Like most of you reading this, I’ve read too many terrible marketing & startup-related books.
Growth Hacker? I suppose it was okay, for it’s time.
This Is Marketing? Took nothing from it.
Traction? It could have been summed up in a blog post.
After searching for ‘Top 10 Marketing Books’ and reading everything I could find on those lists over the last few years, I’ve stopped buying marketing books because almost everyone was either aimed at beginners, were written as a lead-magnet with the aim of selling you consulting or a course, or they simply were written without anything actionable that I could actually ‘use’.
Like many during the last 9 months, my agency moved out of our office and we have worked entirely from home. A positive that came from that I started to read way more often, usually aiming for a book a week.
The first book I read was a gift that I received a couple of years back and had been on my shelf collecting dust ever since. It was the only book that I owned which I hadn’t already read, so to make things simple I started with that. It was The Brand Gap by Marty Neumeier.
It absolutely blew me away.
I read it from cover to cover in one sitting and then read it again the following week. I told everyone that would listen: “The Brand Gap is the single most important book I’ve ever read”.
After this, I spoke to friends working in branding, design, copywriting, and project management and asked for book recommendations. I specified that I didn’t want books that only scratched the surface, I wanted to read the books that changed their entire mindset and way or working.
I ended up with a huge reading list (and a few shelves full of books) which I worked my way through over the last few months. There was no filler, and nothing I’d consider to be average — I gained something significant from every single book.
I’ve compiled a list of seven of the books which I’d consider to have had the biggest impact on me.
For each book mentioned I’ll include a link to Bookshop, along with a testimonial and some of the book description.
1. The Brand Gap — Marty Neumeier
“A well-managed brand is the lifeblood of any successful company. Read this book before your competitors do!” ―TOM KELLEY, GENERAL MANAGER, IDEO
THE BRAND GAP is the first book to present a unified theory of brand. The second edition features a 220-term brand glossary and a premium softcover binding. Whereas most books on branding are weighted toward either a strategic or creative approach, this book shows how both ways of thinking can unite to produce a “charismatic brand” — a brand that customers feel is essential to their lives.
2. Everybody Writes — Ann Handley
“All your shiny new channels, properties, and platforms are a waste of space without smart, useful content. Ann Handley’s new book helps make every bit of content count — for your customers and your bottom line.” — Kristina Halvorson, President, Brain Traffic
If you have a website, you are a publisher. If you are on social media, you are in marketing. And that means that we are all relying on our words to carry our marketing messages. We are all writers.
Everybody Writes is your go-to guide to attracting and retaining customers through stellar online communication, because in our content-driven world, every one of us is a writer.
3. How Brands Grow: What Marketers Don’t Know — Byron Sharp
“…marketers need to move beyond the psycho-babble and read this book… or be left hopelessly behind.” — Joseph Tripodi, The Coca-Cola Company
Professor Byron Sharp is the Director of the Ehrenberg-Bass Institute for Marketing Science at the University of South Australia. The Institute’s fundamental research is used and financially supported by many of the world’s leading corporations including Coca-Cola, Kraft, Kellogg’s, British Airways, Procter & Gamble, Nielsen, TNS, Turner Broadcasting, Network Ten, Simplot, Mars and many others.
4. D&AD. The Copy Book
“The Copy Book convinced me that everyone in business should study the art of copywriting.” — Fortune.com
The book features a work selection and essays by 53 leading professionals in the world, including copywriting superstars such as David Abbott, Lionel Hunt, Steve Hayden, Dan Wieden, Neil French, Mike Lescarbeau, Adrian Holmes, and Barbara Nokes.
The lessons to be learned on these pages will help you create clearer and more persuasive arguments, whether you are writing an inspiring speech, an engaging web banner or a persuasive letter. This is not simply a “must-have” book for people in advertising and marketing, it is also a “should-have” for anyone who needs to involve or influence people, by webpage, on paper, or in person.
5. Junior: Writing Your Way Ahead in Advertising — Thomas Kemeny
“If my older and wiser brother were an ad book, these would be his exact words. If he’d ask me to wash his filthy car every Sunday in exchange for his wisdom, I’d say ‘No problem, ‘ knowing I got the better end of the deal.” — PAUL MALMSTROM, Creative Chairman and Co-Founder, Mother
There are a lot of great advertising books, but none that get down in the dirt with you quite like this one. Thomas Kemeny made a career at some of the best ad agencies in America. In this book he shows how he got in, how he’s stayed in, and how you can do it too. He breaks apart how to write fun, smart, and effective copy-everything from headlines to scripts to experiential activations-giving readers a lesson on a language we all thought we already knew.
6. Hey, Whipple, Squeeze This: The Classic Guide to Creating Great Ads — Luke Sullivan
“Classic must-read Sullivan mixed with innovation master Boches make the perfect duo. This is the book that will help guide new talent to great career starts. Required reading for a new era.” — Deborah Morrison**,** Distinguished Professor of Advertising, University of Oregon
Hey Whipple, Squeeze This has helped generations of young creatives make their mark in the field. From starting out and getting work, to building successful campaigns, you gain a real-world perspective on what it means to be great in a fast-moving, sometimes harsh industry. You’ll learn how to tell brand stories and create brand experiences online and in traditional media outlets, and you’ll learn more about the value of authenticity, simplicity, storytelling, and conflict.
7. Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind — Al Ries, Jack Trout
The first book to deal with the problems of communicating to a skeptical, media-blitzed public, Positioning describes a revolutionary approach to creating a “position” in a prospective customer’s mind-one that reflects a company’s own strengths and weaknesses as well as those of its competitors.
“…Ries and Trout taught me everything I know about branding, marketing, and product management. When I had the idea of creating a very large thematic community on the Web, I first thought of Positioning….” — David Bohnett, Chairman and Founder of GeoCities
So, there you have it. It’s worth nothing, my list above is just that; my list. I’m sure there are plenty of people that read books from that list and for whatever reason, it just didn’t resonate with them in the same way that Growth Hackersdoesn’t do it for me, either. These are simply the books I’d consider to be game-changing, and now recommend them to anyone working in marketing & e-commerce.
Got a book recommendation? I’d love to hear! Share some recommendations below.