-driving digital strategy.

19. The Culture Code: An Ingenious Way to Understand Why People Around the World Live and Buy as They Do by Clotaire Rapallie

Is a busy, working mum in Australia going to respond to the same messages, the same brand values as a busy, working mum in Bulgaria? How does a brand remain authentic and still appeal to a global, diverse audience?

Rapaille has used the principles in this book to work with brands like Chrysler, P&G, Boeing, Kellogg, and more. Must-have wisdom in these pages if you’re looking to understand and step into a new market. 

20. The Culture Code: The Secrets of Highly Successful Groups by Daniel Coyle

Same title, very different book. While understanding your audience’s cultures is key to building a great brand, creating an internal company culture is just as crucial. If you lead a team or are part of a team, this book has got the team-building secret sauce it takes to build an empire.

21. Secrets Trilogy by Russell Brunson

Ok, this is a bit of a cheat because it’s three books in one listing. It’s a little more tactical than most of the other titles that have made this list. But here’s why we put it on – Russell Brunson has a formula that might not be for every business, but his concept of building a value ladder – that’s something that every brand could use. If you need to attract customers in today’s noisy digital landscape, then you’ve got to get your hands on this trilogy. P.S. It’s a gold mine for marketing automation.

22. High-Performance Habits by Brendon Burchard

This one’s made it on the list because it’s moved us at Flow to be and bring our best selves to work every day. Aditi is a huge advocate of the High-Performance Planner too to track these habits on the daily. Use this as a tool to hit peak performance yourself or as a team read to elevate the way you operate together.

And that brings us to the end of Version 1 of the book list! Itching to get your hands on some of these? Us too!

Now, remember, this is a living, breathing list. We’re going to share notes, updates, more recommendations, and even knock some off the list as we go along.

So, be sure to sign up here to receive those updates. When you sign up, you’ll also receive your very own reading list tracker so that you can tackle this beast with a vengeance!