I am a true bookworm! The best marketing books for marketers are usually exciting to read and I am always eager to read more about marketing.
When I’m hooked on a book I can devour it within a day.
I love reading books, blog posts, articles, magazines… especially books about marketing, growth hacks and psychology. At this age of fast pace and information overload, I think it is sane to go back to books as a source of knowledge.
Paper books whenever possible: studies show that we process and remember the content of a paper book in a more efficient way than other digital versions like Kindle, iPad and digital screens.
If you are reading the post you are currently looking at, I am sure you love reading too.
What are your favorite marketing books? Let me know in the comments below.
In this post, you will see the top 20 best marketing books for marketers.
The big advantage of being a polyglot is that I can read in French, English, Japanese and Mandarin… gna gna.
Reading in other languages gives me access to other ways of seeing the world, a different way of thinking and it allows me to learn unique ways of doing business.
How did technology affect our behavior?
Of course, technology changed a lot of things, and even our behavior, but technology simply added extra channels and methods, the fundamentals are still the same! So some of the best marketing books I present are a bit old, but they are what I consider classical marketing books.
As marketing is related to psychology, demographics and sociology, and keeping in mind that fundamentally, we did not evolve in the past 30 years as a species, I believe that even classical marketing books that are 20-30 years old are still relevant.
Believe me, I was born in 1980 and went through the whole digital transformation of the past decades.
Here is a list of the best marketing books for marketers, entrepreneurs, and everyone marketing a brand or running a business.
Let us know in the comments what your favorite marketing books are!
Top 3 Branding Books: My Recommendations
Growth Hacker Marketing: A Primer on the Future of PR, Marketing, and Advertising by Ryan Holiday
As I am from Montréal, city where Vice Magazine started in the mid-1990s (and American Apparel’s founder is from.) Not even mentioning Cirque du Soleil, Leonard Cohen, Tiga, etc.
Ryan Holiday has been on my radar for quite a while. He wrote some of the best marketing books out there.
Who can forget the ads of young women dressed in American Apparel at the back of newspapers?
The tote bags with the list of all the cities where the American Apparel stores operate?
The billboard with Woody Allen that led to a lawsuit?
All the lewd-filled lawsuits...
These days I (really) enjoy Holidays’ Youtube videos, newsletters and books about Stoicism at The Daily Stoic. Ryan Holiday is both enfant terrible and marketing genius, but remember that he was a student of Robert Greene, the author of the 48 Laws of Power (a book banned in prisons.)
Growth Hacker Marketing is probably the smallest book by Ryan Holiday, with less than 150 pages, but it is full of insights on how to hack growth and create virality by leveraging media and public opinion.
This is a book worthy to pick up if you happen to be working on or interested in any type of digital or online marketing… and if you dare using unconventional tactics.
The author shares real case studies of marketing strategies that he used at American Apparel to help them boost their revenue. These strategies are adaptable that make them translate to all business levels. Ryan even made a Growth Marketing Course.
Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind by Al Ries and Jack Trout
To be honest with you (not that I am dishonest other times,) Positioning: The Battle for your Mind is the first marketing book I ever read, and it is THE book that has been the greatest inspiration for my way of approaching branding, even with Chinese and Japanese brands.
The book was key for me to understand that brands are not the product, and vice versa, the brands are how they are perceived by prospects.
It is also the best marketing book that positively impacted my career in advertising working with startups, inventors, small business as well as big brands like Tiffany, BMW, Audi, etc.
Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind by Al Ries and Jack Trout easily secured its spot as among the best books for marketers when it was initially launched a year after I was born, that is in 1981. After a few decades, it remains to hold a spot as one of the best marketing books you should be reading.
It does not matter if you have read it before or you are reading it for the first time because this book will give you a rundown of all the things you should learn, from finding your competitors’ weak spots to settling for the best name for your product, up to determining the ideal market niche you should attack.
Some companies quoted as examples in the book are outdated, but the principles are nonetheless relevant to this day. Get a copy of the most recent edition!
Hooked How to Build Habit-Forming Products by Nir Eyal
While it is cool for people to use your products, it will become cooler if they habitually use your products. Habits should be built within the product itself and “hook” consumers, just like social media does.
A client of mine in Shanghai, working for a big corporation in the cruise industry, read the book and posted a picture of it on WeChat. The title picked my curiosity and I got the book.
There is a pattern in how and which services and products manage to catch attention and become important for consumers. The book Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products by Nir Eyal gives answers to this.
This book is a culmination of years of research on behavioral design. This is among the top marketing books that are a must-read for all builders making products and marketers selling softwares.
If you want to market and create products that will make consumers come back again and again, this is the book for you. All marketing books will tell you how content drives marketing so the next pick in this list of the top marketing books focuses on how to create the best content.
There is also a great Medium post about "The Psychology of Building Addictive Products"
Have you read this book? If so, what did you think?
Best Branding Books
Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert Cialdini
How will you convince someone to give you a YES for an answer? At its very core, marketing is all about making someone agree to your proposition. Unfortunately, this is easier said than done.
Today’s consumers are constantly asked for their money and attention and the pressures from the society further saturate and complicate the intense competition for people’s attention.
I could write a whole blog post about this book. This is an essential in your marketing book library. I am a huge fan of Social Proof pop-up notification software like ProveSource, Proof, FOMO…. the concepts behind social proof are directly taken from this book: scarcity, fear of missing out, tribalism, copycat, etc.
In his book, Cialdini explores concepts like liking, reciprocity, authority, social proof, consistency and scarcity. While reading the book I realized that some marketers, and even some offline stores, used the tricks on me and I fell into their traps!
Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion is the bestseller book by Robert Cialdini and undoubtedly one of the best marketing books. Cialdini discusses thoughtful persuasion in the book and how to use it to influence people to say yes as often as possible.
Digital Marketing for Dummies by Ryan Deiss and Russ Hennesberry
Digital Marketing for Dummies by Russ Hennesberry and Ryan Deiss is one of most excellent references of marketing knowledge. This includes a lot of current, specific, and practical details, advice, and insights.
Ryan Deiss is the man behind Digital Marketer that offers training, certifications, classes, etc.
The book is a readable one with 300 pages covering topics such as landing pages, marketing planning, customer journey, SEO, SEM, blogging, data and analytics, display, email, and social.
Many readers love the fact that unlike other marketing books, this one focuses on landing pages that tend to get lost amidst media and channel planning being one of the funnel chain’s high leverage links.
I have always liked the format of the Dummiers series. The format is consistent so no extra effort is required to get used to the format.
Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook by Gary Vaynerchuk
Gary Vaynerchuk is a media giant. He is also running an amazing business, a popular YouTube channel GaryVee (you may want to check out his channel as well.) The life goal of Vaynerchuk is to become the owner of the Jets.
I have a love-hate relationship with Vaynerchuk, I even had to unfollow him for a while as I could not stand the endless ramblings anymore. He can speak for 15 minutes where I would probably speak for 15 seconds. I have the attention span of a mosquito sometimes.
His marketing career started at Wine Library TV where he sold wine for the family business (and used the internet and video marketing to promote the products.) Gary is definitively extroverted with a big capital “E” and amazing at improvising long answers… but whether you agree with everything he says or not, he is nonetheless successful (and entertaining.)
As Gary Vaynerchuk says: I create content, I do not consumer content. Good lesson
Gary is mega active on social media and online, generating tons of content and interviews with the most popular and influential people in the world. He made a lot of money investing in Silicon Valley.
In his book, Vaynerchuk shares insightful advice on connecting with customers and beating competition at the same time… hence the name of the book jab, jab, jab, right hook. It is considered as one of the best marketing books recently published as it offers a marketing strategy and blueprint that will ensure you or your business’s social media success.
A few things to remember from the book:
- Engage prospects emotionally (not via salesy promo)
- Invest in producing great contextualized micro-content (as opposed to tons of decontextualised low-quality content)
- Use social media to engage on a personal level and deliver a story (rather than simply distributing a piece of content on multiple channel just to spread the jam on the toast as much as possible).
Tanner Hunt made two well-written recaps of the book on Medium here and here.
Let us know what you think of Gary in the comments!
The ONE Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results by Gary Keller
Jay Papasan and Gary Keller collaborate regularly and aside from The ONE Thing, the two wrote several other books together including The Millionaire Real Estate Investor.
I found the book while buying a web servers at WPX Hosting, they have amazing customer service btw. The ONE Thing was recommended by Terry Kyle the CEO of WPX Web Hosting who happens to have a foundation helping stray dogs.
This particular book from the duo veers away from their usual pattern of launching books that have real estate as the main theme. It was able to receive a positive response from the world. Here, you will get to learn how to build momentum to reach your goals, cut through the clutter, reduce your stress levels, and master the things that matter to you.
The ONE Thing is not about marketing per se, it is about focusing and delivering work.
A lot of marketers like myself have a creative side and are very “right brain,” which means we are sometimes all over the place. This book bring us back to focus so that we can achieve things one-by-one instead of doing 10 things at the same time… and delivering nothing.
The two main lessons for me were:
- Select ONE thing you need to deliver (today, this week, this month, this quarter, this year)
- Within one hour of waking up, start working on that ONE thing and focus exclusively on it… all the rest is just secondary.
This is among the best books for marketers that deliver excellent results in all aspects of a person’s life.
How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie
I suggest you listen to the audio version of the book.
If you are reading this I assume you are also success driven and a doer.
Now you will ask me, what the heck is a self-development book doing in the recommended best marketing books list? Well, marketing is about people, influence and collaboration.
You sell to people, you work with vendors, clients, partners, collaborators, colleagues… you constantly deal with people.
So to be a successful and efficient marketer, you need to know how to make friends, work on yourself and how to influence people!
One of my favorite topic of the book, which was added long after the first edition, is the topic of vibration. Is sounds spooky or esoteric to some, but think about it, when you wake up the morning you either feel groggy or energetic… that’s the vibration.
If you need to walk into an office and work with people, you’d better be able to switch the vibration mode if you want to achieve success.
I am a very confrontational person, I could try to stop a train by standing in front of the tracks, but this book teach me how to approach problems.
Carnegie’s book also helped me focus on solutions in a more flexible manner, that is, with a positive approach centered on understanding other people’s point-of-view and in… making friends.
We always deal with other human beings and like the Japanese say “ten people ten colors,” we are all different.
The best marketing books are more often than not, about human nature.
Dale Carnegie was a lecturer and writer famous for his courses in salesmanship, self-improvement, corporate training, and so much more.
Throughout his career, he also wrote a handful of other books and one of these is How to Win Friends and Influence People, which is also among the first bestsellers in the category of self-help books.
Published way back in 1936 and has become among the must-read books for marketers, the content of this book remains relevant to this day.
At the beginning, you will find expectations that tell readers what they will get from the book. Some of the ideas may sound old school, and some are, but most of the ideas still make sense almost 100 years after the publication of the first edition.
If you enjoy this book you may also like Earl Nightingale, more precisely “Strangest secrets” (go for the audio version, Earl, who was at Pearl Harbor during the attack and was one of the few survivors on the ship, has an amazing voice.)
Permission Marketing Turning Strangers Into Friends and Friends into Customers by Seth Godin
Once considered as the ultimate entrepreneur for Information age, Seth Godin wrote Permission Marketing where he breaks down his personal strategy on how to win customers over.
Seth Godin is famous for his shaved head and his funky colorful glasses. If you are not already subscribed to his blog, you should consider doing so.
Despite being published way back in 1999, this is still among the best marketing books where Godin effectively communicates the changes associated with the growth of technology industry.
The purpose of traditional advertising is to capture attention.
Godin cites lessons that marketers can use to learn how to reach out to those customers who already showed interest in a certain brand and product and how this will drive the success of a marketing campaign.
The idea behind permission marketing is that permission marketing is anticipated, personal and relevant.
If you are interested in knowing more about the book, Seth Godin wrote a blog post about it, link below:
“Permission marketing is the privilege (not the right) of delivering anticipated, personal and relevant messages to people who want to get them. It recognizes the new power of the best consumers to ignore marketing. It realizes that treating people with respect is the best way to earn their attention.” source: Seth Godin's Blog
How do you feel about Seth Godin, do you think he is overrated?
Trust Me I’m Lying: Confessions of a Media Manipulator by Ryan Holiday
Another favorite in this list of the best marketing books is none other than Ryan Holiday’s Trust Me I’m Lying: Confessions of a Media Manipulator.
Here, the author discusses incredible stories of his personal experiences with very creative, although simple, organic and viral marketing strategies in the online world. Holiday gives readers a blueprint on how to achieve the same results.
This source of marketing knowledge is a great combination of real-life examples and case studies together with practical how-to advice. This makes it among the must-read marketing books for marketers and media strategists looking to enjoy an explosive online growth.
As I mentioned in a different post, advertising works.
Marketers, brand and media strategies, designers, art director, copywriters and even technologists influence our behavior and our perceptions. This book reveals part of how the game is done, from the point-of-view of a (guilty) whistleblower.
Prepare yourself for a shock: you will enter the world of media where manipulation, BS and being ruthless are the key ingredients to success.
Epic Content Marketing: How to Tell a Different Story, Break through the Clutter, and Win More Customers by Marketing Less by Joe Pulizzi
Joe Pulizzi founded CMI or Content Marketing Institute, which is among the leading educational resources for content marketing for enterprise brands. CMI is also among the fastest growing businesses since its establishment.
You can say that Pulizzi is well-versed in content marketing and as one of the best marketing books, Epic Content Marketing provides useful advice on how this is done right.
This book of marketing knowledge takes you through the systematic process of story development that informs and entertains customers to act with no need to tell them to.
The book lets you position your business as a trusted expert in your industry. The gist of the book is that great content will attract engagement, which will then bring growth and profits.
“People are bombarded by 5,000 messages a day [...] my customers don't care about me, my products or my services, so he stopped talking about himself and instead he told stories that help people with their deepest problems” Source: Youtube
This Is Marketing: You Can't Be Seen Until You Learn to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die by Seth Godin
This may not be a book for you if you have read other marketing books by Seth Godin. It is worth it if you are not familiar with the marketer.
Seth Godin has long been dubbed as among marketing’s great thought leaders and as one of his latest books for marketers, this is where he teaches marketers how to make change through forming tension that will lead to new choices. This is the book’s central premise.
Here, Godin points out that the job of a marketer is to choose a story then repeat it and stick with it even after the marketer has grown tired of it. In this source of marketing knowledge, Godin reminds readers that excessive reliance on ad spending is what lazy marketers do.
This comes into the storytelling and create a brand in people’s minds growth marketing strategy.
Three quotes from the marketing book:
- Speak to a smaller audience, your tribe (that cares more than Mr.Everybody and Ms.Public)
- Focus on the smallest viable market (not the MVP minimum viable product)
- Price is a story (use storytelling instead of pure numbers)
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Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die by Chip Heath & Dan Heath
As one of the top books for marketers, Made to Stick provides answers why certain ideas thrive and others don’t.
Dan and Chip Heath, two brother, also shares tips on improving the chances of having worthy ideas. The book also reveals the anatomy of ideas that will stick.
They also explain how to make ideas stickier like the application of human scale principle, the use of Velcro Theory of Memory, and creation of curiosity gaps.
Being among the top marketing books, Made to Stick is eye-opening, provocative, and surprisingly funny at times. It is a book guaranteed to change how you communicate your ideas.
In the book they use the “SUCCES” formula:
- Simple – find the core of any idea
- Unexpected – grab people's attention by surprising them
- Concrete – make sure an idea can be grasped and remembered later
- Credible – give an idea believability
- Emotional – help people see the importance of an idea
- Stories – empower people to use an idea through narrative
The are also behind the book Upstream: The Quest to Solve Problems Before They Happen.
A big part of my job when I do digital production is to be a problem-solver, so any book that helps me understand how problems arise and how to fix them is a plus. Especially when campaigns are rush with big budgets and a certain amount of uncertainty.
Building a Story Brand: Clarify Your Message So Customers Will Listen by Donal Miller
In my opinion the Brand is the start of it all. Growth always end up about how good the story is and the problem the Product helps solve.
Building a Story Brand is a great book for anyone who needs to write copy. A must for growth marketers.
Most of the marketing books and knowledge source in the past few years focus on storytelling.
In this book for marketers, Miller, a New York Times bestselling author, discusses a topic that somewhat looks obvious: copywriters and marketers need to polish their message, but they should make the customers the hero, not the product, not the brand, not the company.
He also added his proven and tested 7-step StoryBrand framework which is a universal explanation of what touches people and engages them.
He also analyzed a good story’s structure. Miller also directly applied the storytelling structure to the business cases that will resonate with all types of marketers.
In this marketing book you will learn:
- how to sell a solution, not a product
- 7-step StoryBrand that move people
- the truth why people buy
- simplifying your message to boost understanding
- guide prospects into the journey by making them the hero
- tailor-made messages for all sorts of mediums like print, social media, sites, etc.
You can have a look at his website here
Don't Make Me Think- A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability by Steve Krug
All great marketers understand human psychology and user behavior. Precisely: how we acquire information, how we surf the web, how content should be structure, the user interface, the color palette, etc.
The first edition of this book from Krug was published in 2000 and since then, this has become one of the best marketing books that served as a bible of user experience. The newest edition of the book dates from 2014, but the principles remain the same.
Websites are the main interface between customers and businesses. So, even the world’s best marketing campaigns will be useless unless the website is effective when it comes to dealing with customers brought there by marketer.
The book’s title is also the recurring theme. Customers don’t need to interpret or figure out your website and instead, it should work exactly the way they expect it to. The book is short but contains highly recommended principles.
If you are building a website, manage a website or are building digital experiences in the form of campaigns or products/softwares, this book should be in your bookshelf.
New Rules of Marketing and PR: How to Use News Releases, Blogs, Podcasting, Viral Marketing, and Online Media to Reach Buyers Directly by David Scott
There are two main ways to get your message out there:
- pay advertising or;
- publish content.
The advantage of content is that it is organic and can be integrated in 3rd party content syndication. Digital marketing rules go through constant changes, but the core principles remain the same.
The book is a little bit old and I read it almost a decade ago, but some ideas stick with me.
The big advantages of digital marketing are that marketers can target specific audiences, use 2-way communications to engage people and leverage effects of virality to achieve exponential growth.
With the use of real-life examples and case studies, Scott explores the newest best practices that can lead to successful marketing efforts.
As one of the books for marketers, this serves as a great introduction to PR and social media marketing’s role.
The initial part is the argument as to why organizations, specifically non-profits and smaller businesses should focus on social media and content indexation (basically, you publish content once, and it remains on the internet “forever”.)
This marketing knowledge also tackles how efficient usage of social media is dependent on different ways of thinking unlike traditional media.
We all write emails, text messages, social posts, comments… and some of us also write blog posts, LinkedIn posts, sales emails, website content… and even things like copy on a call-to-action button.
Everybody Writes is a good book for content producers that want to “write for one person” as in the end, even if what you write is read by 10,000 people, each person is an individual.
The book is probably not for experienced marketers and writers, it is however a good entry-level book for rules of marketing writing.
For you to come up with really great content, you need to hone the right skills in writing so that your ideas will come alive and do it in such an engaging way.
This book offers a lot of helpful insights on how to create the best type of content. This is a highly recommended book for marketers who prefer to edit or write content themselves.
I am not sure if it is the best book of copywriter (and to some extent, storytelling,) if you have a better suggestion let me know in the comments.
Lost and Founder by Rand Fishkin is a book about how to start and run a startup.
As one of the top marketing books, this is where you will learn many things, including the kind of work that is essential learn how to use SEO and content marketing, how to go about with successful communication, how to form a network, and a whole lot more, including every ups and downs involved with building a startup.
Being among the best marketing books, this gives you a realistic look on how you can create a positive buzz online.
Top Branding Books
Purple Cow by Seth Godin
Seth Godin’s Purple Cow is among the favorite books for marketers for a good reason.
Although the author is known for many great marketing books, Purple Cow discusses the topic of how to be remarkable which happens to be crucial in the field of marketing today.
This is because while a lot of people are sharing their frameworks, how-tos and strategies to the public, a lot of people use this to mindlessly copy-paste what was already proven to be effective.
This book shows why and how you should appeal to specific groups of early adopters and innovators who will kickstart your product’s growth.
So when you think about it, growth is not about number, it is about targeting.
Contagious: Why Things Catch On by Jonah Berger
The last, but not the least, out of the top marketing books for marketers is Contagious.
Jonah Berger is a professor at Wharton School and with his book Contagious: Why Things Catch On, he was able to create one of the best sources of marketing knowledge that any marketer can benefit from.
After all, it is all about content, people consumer tons of content daily… and virality is free traffic and exposure.
In the book, Berger explores why and how certain information manages to go viral while other pieces of information do not.
This work has now become one of the must-read for all marketing professionals who want to figure out how they will stay ahead of the competition and be right on top.
Did we miss any great book? Let us know what your recommendations.