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Back To School: 5 Fundamental Marketing Books To Read Now

In our previous post on the top 5 foundational marketing books to read we promised you five more to follow up with. We hope you enjoyed the summer and took time to read. Here are five more. These are again fundamental books that will shape your thinking, improve your understanding of marketing and make you better in your craft. The criteria for our last post applies again: no matter where you are on your path – whether you are starting your first internship or are VP of Digital Strategy – you will gain insights from these.

It is back to school season. Make it the time to read and school yourself in the core principles of our craft.

Contagious: Why Things Catch On by Jonah Berger

The book you must read to really get what makes things spread.

We all want our ideas to spread. We all want our great campaigns to catch on and hit with an unstoppable momentum. So we pose ourselves these questions: What makes a story go viral? What makes people share? Professor at the Wharton School at uPenn, Jonah Berger has dedicated himself to understanding those questions and his book answers with ideas backed by years of rigorous research. The book is packed full of advice and insights on how to think about our work. Next time we sit down to work we will not hope that things just spread by magic--we will engineer, create and optimize for maximum shareability.

If you want to understand the core principles watch his fantastic talk at Google here:

Buy the book on Amazon

Positioning: The Battle For Your Mind by Al Ries & Jack Trout

Read this to understand how to position your brand in the consumer’s mind.

Positioning remains one of the industry’s classics for its timeless approach on  understanding consumers’ perception of brands in today’s overcrowded culture. There are valuable lessons that any brand manager has surely learned on their own: It is difficult work to change customers’ minds about your brand. Your brand is what your audience thinks it is and a simple and straightforward message always wins in a crowded space. And that it all boils down to what your audience thinks your brand stands for--how you think they should perceive it is irrelevant.

The book’s major shortcoming is its outdated examples. After all, it was written 30+ years ago.  But again, we are in search of timeless business principles, ideas that will apply in any decade. Positioning offers those. 

We will leave you off with a quick exercise. Work out the position statement for your organization: (example introduced by Geoffrey Moore): 
For (target customer) who (statement of the need or opportunity), the (product name) is a (product category) that (statement of key benefit – that is, compelling reason to buy). Unlike (primary competitive alternative), our product (statement of primary differentiation).

Buy the book on Amazon

Purple Cow by Seth Godin

Learn how to stand out in the marketplace.

You knew already it would be on the list. Seth’s book is a classic for a reason. It made thousands of business leaders pause and think: Is my organization working on something remarkable? Or are we just doing same old, same old? 

Seth is a masterful storyteller. The book is packed full of stories of remarkable businesses and what they chose to do differently. Before you begin the journey and order the book we suggest that you explore the bonus chapter from the book and read the original article on Fast Company that offers plenty of suggestions from Seth on how to, as he put it, "raise a Purple Cow".

Remember one of the main points from Positioning: the marketplace is saturated. There is no question--you better stand out and start making the hard choices and difficult work today in order to do so.

Buy the book on Amazon

Thinking, Fast and Slow  by Daniel Kahneman

Understand your own and your customers thinking process from this Nobel Prize winner.

Not a marketing book per se, this is one of the most important books you can read, period. The book summarizes decades of research by one of the most prominent thinkers in the fields of decision-making, behavioural economics, psychology and the field of cognitive biases. Here are two reasons that will surely make you pick it up. 

First, it will help you become a more empathetic marketer as you will better understand your audience and how to craft your messages and the key points you will need to emphasize. You will better grasp how we all make decisions (and fail to make good ones) and whether your marketing strategy is working for or against you. 

Second, you will become a much better thinker, leader and decision-maker. After reading this book you will catch yourself falling prey to different biases and how they hijack your sound, rational and logical thinking. You will be better able to evaluate decisions and projects. And isn’t this what we are all aiming for? 

To get a taste for the genius of professor Kahneman we recommend watching this TED talk by him

Buy the book on Amazon

Growth Hacker Marketing: A Primer On The Future of PR, Marketing & Advertising by Ryan Holiday
A marketing and strategic approach you must understand no matter what.

Think of the top brands like Airbnb and Uber that were started from scratch over the last few years. What is remarkable about them is that they redefined marketing as a discipline and this book outlines the process. They did not do any of the traditional marketing we are all used to seeing -- PR, billboards, spending millions on TV, etc. Despite their modest to non-existent marketing budget, these startups grew into behemoths following a step-by-step strategy that you can implement too. 

Ryan Holiday, marketing strategist and founder of Brass Check Marketing outlines the mindset you need to adopt to follow in their footsteps.  While you wait for the book enjoy this presentation of how Ryan used the principles in the book to create the book itself:

Buy the book on Amazon


Order these today and start making better marketing decisions, progress and deliver tremendous amount of value to your clients. We promise, you will be better off because of them. Whether you just got back in school for another semester in business school, tweaking spreadsheets in your first internship or are making high-level strategic decisions, the principles outlined in these books will guide you well. 

Tell us what books we missed in the comments below!

This article was originally written by Hristo Vassilev.