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My recommendations for a marketers bookshelf is based on my own reading. My own experience is very consumer, brand communications and behavioural change focused. Here’s some recommendations, they aren’t in a ranking or grouped in a particular order.
Insights, planning and strategy
Most marketing communications projects are trying to create some sort of behavioural change in the audience, so understanding more about persuasion has got to be a pretty handy thing right? Robert Cialdini has two great works:
How Brands Grow part 1 and part 2 – pretty much the modern marketers bible for B2C brands of various stripes. Byron Sharp distills down decades of evidence-based research that has been carried out by Ehrensberg-Bass Institute of Marketing Science attached to the University of South Australia. The research institute has got a who’s who of corporate sponsors supporting their work and using their data:
- General Mills
- Grupo Bimbo
- Procter & Gamble
- Red Bull
You get the idea. If the research is good enough for these brands, it’s good enough for you.
A key part of planning is working out that insight which will speak to your target consumers. Trends books are sometimes a handy short cut to creating a first draft of a hypothesis. You can do worse than leave through pollster Mark Penn’s Microtrends, Microtrends Squared and Microtrends Cubed that he has built up. If you’re thinking about transformation then Kevin Kelly’s The Inevitable: Understanding the 12 Technological Forces That Will Shape Our Future is the Microtrends for digital transformation. Tom Doctoroff’s What Chinese Want: Culture, Communism, and China’s Modern Consumer – is a another great primer.
The Long And the Short of It by Les Binet and Media in Focus: Marketing Effectiveness in the Digital Era. Binet is a respected communications planning expert, he is currently head of effectiveness at Adam & Eve DDB. He has published some of the best works on marketing effectiveness for the IPA.
If you studied marketing in college David A. Aaker is probably a familiar name. His Strategic Marketing Management book is often an introductory core course text. It used to double as a doorstop in a lot of dorm rooms that I visited. If you want to refresh your memory on branding he has written an accessible primer to recharge long lost lecture memories: Aaker on Branding: 20 Principles That Drive Success.
Truth, Lies and Advertising – Jon Steel’s work on account planning is that rare thinking; a very readable text book. I like to go back to it to boil things down to first principles and forget complexity.
When you’re looking for inspiration, there are two good approaches:
- Go lateral. Brian Eno and Peter Schmidt’s Oblique Strategies isn’t a book, but a set of 100 cards. Eno periodically suffered writers block in the studio and these cards are a successful approach that he developed over time with collaborator Peter Schmidt. It also works for finding your way through planning
- Look back into time. If you are looking back into time, I would recommend Sun Tzu’s The Art of War if you are looking for inspiration on strategic approach. Buy the cheapest copy that you can get in print. Mine is covered in post-it notes and scribbles in the margins. More expensive versions have ‘business thought leaders’ trying to reinterpret it for you and just end up muddying the water. Those 13 chapters are well worth visiting on a regular basis. Bill Bernbach’s Book is a source of inspiration; as is the better known Ogilvy on Advertising by David Ogilvy
How To Write A Thesis by Umberto Eco. I know what you’re thinking: ‘Ged have you lost your marbles, why would I care about writing a thesis?’ Eco’s book is a really good guide to collecting one’s thoughts and presenting facts gained through a comprehensive research process. As the old martial arts mantra goes: slow is smooth, smooth is fast. Whilst Professor Eco isn’t a marketing scholar he knows a lot about thinking and being cogent.
What about the last book on the marketers bookshelf? You’ve distilled all the knowledge from the rest of the books in this list, along with desk and possibly primary search. You are ready to present your killer ideas to the client, or internal decision makers. Jon Steel has got you covered. Perfect Pitch: The Art of Selling Ideas and Winning New Business is a great refresher that helps shake you’re presentation game up.
What books would add to a marketers bookshelf? If you have additional recommendations, put them below in the comments section. More related content here.