For even the most gifted marketers, natural intuition isn’t enough.
People have been in your shoes before, and at least one of them has come up with a better solution than you can study. Luckily, many of the world’s best marketers have written about their experiences. You can (and should) use their lessons to avoid their mistakes and get a leg up on your competition.
We’ve compiled some of the best marketing books of all time for entrepreneurs, marketers and anyone else running a business or marketing a brand. Learn from some of the best marketers and best business leaders to think differently, understand the purpose of your business, decide how to sell to your customers and crush your marketing strategy in 2020 with this list.
The List: 22 Best Marketing Books You Need On Your Shelf
1. Icarus Deception by Seth Godin
You might recall that Icarus’s fatal flaw was not heeding his father’s warning to not fly too close to the sun. Furthermore, Daedalus warned his son to not fly too low, fearing that the saltwater would also damage the wings.
In his lauded book, Seth Godin takes a hint from Greek mythology, pushing readers towards thinking radically outside the box, move forward without a map — critical skills for any marketer looking to get ahead. He emphasizes that conventional wisdom, conformity and fitting the mold are a surefire path to mediocrity.
2. Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products by Nir Eyal
People using your product is cool, but people habitually using your product is cooler. There’s a pattern to which products and services catch attention and become essential for consumers and which, and Hooked answers how to to do just that. Nir Eyal’s book, culled from years of behavioral design research, is a must read and one of the best marketing books for entrepreneurs looking to create and market products that consumers keep coming back to.
3. Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert Cialdini
How do you get someone to say yes? Marketing at its core is getting someone to agree to a proposition. Easier said than done…
People are being asked for their attention and money all the time, and social pressures add a wrinkle to an already complicated and saturated competition for consumer attention. In his bestseller and arguably of the best marketing books of all time, Robert Cialdini breaks down how with thoughtful persuasion, people can be influenced to say yes more often.
4. How Brands Become Icons by Douglas B. Holt
Any business is good business, right? Not exactly…
In his bestseller and candidate for one of the best marketing books of all time, former Harvard Business School professor Douglas B. Holt lays down what marketers need to understand if they want to communicate an authentic brand that truly resonates with customers over time, not just once because of a low price or hype. Taking the tips from iconic brands including ESPN, Mountain Dew, Volkswagen, Budweiser, and Harley-Davidson, Holt breaks down his tips to cultivate a marketing strategy that goes beyond gimmicks and establishes a meaningful brand connection with potential customers.
5. The Undoing Project by Michael Lewis
Michael Lewis’s acclaimed book turns academically dense psychology about judgments and decision-making into a gripping page-turner. Understanding the human psyche is critical for edging out marketing competition and The Undoing Project will help marketers do that in a book whose intellectual rigor matches its entertainment value.
6. Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking by Malcolm Gladwell
Gladwell’s hit Blink isn’t explicitly about marketing, but that doesn’t stop it from being one of the top marketing books. His sophomore book examines the thinking we do when we’re not thinking. We make split-second decisions all the time about what we want, and it’s important that marketers understand those snap judgments. If you’ve read Gladwell’s classic before, then it’s worth your time to snag it again on Audible and absorb the content during your daily commute, a perfect audio companion for his podcast listeners.
7. Misbehaving: The Making of Behavioral Economics by Richard Thaler
The best marketers do a good job of understanding how consumers think. The top marketing books do this too, and Misbehaving is one of them. Legendary behavioral economist Richard Thaler walks readers through how consumers behave irrationally. We don’t make the best decisions for ourselves and are consistent in making errors. It’s useful for marketers to understand those patterns.
8. Red Team by Micah Zenko
Think you always have good ideas? In Red Team, Micah Zenko shows you why you shouldn’t. He makes it clear that even your best ideas need to be interrogated internally before they hit the market. Pharmaceutical companies, the CIA, and a bevy of other organizations follow this process to take their work to the next level. Even if you and your whole team are on board with your new marketing strategy, sometimes fostering healthy criticism is the difference between a good plan and great plan.
9. Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World by Robert Grant
Everyone thinks the same all the time. Ideas are stunningly iterative. Startups are presented as the “Uber of x”, businesses imitate businesses. And this is kind of for good reason. Being different can be risky. The gains can be big and the loses heavy. In one of the best marketing books for entrepreneurs, Robert Grant shows marketers how they can think different without risking it all.
10. Contagious, Why Things Catch On by Jonah Berger
With Contagious, Jonah Berger, a professor at the Wharton School, created one of the top marketing books. Berger explores how and why some information goes viral while other info does not. His work has become a seminal marketing book and a must-read for any marketing professional trying to figure out how to get ahead of the curve.
11. Win: The Key Principles to Take Your Business from Ordinary to Extraordinary by Frank Luntz
Frank Luntz has been a messaging expert in political insider circles for decades — helping his clients shift their discussions with language. Those on his side love him and those who oppose him hate him for how effective he is. Luntz takes what he’s learned inside the Washington, D.C. Beltway and applies it to business in a way that marketers seeking to communicate more effectively and succinctly to their customers will appreciate.
12. Shoe Dog by Phil Knight
Phil Knight is one-half of the team behind one of the best-marketed brands of all time: Nike. Knight’s memoir is loaded with lessons and insights on how to not just articulate a coherent brand vision, but to also live it. Understanding the mechanics and theory of marketing is important, but Knight’s book is able to provide a case study that teaches how to implement these tactics extremely well.
13. Top of Mind by John Hall
When people think about your industry, your brand should be the first thing that comes to mind. But this isn’t an easy task… John Hall’s Top of Mind is a guide to helping you do so. Hall’s book provides insights into how to create meaningful and authentic relationships between customers and products.
14. Outside Insight by Jørn Lyseggen
Big data is still all the rage, and it’s not just a buzzword. Jørn Lyseggen has used it to push his media and business intelligence company, Meltwater, ahead of the competition. It can be easy to drown in the vast swaths of data available now, but Lygseggen’s book is useful for marketers looking for insight on how to use data to their advantage.
15. Designing Brand Identity by Alina Wheeler
Good brands are not just strategy, design, or copywriting. They’re the sum of all three of these things. Alina Wheeler’s detailed book on how to comprehensive market every aspect of a brand is one of the best marketing books for entrepreneurs looking understand every aspect of their teams and how to get the most out of them.
16. The Autobiography of Gucci Mane by Gucci Mane
Few have come from so little, had it almost taken away, and still prevailed to build a lasting career and such a spectacular brand. Gucci Mane, born Radric Davis, chronicles his rise out of poverty in East Atlanta and several jail stints to create one of the most recognized personas in hip-hop. Even if your work doesn’t touch music or culture, marketers can pick up more than a tip or two from the Malcolm Gladwell fan’s relentless grit and success in cultivating well-respected and well-known personal brand.
17. The Life of PT Barnum by PT Barnum
Sometimes the top marketing books are the ones that go back to the basics. Barnum’s autobiography is as basic as they come in marketing. The enterprising visionary is known for his famous circus, but he was able to build a lasting brand because of his marketing expertise. Barnum invented many of the essentials elements of marketing and advertising that continue to dominate the industry in 2019. His book gives the inside story of how he accomplished that.
18. Permission Marketing by Seth Godin
Seth Godin, who Businessweek once dubbed “the ultimate entrepreneur for the Information Age,” breaks down his strategy for winning customers over. This book was published in 1999, and Godin was able to effectively communicate the changes that were coming with the growth of the tech industry. Traditional advertising was aimed at capturing attention. Godin looks forward with lessons marketers can glean about how to reach out to customers who have already shown interest in a product and brand, and how that can drive a successful marketing campaign.
19. Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind by Al Ries and Jack Trout
It struck the marketing world when it first came out and now, several decades later, Al Ries and Jack Trout’s Positioning still holds a spot as one of the top marketing reads. Whether you are picking it up for the first time, or doing a refresher on Audible, you are in for a face-paced, pithy, master class on everything from how to find weak spots of competitors, to finding the right name for a product, to identifying the right market niche to attack. And if you’re looking for more top marketing audio content, check out our list of the 19 best marketing podcasts.
20. Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds by Charles MacKay
Charles MacKay’s 1841 classic has stood the test of time and continues to be lauded and cited by contemporary academics and writers. MacKay covers how the delusion of crowds can lead to things like the often referenced Tulipomania. His book is critical for marketers looking to get a historical perspective on how the psychology of the masses can affect human behavior.
21. Crushing It!: How Great Entrepreneurs Build Their Business and Influence-and How You Can, Too by Gary Vaynerchuk
Good marketing philosophy often starts at the top and goes down. In one of the best marketing books of 2019, New York Times bestselling author Gary Vaynerchuk dissects how with an entrepreneur’s own personal brand, they can help their entire enterprises, gain attention, reform their ethos and ultimately succeed.
22. Marketing Myopia by Theodore Levitt
In business, you’re not selling a product, you’re meeting customers needs. It’s a distinction that many marketers forget but is a cornerstone of the profession.
As companies grow, many find their prosperity waning. They lose sight of what type of business they are and what they’re trying to serve customers. Good CMOs and marketers never lose focus, and Levitt’s tried and true tips will help keep you on track.
Get Reading, Marketers!
There are a lot of marketing and sales books and there are more coming out all the time, but with this list, we’ll help make sure that your time is well spent on the best of the best.
Practice makes perfect, but use these books to make sure that the marketing you are putting into practice is as close to perfect as possible.