Marketing can have many different focuses and varying purposes, but in this list we hope you’ll find advice, stories, mistakes, tips, tricks, systems, and processes which can help you in what you’re doing right now, and also in building your broader expertise. For each book I’ve tried to include a video to provide more context, in case something about that book jumps out at you and you want to explore further! The videos, where possible, are of the original author explaining some tenet of their work – apart from the classic texts from 100 years ago, where I’ve understandably been a bit looser. I’ve also pulled the first 7 out for a slightly more in depth treatment. Some because they’re simply interesting books and others because they have powerful insights. Let’s get started! Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds We’re starting with the oldest of old school marketing texts! This 1841 text is an early psychological investigation into crowd behavior written by the Scottish journalist Charles Mackay. The book comes in three volumes, each tackling a slightly different subject:
Mackay acts as a kind of Victorian era James Randi, taking delusional public beliefs and debunking them. He tackles topics such as alchemy, fortune telling, and haunted houses amongst other more serious topics like revered perceptions of historical events, like the crusades. His chapters on economic bubbles are still often referenced today. This book earns inclusion as a kind of foundation setting aperitif. What’s more in line with what we do as marketers than understanding how the crowd works and how to bury into its collective unconscious? You can pick up a copy here: Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds The Life of PT Barnum This is another classic text, and one which you may be more familiar with given the recent film adaptation, The Greatest Showman, starring Hugh Jackman and Zac Efron. The book is self-authored and this autobiographical portrayal of an extraordinary man is captivating. A salesman and a marketer by nature, the text is filled with interesting little moves which will make you, as someone within the industry, smirk at the subtle effectiveness of his tactics. There is the story of when Barnum opened a museum in New York. He didn’t have many customers but he noticed there was an unemployed man advertising himself for some “light labor”. Barnum gave the man 5 bricks. One brick was to be placed at the entrance to the museum with the other 4 on the nearby street corners. The man was told to take one brick and walk to the next brick. There he would put the brick down, pick up the new brick, and walk to the next brick – where he would do the same again. This led the man in a grid until he was back outside the museum. Here, he would present a ticket, enter the building, walk out again, and begin his brick grid all over. Strange, no? Barnum writes:
Half an hour afterwards, at least five hundred people were watching his mysterious movements. He had assumed a military step and bearing, and looking as sober as a judge, he made no response whatever to the constant inquiries as to the object of his singular conduct
Absurdly simple anecdotes such as this decorate Barnum’s fascinating story and provide a flowing read where you may pick up some tricks in the process. You can pick up a copy here: The Life of PT Barnum Buy-ology Martin Lindstrom‘s 2008 text delves into the motivations behind our purchases. The book is the end result of a three year neuromarketing study on 2081 people. The book looks at the effectiveness of traditional approaches to marketing products; commercials, jingles, celebrity endorsements, logos, and so much more. Lindstrom builds most of the thesis on the role of the subconscious, while also tying in other connections like the relationship between branding and religion. Lindstrom came to some fairly surprising conclusions. The counterintuitive nature of his findings partly comes down to the methodology. While people often report acting this way or that way for this or that reason, the real motivators are sometimes not even known to the subject themselves; purchasing is very often a non-rational act. The study used fMRI and EEG technologies to look at brain activity and reach conclusions from that, rather than self-reporting as is often used. These findings were then compared against real world trends where possible. Some of the findings include:
You can pick up a copy here: Buy-ology Guerilla Marketing Jay Conrad Levinson’s 1983 book, Guerilla Marketing, shows that at least someone learned lessons from Vietnam. It was included in Time magazine’s 25 most influential business management books of all time back in 2011. And it deserves its place. For me, Guerilla Marketing is one of the foundational books underpinning modern startup culture, even if it doesn’t always get given the credit it deserves within this specific niche. From growth hacking, to “move fast and break things”, to endless discussion of disruption – much of the themes of modern day startup mythology tie into this idea of guerilla warfare transplanted onto business, with Levinson’s text being one of the earliest to bring it all together as a cohesive guide for a specific industry sector. Making the most of limited resources for maximum impact is a crucial part of any marketing campaign, not just startups. Now a required reading on many MBA courses, you can pick up a copy here: Guerilla Marketing The Long Tail Full title: The Long Tail: Why the Future of Business Is Selling Less of More is a 2006 book from the Editor in Chief of Wired magazine, Chris Anderson. The book received considerable acclaim including being nominated for the Financial Times and Goldman Sachs Business Book of the Year Award . The rough thesis of the book is that it can be better to focus on selling lots of low-selling products rather than a few high-selling ones. The idea is that by selling a greater variety of products instead of focusing on just the most successful ones, you would be able to achieve a greater market share in the long run. He points to the success of companies like Amazon as evidence and their continued success since, particularly in relation to market share, appears to further support his argument. However, the New York Times did critique the central thesis on the grounds that the motivations for stocking best sellers was normally linked to lack of physical capacity. Nonetheless, the NYT didn’t disagree with the core mechanisms and saw The Long Tail as predicting an acceleration in the atomization of culture and the emergence of marketplace niches to cater to that. As brick and mortar limitations seemingly reduce, it could be said that the observations of The Long Tail are becoming increasingly pertinent. You can pick up a copy here: The Long Tail Permission Marketing This 1999 text by Seth Godin in many ways seems way ahead of the curve. With one of the key areas of conversation surrounding social issues at the moment being discussions about the nature of consent, whether in sexual interactions or how companies use our data, Godin’s book is nostradamic in encouraging companies to seek consumer consent. The classic idea in marketing is that you’re putting your product in front of someone – interrupting them with your approach. Godin believed that this style had reached a kind of saturation point where its effectiveness was dwindling. The subtitle of the book is: Turning Strangers into Friends and Friends into Customers. There’s a very touchy feely niceness to the whole idea. For Godin, it contains 3 core elements:
I do wonder whether the success and sheer dominance of Facebook in the new world of advertising has somewhat vindicated Godin’s thesis. Through intense targeting, Facebook endeavors to show its users adverts which are of direct interest to them. Users can also interact with the adverts to let Facebook know if an advert is not the kind of thing they want to see again. This builds a sense of consent and anticipation, while naturally succeeding in being personal and relevant. I even appreciate some of the adverts I’ve received on Facebook, introducing me to new products or services which I do want to buy but probably wouldn’t have found otherwise. This is Godin’s theory in action. Better for the consumer and better for the advertiser. Godin’s book has a lot to offer in our modern world of advertising. You can pick up a copy here, if you would like to. Feel free to say no. The safeword is “pineapple”: Permission Marketing Positioning This 1981 text from Al Ries and Jack Trout presents the idea that the core of marketing is about creating strong brands. Positioning your brand relative to other brands will be a key determinant of success. That’s the rough thesis. Ezra Rufino pulls out 6 key lessons to take from the book:
Branding is a crucial part of marketing and Positioning provides a thorough and actionable guide to maximizing your branding potential. You can pick up a copy here: Positioning
Draplin Design Co.: Pretty Much Everything Aaron Draplin‘s 2016 book is like a peek behind the curtain at how the other half live. And by “other half” I’m referring to the people who are good at design. I’m pretty terrible at design and happy to admit it, but Draplin is one of the best in the game. You can see his logo design process in the video above from Linkedin to get a flavor of his work. The book is very visual and would benefit any marketer in understanding the mechanics of developing branding and working with the creative side of the business. CreativeBloq describe the book:
Part showcase, part autobiography, designer Aaron James Draplin’s book Pretty Much Everything certainly lives up to its name. This mid-career retrospective is stuffed with countless examples of his influential work, ranging from snowboard graphics to logo designs, and insights into Draplin’s unruly career path.
You can find a copy here: Draplin Design Co.: Pretty Much Everything Content Strategy for the Web Kristina Halvorson has been one of the leaders behind the growth of content marketing online over the last decade. With her company Brain Traffic she has consulted top businesses on how to leverage content effectively online. Her 2009 text Content Strategy for the Web is a go-to resource for anyone involved in content. It serves as a foundational text while providing clear and actionable paths you can take. You can get a handle on Halvorson’s approach to content in this webinar: Content Strategy for Website Projects. And you can pick up a copy of the book here: Content Strategy for the Web 10x Marketing Formula: Your Blueprint for Creating ‘Competition-Free Content’ That Stands Out and Gets Results From Garrett Moon of CoSchedule, this book is a practical guide – or blueprint – for smashing your content targets. The 10x marketing approach is about looking for small tips, tricks, and shortcuts which can have a massive impact on ROI. This lean and mean guide is looking to help you achieve marketing targets and do so at an accelerated pace. The central theme is what Moon refers to as Competition-Free Content, which he outlines in this interview with Heidi Cohen:
Regular content marketing is filled with noise, thrashing, and fierce competition. Competition-free content is content that adds tremendous value to your customers and audience that only you can produce. It’s content that stands out through topic, structure, or media type. And it renders competition irrelevant because this is uncontested space.
Instead of fighting your competition in the busy spaces, find the niche route. You can pick up a copy here: 10x Marketing Formula Wired for Story: The Writer’s Guide to Using Brain Science to Hook Readers from the Very First Sentence As we’re still in the general theme of content marketing, this text looks tightly at the way in which we construct content and how we can improve that via the knowledge we have of the way people think. It’s all about creating cognitive storytelling strategies to hit the right part of a reader’s brain. This lets us keep them interested and therefore engaged. Once you have the reader’s attention you can begin to achieve your goals. You can listen to the author, Lisa Cron, discussing this approach at a TED talk above. You can pick up a copy of the book here: Wired for Story Influence: Science and Practice Robert Cialdini‘s 1984 book is about understanding how to influence those around you. The approach Cialdini boils down to revolves around 6 core principles of influence:
In the book he talks about how you can leverage different elements of these while referencing studies in a wide array of use cases. When restaurants leave a mint at the end of a meal tips increase. When they leave 2 mints tips increase further. When they leave 1 mint, walk away, then return with a second mint accompanied with “an extra one for you nice people” tips go through the roof – a 23% increase. The dynamics of the reciprocity principle can work in interpersonal or business scenarios. Cialdini walks us through the varying examples of each principle. You can purchase it here: Influence: Science and Practice Or, as you’re my favorite reader, you could use this link too: Influence: Science and Practice Selling the Invisible This 1997 text from Harry Beckwith examines service marketing and why selling services is different to selling products. The thesis is that once a customer buys a product they can look at it and be happy with their purchase. Yet, with a service there isn’t always anything to look at – and people keep paying for this service long after the post-purchase glow has worn off and the sales slogans have gone quiet. As ConsultTCI puts it:
Beckwith makes the point that many purchasers of services aren’t even sure what it is that they are buying, since it hasn’t typically been delivered yet. Clients typically cannot evaluate expertise (which is what service marketers are selling), since they lack the technical skills with which to evaluate the expert. In most cases, they cannot tell whether a doctor’s diagnosis was correct, whether a tax return was filed properly, or whether a marketing plan was crafted well. Accordingly the customer’s motivation may be as much or more risk avoidance (i.e. minimizing the consequences of a bad decision) than trying to get the very best service that might be available.
How does the difference between products and services impact on the way in which we should market them? This book addresses those concerns. You can get hold of a copy here: Selling the Invisible Maximize Your Potential: Grow Your Expertise, Take Bold Risks & Build an Incredible Career This 2013 text from Jocelyn K. Glei is all about taking advantage of the opportunities afforded to us for self-improvement in the modern era. Coming in at 260 pages, it’s not too long and offers practical advice relevant for a range of modern scenarios. As marketers battle with technology it’s a constant fight to keep upskilling and keep improving yourself. This book could give you a good hand in finding ways to bring out the best you. You can pick up a copy here: Maximize Your Potential UnMarketing: Stop Marketing, Start Engaging Scott Stratten‘s 2010 book shows his belief that there are a number of problems with traditional marketing efforts. Marketing for Stratten is all about building relationships. As the Social Media Examiner describe:
Stratten believes business is about creating and managing relationships with current and potential customers. Find people who are already talking about you, engage them and give them something of value. He calls this marketing strategy “pull and stay.” Pull potential customers to your business by engaging them, trade something they value for their name and contact information and stay in touch with them.
You can pick up a copy here: UnMarketing: Stop Marketing, Start Engaging Managing Content Marketing: The Real-World Guide for Creating Passionate Subscribers to Your Brand You can probably tell that we’re interested in content marketing here at Process Street. This 2011 book by Joe Pulizzi and Robert John Rose is a practical handbook for getting into the content game. One of the key premises of the book is that your product shouldn’t be the only value you provide to your customers. This is where traditional marketing fails, as the only goal of the marketing materials is to get people to buy the product. For Pulizzi and Rose, content marketing is an example of a prime channel to deliver value to your customers even before they encounter your product. Through this approach you can earn trust and convert more! You can find a copy here: Managing Content Marketing Youtility This 2013 book by Jay Baer follows in a similar theme to Pulizzi and Rose’s book in that it’s all about injecting value into the marketing itself. The big idea behind Youtility is that you’re helping your customer into making a sale. Baer gives 9 examples of this kind of marketing in action in an article for Convince and Convert:
Each year in Montreal, some 225,000 residents changed apartments on July 1. IKEA gave away free moving boxes throughout the city, and increased sales by 24.7%. The boxes also had clever messages, such as “This box is also a curtain”.
You can pick up a copy here: Youtility Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff This 1997 text from Richard Carlson helps guide you through the minefield of worrying about everything all the time. When you’re taking a lean approach to marketing, you’re going to do a lot of stuff that fails along the way. Being able to get back up from that failure is vital to keep going and to really achieve your success. As Penguin described it when it was published:
A book that shows you how to prevent the little things in life driving you crazy. In thoughtful and insightful language, author Richard Carlson reveals ways to calm down in the midst of your hurried, stress-filled life.
A book which has helped many, you can pick up a copy here: Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing Another entry from Al Ries and Jack Trout, this 1993 book serves as a bedrock for learning the fundamentals of marketing. Of course, given that it was first published in 1993, we have to read the book with a degree of awareness that there may be disagreement on certain points. Nonetheless, there’s a lot to learn in here for any marketer, particularly someone new to the trade. You can pick up a copy here: The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing Everybody Writes: Your Go-To Guide to Creating Ridiculously Good Content Ann Handley provides a thorough guide to creating content which caters both to those who want to write, and to those who already write but want to leverage that as part of a great content strategy. From why you’re writing your content, to how you can repurpose it, to how to wrap in the story of your brand, the book provides a practical guide to building a complete content marketing strategy and approach. You can pick up a copy here: Everybody Writes Contagious: Why Things Catch On This 2013 book from Jonah Berger looks at why some things seem to gain popularity while others don’t. Berger, Professor of Marketing at The Wharton School of Business at University of Pennsylvania, pretty much dispels the idea that traditional marketing factors in why certain trends emerge. Instead, these things become super popular on the back of social influence and word of mouth – which combined account for anywhere between 20-50% of purchasing decisions depending on the scenario. People trust the person who recommends it, and the person recommending it knows the other person well enough to roughly judge whether they may like it. High levels of trust and targeting form the foundation for why it works. A must read if you’re considering an influencer marketing approach! You can grab a copy here: Contagious: Why Things Catch On Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook Gary Vaynerchuk is a bit of a celebrity when it comes to this kind of thing. Instead of just using marketing to grow businesses or please clients, he’s used it to boost his own brand too. His book builds on some of the similar themes we’ve looked so far in that it’s important to be providing value from the first interaction with the customer all the way until you want to land your product sale; your right hook. In his words:
For those who may not be familiar, my entire business philosophy pretty much revolves around the jab jab jab right hook method. Jabs are the value you provide your customers with: the content you put out, the good things you do to convey your appreciation. And the right hook is the ask: it’s when you go in for the sale, ask for a subscribe, ask for a donation.
For Vaynerchuk, landing the jabs is what gives you the right to attempt to land the right hook. There’s an element of permission in it when it finally comes. You can pick up a copy here: Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook Growth Hacker Marketing: A Primer on the Future of PR, Marketing, and Advertising Ryan Holiday‘s Growth Hacker Marketing is an important read because it approaches marketing in a different way. When it comes to growth hacking, it’s useful to think of marketing not as something which supplements the product, but as part of the product. When Hotmail added a message at the bottom of every email telling the recipient they could get free email from Hotmail, that was early growth hacking. The growth hacking approach is about making a lot out of a little, and finding ways to catch on which are systematic. The hotmail example is a line of code to pin that to the bottom of every email. It isn’t an expensive Super Bowl commercial or a targeted advertising campaign. The growth hacking approach builds marketing into the product to systemize growth. Pick up a copy here: Growth Hacker Marketing Trust Me, I’m Lying Ryan Holiday is back in the list. His 2012 book, which carries the subtitle Confessions of a Media Manipulator, is a kind of chronicle of Holiday’s time working for large companies and strategizing over their publicity efforts. The different companies covered in the book include American Apparel and Tucker Max, amongst others. In some sense it’s a damning statement on the nature of online media, in others its a shock marketer’s wet dream. The tactics of leveraging outrage and online conversation are fascinating and strangely prescient given political happenings since publication. You can pick up a copy here: Trust Me, I’m Lying Building a StoryBrand: Clarify Your Message So Customers Will Listen In this 2017 book from the New York Times bestselling author Donald Miller we find a lesson in storytelling. Through better understanding how to leverage the key tenets of storytelling, we can uncover new and more powerful ways to connect with our customers and control the image of our brand. Miller has boiled the idea of reapplying storytelling for marketing down to a concept he calls the StoryBrand 7 Framework. In Miller’s words, it works like this:
A CHARACTER who wants something encounters a PROBLEM before they can get it. At the peak of their despair, a GUIDE steps into their lives gives them a PLAN, and CALLS THEM TO ACTION. That action helps them avoid FAILURE and ends in a SUCCESS.
The book investigates how this can be deployed best within marketing amongst a range of other considerations and information. You can pick up a copy here: Building a StoryBrand Scientific Advertising We started this list with classics so we’re going to finish with a classic too. You could argue this book is the bible of marketing. Claude C. Hopkins pretty much established what we think of as traditional marketing mindsets or approaches within this 1923 text. So, if you’re into your historical work, you should really give it a try. There is a huge scope covered in the book and still a vast amount to learn. Now, I don’t normally do free giveaways, but you’re a special reader and you made it to the end. So thank you. In return you can have this last one for free. You can access the PDF of the book for free here: Scientific Advertising. Don’t say I don’t treat you right.
by John Walsh Suffering from a stutter as a child, John Walsh was deathly afraid of speaking in public. Since then, he has conquered this problem and wrote The Art of Storytelling, explaining how he learned to retell Bible stories in a beautiful oral style. If anyone can help you set aside your fears and insecurities to build your verbal communication skills, it’s John Walsh.
by Peggy Noonan Noonan was a speechwriter for Dan Rather and Ronald Reagan. This instructional book simplifies the process of public speaking with the seasoned wisdom of an expert who has helped leaders and presidents get their ideas out to the world.
by Ken Sande Peacekeeping is easy: just keep the warring parties away from each other. The lasting solution, though, is to strive for peace-making. This book discusses how to do that.
by Mortimer J. Adler This book was Unbound COO Ryan Yamane’s contribution to the list. Another “oldie but goodie,” this book has practical application for anyone—from executive to student to parent and everyone in between!
by Victor Pellegrino Written and oral communication are closely related because paragraphs are the building blocks of successful ideas. Recommended by Andrew Pudewa, this book helps you begin to structure ideas more effectively.
by Howard Hendricks This book is small but chock full of practical wisdom on teaching people effectively. It should be toward the top of the reading list for anyone passionate about leading, especially in a religious setting.
by Sam Horn Funny title and cover straight from the 90s aside, this book is “exceptionally good for working on improving verbal communication skills,” according to one of our Unbound coaches.
The Back of the Napkin, Dan Roam, Portfolio, 2008 Beyond Bullet Points, Cliff Atkinsons, Microsoft Press, 2007 Great Demo!, Pete Cohan, iUniverse, 2005 Persuasive Presentations, Nick Souter, Sterling, 2007 ** Presentation Zen, Garr Reynolds, New Riders Press, 2009 Presentation Zen Design, Garr Reynolds, New Riders Press, 2009 Slide:ology, Nancy Duarte, O’Reilly Media, 2008 The Virtual Presenter’s Handbook, Roger Courville, 1080 Group, 2009