Here’s a list of some of the books we love most right now. Just in case you’re looking for something to inspire you or stuff in your carry-on.
Built To Last. Successful Habits of Visionary Companies. By Jim Collins and Jerry I. Porras. This one’s a monster, importance-wise. One of the top two books we recommend to our employees.
Two Stanford business school profs did a six-year study of 17 of the most successful companies in the world, along with 17 also-rans. The companies have an average age of nearly one hundred years and the successful ones outperformed the general stock market by a factor of fifteen since 1926.
Collins and Porras build a very strong case for the importance of values to the winners. A vital must-read.
The Culting of Brands: When Customers Become True Believers. By Douglas Atkin. The other top recommend here.
Atkin, an account planner who worked at Merkley Newman, studied cults in a objective, non-judgmental manner of inquiry. Then he examined certain brands which seem to give people some of the same things they get from cults. He outlines the way to grow your own cult brand, if you so choose.
This was the seed which eventually sprouted into our model of brand culture. The difference being that a culture is common to all humans, whereas a cult is exclusive and only for a few. Atkin’s ground-breaking work should be read carefully by anyone who wants to understand what humans need and how brands can offer more than just products and services.
Brand Culture. Edited by Jonathan E. Schroeder and Miriam Salzer-Mörling. A collection of anthropological studies of brands and their meanings.
We discovered this book after we came up with the idea that brands should operate like cultures. We just Googled the term we were using -“brand culture” – and up it popped. These articles offer thinking about brands that just isn’t otherwise available. These are anthropologists who are studying how people are using brands today, and why. Worth every penny.
Culture and Consumption II. Markets, Meaning, and Brand Management. By Grant McCracken.
Together with the above title (Brand Culture) and the paper listed below (Elliot and Wattanasuwan), this has been primary in shaping and confirming so many of our insights around how brands are being used today.
McCracken is brilliant and a joy to read. His ideas about advertising and the meaning-based model of consumption are game-changing.
Read this guy.
“Brands as Symbolic Resources for the Construction of Identity.” By Richard Elliot and Kritsadarat Wattanasuwan. International Journal of Advertising, 1998.
A brilliant paper on the ways in which people are using brands, along with other symbols and meaning sources, in the construction of a personal identity. After reading this we came up with the term “mosaic of the self” to describe one of the new roles brands are playing today.
Search the web for a copy.
“Lesson’s from Toyota’s Long Drive. The HBR Interview with Katsuaki Watanabe.” By Thomas A Stewart and Anand P. Ramen. Harvard Business Review, July-August 2007.
One of the most inspiring interviews I’ve ever read, and a great illustration of how a company can be values-driven and not only succeed, but crush its competition – over decades. You simply must read as the president of Toyota says his dream for the company is to create a car that does absolutely no harm and can drive around the world on one tank of gas. Now that’s an aspiration.
A Technique for Producing Ideas. By James Webb Young. Foreward by William Bernbach.
A slim classic on how to come up with fresh ideas. A book made famous by Bill Bernbach’s endorsement of it. A no-brainer.
Not only should every creative own a copy, but any of you folks that wonder how on earth they come up with their ideas should read this.
These days we all need to think like creatives.
Perfect Pitch. The Art of Selling Ideas and Winning New Business. By Jon Steel.
This is an absolute gift from Mr. Steel to all of us. In his intro, he talks about one of the two greatest presentations he ever witnessed which only took 15 minutes and involved Steve Jobs and a whiteboard. If you ever want proof that you can publish your biggest trade secrets and not lose business, just read this book and then think of it during the next presentation you are forced to suffer through. Has no one read this book?
That’s enough for now.