The best marketing books explain how to build lasting relationships with your ideal audience. They provide timeless strategies anyone can implement. We round some of them up.
Reading a classic product marketing book can help hone your marketing strategy as a creative or business owner and learn from another marketing professional. The strategies in the best marketing books are timeless, practical and usually research-driven.
The marketing books below offer actionable advice for any creative, entrepreneur or leader of a marketing team.
- 1. the Icarus Deception by Seth Godin
- 2. Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products by Nir Eyal
- 3. Influence by Robert Cialdini
- 4. How Brands Become Icons by Douglas B. Holt
- 5. Blue Ocean Strategy by W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne
- 6. Crushing It! by Gary Vaynerchuk
- 7. Made to Stick by Chip and Dan Heath
- 8. Shoe Dog by Phil Knight
- 9. Epic Content Marketing by Joe Pulizzi
- 10. Perennial Seller by Ryan Holiday
- Best Marketing Books: Final Word
- Further Reading
1. the Icarus Deception by Seth Godin
In this 2012 marketing book, Godin borrows a big idea from Greek mythology: the tale of Icarus who flew too close to the sun. Godin uses the story to push readers into thinking beyond a typical corporate career.
He explains how society is entering a new era of creativity. He calls on creatives to make art and get their work out into the world.
Godin, one of the first advocates for permission marketing, calls on creatives to avoid creating for the mass market and instead let an ideal audience find them. And he explains how to ignore naysayers and critics. It's a good read for anyone with a creative side hustle idea.
“Strategy is empty without change, empty without passion, and empty without people willing to confront the void.”Seth Godin
2. Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products by Nir Eyal
Want to learn about growth hacking? Look no further.
Many business owners want to create habit-forming products that people love.
In this 2014 book, Eyal explains how to use the four-step hook model to create products consumers love. These are: trigger, action, variable and reward. He covers the differences between paid, earned, owned and relationship recommendations for products and services.
Eyal describes how clever businesses position their products as an oasis of relief for people with an urgent need. Finally, he offers a framework for evaluating your motives for using the hook model.
“Products that require a high degree of behavior change are doomed to fail.”Nir Eyal
Check out our interview with Nir Eyal.
3. Influence by Robert Cialdini
Every marketer should understand the psychology that drives their ideal reader, customer or audience. In this 1984 psychology and marketing book, Cialdini examines the basics of persuasion via seven principles:
- Social validation
He explains how to persuade people to say yes. He also examines the power of persuasion and how to ethically convince someone to act.
If you want to clarify your company or product's positioning, this book is a good choice. He writes,
“A well-known principle of human behavior says that when we ask someone to do us a favor, we will be more successful if we provide a reason. People simply like to have reasons for what they do.”Robert Cialdini
4. How Brands Become Icons by Douglas B. Holt
In this 2004 book, Holt explains what marketers must do if they want to create an iconic brand that resonates with customers. He profiles some of America's most successful brands over the past fifty years including, ESPN, Harley-Davidson, and Budweiser.
Holt also explains how big brands manage customer loyalty and engage in cultural activism. He spent over twenty years researching and writing this marketing book.
“Iconic brands perform ads that people love to watch. With the advent of the Web, customers search out these.”Douglas B. Holt
5. Blue Ocean Strategy by W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne
In this book, professors Kim and Mauborgne advocate for companies entering new uncontested markets via a blue ocean strategy. This way, they can extend their reach and appeal to new customers. Their thesis is based on a ten-year examination of 30 industries.
The authors use the example of the launch of iTunes as well as Cirque du Soleil. On the other hand, a red ocean strategy represents entering and competing within a contested market. It's a good read for any B2B marketer.
They offer advice like,
“Create. Don't Compete.”W. Chan Kim And Renée Mauborgne
6. Crushing It! by Gary Vaynerchuk
This 2018 book explains how to use social media as a form of inbound marketing and to build a personal brand. Vaynerchuk also offers ideas on the latest social media marketing strategies based on his experiences as an influencer.
This social media marketing book is ideal for anyone who spends time on content marketing. Vaynerchuck is one of the narrators, along with Rich Roll and Amy Schmittauer. It's over 8 hours long. Some of the marketing tips for social media are already out of date, but the underlying principles are still valuable.
“Love your family, work super hard, live your passion.”Gary Vaynerchuk
7. Made to Stick by Chip and Dan Heath
Published in 2007, brothers Chip and Dan Heath explain why some ideas thrive and others die. It's similar to Cialdini's work in that it focuses on psychology rather than marketing tactics.
According to the authors, people remember ideas that are simple, unexpected, concrete, credible, emotional and story-driven.
This book is a good choice for anyone who wants to use a big idea to sell their product, service or even a book. It's also a good one to share with a wider marketing team.
The authors write,
“There's no such thing as a passive audience.”Chip and Dan Heath
8. Shoe Dog by Phil Knight
In this book, Nike founder Phil Knight describes graduating from business school, borrowing $50 from his father and founding Nike. He describes Nike's strategy for competing against arch-rivals like Adidas and how the Nike brand evolved. He also recounts where the famous swoosh came from.
“Have faith in yourself, but also have faith in faith. Not faith as others define it. Faith as you define it. Faith as faith defines itself in your heart.”Phil Knight
9. Epic Content Marketing by Joe Pulizzi
Do you want to start a business blog? Or perhaps you're considering using content marketing, for example podcasting, to build a name for your company.
Pulizzi is the founder of Content Marketing Institute and in this 2013 book, he explains the six principles behind great content marketers. They:
- Fill a need
- Communicate consistently
- Use a human, authentic voice
- Express a point of view
- Avoid sales speak
- Are recognized as best-breed (or will be at some point)
This book pairs nicely with anything by Godin or Vaynerchuk. Pulizzi writes,
“Content marketing is the marketing and business process for creating and distributing content to attract, acquire, and engage a clearly defined and understood target audience—with the objective of driving profitable customer action.”Joe Pulizi
10. Perennial Seller by Ryan Holiday
This marketing book is a great read for creatives. Holiday explains why some creative projects stand the test of time while others fade away. He focuses mostly on successful and famous books in this 2018 work, but he also profiles memorable ventures from other industries for example The Shawshank Redemption.
Holiday's advice around identifying an ideal target audience and crafting a positioning statement applies to many types of creative projects including, a business, podcast or a book.
“With the right mindset, the right process, and the right set of business strategies, you can increase the likelihood that your work will join the ranks of these classics. Their success can be your success.”Ryan Holiday
Best Marketing Books: Final Word
These are some of the best marketing books available today. If you have trouble finding time to read them, Audible is a great service for consuming books during a commute, in the gym or out for a walk. (Check out our Audible review).
Remember, you can spend a lifetime reading marketing books without taking any action. So pick one, read it and put the advice inside to use for your business.
What are the best books for marketing leaders?
Check out Blue Ocean Strategy and Shoe Dog. The former explains how to enter uncontested markets and find new customers. The latter recounts how Phil Knight and his team built up the Nike brand and competed with rivals like Adidas. If you're a content marketer, check out anything recent by Seth Godin or Gary Vaynerchuk.
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