The digital marketers reading list
It does not matter how many years you have spent in marketing, there are always new things to learn. Reading is an important part of being a marketer: Books not only provide information and education, but they can also be a valuable source of inspiration for our marketing campaigns and the way we approach the audience.
For this post, we have asked fellow marketers (that we know personally) for their book recommendations. Before we dive in: Thank you to all the marketing-bookworms that contributed!
The result is a reading list that covers different aspects of marketing: the different channels, the psychology behind words, and how to spark creativity – to only name a few. We tried to group them in a logical way, but there will always be overlap between the categories.
A strategic approach to marketing:
Traction: A Startup Guide to Getting Customers by Gabriel Weinberg & Justin Mares
Traction provides a practical framework for testing different growth channels methodically and in a timely manner. It is aimed at startup businesses and how they can shift focus slightly form the product they create to the way how they market this product and build a customer base.
On the journey through different marketing channels such as viral marketing, PR, SEO, advertising and content marketing, you will understand what could work for your industry or company.
Good Strategy, Bad Strategy: The Difference and Why it Matters by Richard Rumelt
This book combines theory and practice when it comes to creating and implementing strategies. It goes beyond just marketing by looking at intelligent business thinking and the way how to come up with a differentiated and successful strategy that improves performance. The examples are not only business focused, but also take global history into account to make you rethink the way you think.
The Content Strategy Toolkit by Meghan Casey
This book was recommended by Helen Hill in the ContentUK community with the following words: “This book is blooming marvellous for content strategy. It was absolute gold when a project I was working on as a designer became more about content strategy and I had to quickly learn some more stuff.”
We could not have said it better as this is the perfect read to quickly learn about content strategy from audit to analysis and implementation.
Content Strategy for the Web by Kristina Halvorson
In line and a classic for content marketers is this one by Kristina Halvorson. It is an in-depth guide that will teach you how to audit existing content, decide what is good or bad and to come up with a content strategy that allows you to create meaningful content. It takes timely delivery and budgeting into account and goes beyond website content by including any type of content that contributes to your brand, e.g. social media and digital PR.
Advertising and Copywriting:
Why I Write by George Orwell
It is short and to the point: Why I Write teaches you everything you need to know about copywriting from the perspective of a political writer and his journey. Orwell’s writing was inspired by the Spanish Civil War and the essay published in 1946 but it is still a popular read for everybody who wants to show his passion for words.
Confessions of an Advertising Man by David Ogilvy
It was published 1963 but is still a required reading in many advertising courses in the USA. This indicates that the basics of marketing are still the same, they only manifest themselves today in new ways and on new platforms. Confessions of an Advertising Man focuses on advertising and copy writing and the entire book is written as advertising copy. As such it makes you a better copy writer.
Scientific Advertising by Claude Hopkins
We are going back in time even further with this publication from 1923. Hopkins can be seen as the father of modern advertising techniques and he laid a foundation that is still valid in 2020. The book covers all aspects of advertising – headlines, psychology, strategy, budgeting, campaigns. If we hadn’t mentioned the year, you would not have thought that it is almost 100 years old as these aspects still matter in everything we do in digital marketing these days.
The Fall of Advertising and the Rise of PR by Al Ries
We are reaching the 21st century with this classic by Al Ries. At JBH we know about the importance of Public Relations and visibility for your brand. Ries also focuses on brand building and PR campaigns by providing case studies, successful and unsuccessful ones. The book provides an understanding of what happened to traditional advertising and the changed landscape towards digital marketing.
Creativity and great ideas:
Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die by Chip and Dan Heath
The idea behind this book goes back to another classic, The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell. He introduced the idea of “stickiness” and the Heath brothers provide more detail into what makes an idea memorable, or sticky. The book contains plenty of case studies from all areas of life: business, society and private that will all show you what makes an idea stick and leads to SUCCESS – Simple, Unexpected, Concrete, Credible, Emotional and Stories.
Purple Cow: Transform your Business by Being Remarkable by Seth Godin
This book also takes the reduced significance of advertising these days and provides a solution to advertising avoidance by creating remarkable products and marketing them in remarkable ways. Seth Godin understands remarkable as the opposite of boring.
Hey, Whipple, Squeeze This: The Classic Guide to Creating Great Ads by Luke Sullivan
For some, this is a history of advertising, for others a great source of inspiration for marketing copy. Luke Sullivan looks at the day-to-day operations of advertising agencies through time and presents plenty of advertising campaigns in different mediums throughout the 20th century. He shows why bad ads sometimes work where great ads fail and how to balance creativity and sales. The title is inspired by the 1960’s Mr. Whipple ad for Charmin toilet paper.
Can We Do That? Outrageous PR Stunts That Work and Why Your Company Needs Them by Peter Shankman
In a similar way to Luke Sullivan, Peter Shankman analyses campaigns, but his focus is on PR. He reveals in several case studies why certain PR campaigns worked or not. You will see impressive creative examples you would have never thought possible.
Influence: Psychology of Persuasion by Robert Cialdini
Marketing has the ultimate goal of selling a product. The examples and lessons provided by Cialdini are real-life situations that happen in direct contact that can be taken into marketing. It is about listening and using the right words to influence people. You will learn why people say yes and take these learnings into your marketing copy.
This is Marketing: You can’t be seen until you learn to see by Seth Godin
Seth Godin equally embeds a psychological approach by looking at the way how purchase decisions are made and how you can connect with your target audience once you have defined who that is and who not. Based on those insights, you can reframe how your product or service is presented.
Don’t Make Me Think by Steve Krug
In Don’t Make Me Think, Krug focuses on changed human behaviour due to technology. Decreased attention spans and brevity of focus lead to users taking the first available solution to their problem. As long as you manage to present your solution first, you win. Kruger provides insight in how to do that.
Oh, The Places You’ll Go! by Dr. Seuss
Now this is a surprising one. Dr.Seuss is not exactly known to have been a marketer and yet, this last book that had been published during his lifetime was suggested. We know why. It is about the journey of life and its challenges; one thing we have noticed in almost all marketing books: You always learn something about life – private and business. Marketing is related to being human, to talking to humans and to use psychology. It always comes back to how we think, how we make decisions and what inspires us. When we learn about marketing, we learn about ourselves.