What are the best marketing books of all time?
It's a question that I get asked, multiple times per week via email. It seems like people just coming out of school or professionals looking to up their game want to know not just what the latest and greatest books are, but which ones would be considered the seminal books on the subject of marketing. So, if I were putting together a MBA program with a focus on marketing, and was gifted the privilege of providing the reading list, these would be the ones that make the final cut.
The 20 Best Marketing Books Of All Time (in alphabetical order):
Anything missing? What would you add?
(special thanks to Jean-Philippe Belley for asking the question again to me today via email, and for inspiring me to pull this list together by roaming through my personal book collection).Tweet
Love this list, Mitch.
I might add "Start with Why" by Simon Sinek and "Contagious" by Jonah Berger.Reply
I agree with Joe! "Start with Why" by Simon Sinek - I read that every year ;-)
(I'd also find it hard to pick just ONE Seth Godin Book)
I was heavily influenced by "Trust Agents" by Chris Brogan and Julien Smith.Reply
+ Content Rules by Ann Handley and C.C. Chapman to learn/understand the foundation fundamentals of content marketing
+ To Sell Is Human by Daniel Pink to learn/understand/reinforce what your good friend Peter Coughter makes a case for in Art of the Pitch -- when are we selling? All the Time!
+ The Start-Up of YOU by Reid Hoffman and Ben Casnocha to learn/understand the continuous learning process in marketing ourselves
+ Reinventing YOU by Dorie Clark to learn/understand we're never to young/old to shift gears and adapt when preparing and marketing ourselves for multiple careersReply
Including the "All Time" part made me think of other timely classics…
The Daily Drucker - a bite-sized desk reference from the master himself. The first person to say business has only one objective "to create a customer"
Good Strategy Bad Strategy - a must-have reference for all. Strategy isn't a wish-list, this book helps you ensure yours aren't.
Competitive Strategy - Michael Porter. Porter's 5 Forces might have fallen out of favour but the lessons for determining where the white space is for your business remains pivotal.
Don't Make Me Think by Steve Krug. In a digital world, this concise 101 on usability and web design is a wonderful way to ensure you're creating marketing environments that work.
Building Strong Brands - David Aaker. One man who has done more to codify the business of brands and brand thinking.
How Brands Grow by Sharp. Artful and provocative view on how real people actually choose brands…and what marketers aren't doing right.
Playing to Win - A.G. Lafley and Canadian favourite Roger Martin go toe to toe on marketing strategy using their 10+ year collaboration at P&G as a back drop.
I'd completely agree that Simon Sinek is a must-have.
Great list Joel. Thanks.Reply
Thw Wizard of Ads Trilogy by Roy H. Williams - The most important advertising/marketing books I've ever read that have had the most profound impact on me and my businessReply
Glad to see someone include Roy's work. He's how I ended up an Eisenberg fanboy.Reply
If you won't say it I will Ctrl Alt Del. I have brought this for so many people after reading it. Also agree with to sell is human by Dan Pink.Reply
Thanks Mitch and everyone for adding your favourite books....I've got a lot of catching up to do. Adding my top pick to the list.....UnMarketing: Stop Marketing. Start Engaging by Scott Stratten
The Innovator's Dilemma is indeed a great book with a lot of original insights.Reply
Happy to find out I am not the only one who thinks "Influence" is a must read!Reply
"Ice To The Eskimos, How to market a product nobody wants." by Jon Spoelstra (yep, father of the Miami Heat coach). Anybody who can take attendance of the (then) NJ Nets from dead last to third in the league while his product continued to be "a bunch of head cases even their mothers wouldn't come to watch," is worth listening to. Though centered around his many years in NBA basketball, Jon's marketing advice will work for nearly any field - and he gives lots of specific examples, not theory.
"The Letter Book" by Robert Collier. An oldie but goodie. Examples seem dated. Then again, they don't.
Way off the beaten path: "Save the Cat, The last book on screenwriting that you'll ever need." by Blake Snyder. Yeah, a book about screenwriting but Robert spells out with utmost clarity the components of a great screenplay. I became enthralled with this book because his advice easily transfers to marketing, too. Not always obviously, but there isn't a huge chasm to cross either to seeing how his screenwriting principles should be applied to marketing.Reply
Thanks Mitch. Happy to see that I've read a few, not too many to catch up on. Funny also, I've read two of Seth Godin's titles and neither are mentioned here.Reply
Thank you very much, I have a lot to learn in this list !Reply
I'm not familiar with all the books listed here, but to me the list seems more focused on tactics and operations, rather than strategy. So I'd suggest adding a couple by Malcolm McDonald: Market Segmentation: How to do it, how to profit from it, and Marketing Plans: How to Prepare Them, How to Use Them.Reply
You have to have "The One-to-One Future" on here from Peppers & Rogers. Half of the books listed--especially Permission Marketing--borrow heavily from its vision (knowingly or unknowingly). And I think Joseph Jaffe himself would put "Flip the Funnel" on here before "Life After the 30 Second Commercial." That book can and should guide a lot of companies efforts for years to come.Reply
"MARKETING BOOKS" break down into just four categories usually numbered in homage to the numbering that afflict most marketing books, but here alphabetized: a) Histories (Madison Avenue USA, for example b) Biographies/Justifications (Ally and Gargano, for example c) New Business Pitches (most of them, but most loverly was Ogilvy's Confessions which he oft-times confessed was a new business pitch in a binder and 4) Dogmas (of this last group, most fall. Or to express oneself better: Most fall in this last group. From Scientific Advertising to the Myriad Immutable Laws of Marketing published every year.
AND A SNIPPET FROM A REVIEW
Three guys—one from academia, one via an ad agency in Chicago and another who pops up ofttimes in Rolling Stone and Forbes—have written books that caused me to break my business-book fast imposed after a binge-reading session last year which caused my hat size to go from 7 5/8 to Mardi Gras dimensions, with little of the joy of Bourbon Street in February.
The first, by former copywriter Hadji J.S. Williams, is Knock the Hustle: How to Save Your Job and Your Life From Corporate America. This is a true testament to the free enterprise system: Williams avoided the agent-publisher-editor route by starting his own publishing company, Prodigal Pen. Knock the Hustle is now in a second edition. The copy I read came with a cover warning: "This exclusive Promo Copy contains some occasional misspellings and other minor grammatical flaws." I noticed none of them, but don't go by me. It is the sort of book that is best read before you go into business, as it mixes the truly heroic with the truly pernicious in precisely the proportion you are likely to find in the world of commerce. Williams, it appears to me, is trying to argue for a Christian-Jewish-Islamic-Pagan Capitalism, as he draws upon St. Luke, the Psalms, Malcolm X and Gore Vidal for inspiration. MBA programs should buy the book in bulk; it's more valuable in the long run than Money and Banking or The Managerial Revolution. Flaws? Sure, but what the heck, I don't even agree a month later with everything I write.
The second book, Selling the Dream: Why Advertising Is Good Business, is by John Hood, who is president of the John Locke Foundation, a "think tank." To be a real contrarian, try to defend junk mail, jingles and telemarketing. Show that they are good for business and good for the consumer, and you have a refreshing argument, at least. For the second year in a row, the 4A's is devoting its major conference to ROI (return on investment), and several ad/marketing blogs are inundated with debates about ROI. Advertising's critics never question the return on investment that advertisers garner; they question whether advertisers, to achieve their massive returns, manipulate the young, the old, the naive, to do things their nature otherwise wouldn't do, like buy a home air conditioner or use underarm deodorant. The "Good" in Hood's title is more moral than practical, and Hood has written a book that absolves you of any guilt if you've ever worked on Fedders or Sure.
Those books are as helpful today as Adam Smith's Inquiry Into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations was in the 18th century to give a moral and practical foundation for an economic system that would bring prosperity to the masses. Oddly, just as I was writing this, I came across a review of a new book about Smith's work, a sort of abbreviated Wealth of Nations by P.J. O'Rourke. It's 200-some-odd pages versus 900-some-odd pages, in 10-point type, albeit with beautiful, helpful serifs. Even before O'Rourke's light-handed approach to Smith, the book had been undergoing a revival—a revival that extended to a product placement in the last episode of season three of the HBO series The Wire.
Seems the late Russell (aka Stringer) Bell—drug dealer, graft bagman, arranger of hits in bars and behind bars and, worse, a real estate developer—had a well-worn leather-cover copy of The Wealth of Nations in his bookcase. Stringer Bell had been taking business courses at a community college, but he had certainly seen the effects of the visible hand of the state in his city, Baltimore.
The O'Rourke edition of Smith is part of a series of contemporary, shortened versions of great books that are forbiddingly long for the modern reader who is not a specialist or a masochist. With a good illustrator like Carmine Infantino or George Euringer, this could even bring a return of Classics Illustrated, a series without which I might not have graduated from high school.
Socialnomics by Erik Qualman.Reply
For pure fun, I'll suggest "Then We Set His Hair on Fire" by Phil Dusenberry (a reference to the Pepsi commercial which resulted in Michael Jackson's locks being fried).Reply
In the section on Seth Godin, I'd add "All Marketers Are Liars" which came out before the word "storytelling" became the buzzword of content marketing that it is. Without storytelling, there is no content marketing Content marketing is the key to getting attention. Without peoples' attention there is no marketing. By the way, the new Coca Cola website is a perfect example of great storytelling.Reply
This is a great list of inspiring books! Great timing before the Holiday season.
I definitely love reading Seth Godin and I'm looking forward to reading some on your
list Mitch and the ones mentioned in the comments. Cheers, Alison
Those are books awesome.Reply