Non-Branding Books: 4 Must-Reads That Go Beyond the Typical Branding Books

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By Nine Blaess | 4:11 min

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    Are you tired of reading the same old branding books that don’t seem to offer anything new or exciting? So am I. In this post, I’ll introduce you to four books that aren’t technically about branding but offer a wealth of inspiration and insights on building successful brands.

    Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman

    Let’s start with Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman. In this book, Nobel Prize-winning author and behavioural economist delves into how we make decisions and judgments.

    Key Findings

    • We have two modes of thinking: System 1, which is fast, intuitive, and automatic, and System 2, which is slow, deliberate, and requires considerably more effort. 
    • Our brains prefer to stay in System 1 to save energy. So, our decision-making gets influenced by mental shortcuts, called cognitive biases and heuristics. While often helpful, these shortcuts can also lead to errors in our thinking and irrational behaviour. 
    • Our memories are reconstructed rather than retrieved. And they are influenced by factors such as our emotions and beliefs.
    • We are prone to make decisions based on feelings and intuition rather than rational analysis.

    Why I Like the Book

    What I particularly like about this book is how it delves into the inner workings of our minds. By understanding how our decision-making process works, we can create more effective brand strategies that appeal to our audience’s emotions and intuition.

    If you’re looking for a book that will challenge your assumptions and expand your understanding of human behaviour, I highly recommend Thinking, Fast and Slow. It’s not the easiest read, but it’s packed with insights that could transform the way you approach branding.

    Never Split the Difference by Chris Voss

    Next up is Never Split the Difference: Negotiating as if Your Life Depended on It by Chris Voss, a former FBI hostage negotiator. The book offers insights and practical techniques for negotiating effectively, emphasizing the importance of actively and empathetically listening to the other party’s needs and concerns.

    Key Findings

    • Effective negotiation requires actively and empathetically listening to the other party’s needs and concerns.
    • Building rapport helps to establish trust and creates a more positive negotiating environment.
    • Calibrated questions that start with what or how can help to prompt more detailed information and encourage the other party to be more cooperative.
    • Assertiveness is the key to negotiation, and indicating your boundaries can be powerful.
    • Mirroring the other party can show you’re listening empathetically, which can help to build rapport.
    • Labelling the other person’s emotions can help to diffuse tense situations and encourage cooperation.

    Why I Like the Book

    I believe active listening is the key to connecting with people. The skills learned in this book will help you better understand your audience, negotiate better deals, and build stronger relationships with your clients.

    I particularly enjoyed the stories about Voss’ experience as a hostage negotiator, which make it an engaging and easy read.

    Wired for Story by Lisa Cron

    Wired for Story: The Writer’s Guide to Using Brain Science to Hook Readers from the Very First Sentence by Lisa Cron provides fascinating insights into the cognitive processes that explain why stories are so engaging and how to create more compelling narratives.

    Key Findings

    • Our brains are hardwired to seek out and respond to stories because, through a story, we can gain experiences in different situations without having to physically live through them. 
    • A well-developed protagonist engages readers and keeps them invested in the story.
    • Conflict and tension also keep readers engaged.
    • Stories that evoke strong emotional responses from readers are more likely to be remembered and shared.
    • Uncertainty is an integral ingredient of a compelling story because readers are drawn into the story and want to know what happens next.

    Why I Like the Book

    As brand storytelling becomes increasingly important, this book is a great read for brand builders wanting to engage their customers more deeply.

    I admit some of the information may be a bit too in-depth for non-authors. But I especially liked how Cron uses research to explain why certain elements of a story resonate with us so deeply.

    Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari

    In Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, Yuval Noah Harari traces the history of our species from the emergence of Homo sapiens in Africa to today.

    Key Findings

    • Our ability to create and believe in shared myths and stories, such as religion, nations, and money separates us from other animals. This ability allowed us to collaborate on a large scale.
    • The Agricultural Revolution, around 10,000 years ago, was a turning point in human history that led to the rise of cities, civilizations, and hierarchies.
    • The Scientific Revolution, which began in Europe around 500 years ago, transformed how humans think and understand the world, leading to remarkable progress in science, technology, and medicine.
    • Capitalism and imperialism have created a global system that upholds inequality and exploitation.
    • The future of humanity is uncertain as we face many challenges, such as climate change, nuclear war, and the rise of artificial intelligence.

    Why I Like the Book

    Sapiens achieves what many of my history teachers did not—tying historical events to the essence of being human.

    By exploring the socio-economic factors that underpin historical events, the book makes it easier to understand why events unfolded the way they did. That’s why, even though I disliked history classes, I couldn’t put down this book.

    But what makes Sapiens so relevant to branding? Sapiens shows how our actions are shaped by the world around us, for example through storytelling and cultural norms. Understanding the underlying forces that shape our thinking and civilization helps brand builders make sense of the world, anticipate future trends, drive innovation, and—ultimately—forge stronger connections with their audiences.

    To wrap it up, although traditional branding books are extremely useful, it’s worth exploring beyond them for fresh insights. This post highlights five books that provide valuable lessons in decision-making, negotiation, storytelling, and the history of humankind.

    Whether you’re an entrepreneur, brand designer, or marketer, these books can offer a fresh perspective and ignite your creativity in building your brand.

    Gain a competitive edge by broadening your reading beyond the typical branding literature.

    If you enjoyed this article, you might like my list of branding resources, too. And if you have books to add, I’d love to hear from you.


    Title image by Kaboompics

    Nine Blaess

    Nine Blaess

    Hello, I’m Nine. I blend strategy and design to craft engaging brand identities and websites that celebrate the uniqueness of each business.

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