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Essential Reading: Marketing Books & Blogs

July 27, 2020
marketing books

If you know our founder, Lucy Mowatt, you know that she reads. A lot. In this post, she reveals her recommended reading materials and marketing books.

I read everything I can get my hands on. Fiction and non-fiction. News articles. Magazines. Blogs. Cereal boxes. Everything.

Why?

Mainly because I enjoy it. I love exploring the interplay of words and phrases and the way they come together to form a narrative.

But I also love learning. Whether it’s exploring a new subject or discovering a nice turn of phrase, reading broadens my horizons, sparks my creativity and enhances my vocabulary.

So while this article could easily become a love letter to literature, I’ve decided to rein it in. Instead, I’ve collated pick a selection of blogs and marketing books that have inspired me throughout my career.

Damn Good Advice (for people with talent) – George Lois

I finished reading this book last night and feel it deserves a mention, mainly because it inspired this article!

Published by New York ad man George Lois, it features practical advice on becoming a successful creative. But that’s not the say that the advice only applies to creative types.

He explores ways come up with ‘big ideas’, how to handle clients and ‘group grope’ (see below) and why you should love what you do.

Read more: Marketing Inspiration

While there are some aspects that strike me as a little outdated (many examples pre-date the online world), the overall principles are sound and the stories inspiring.

“Reject Group Grope.

“Think about this: Decisive, breakthrough creative decision-making is almost always made by one, two, or possibly three minds working in unison, take it or leave it. Collective thinking usually leads to stalemate or worse. And the smarter the individuals in the group, the harder it is to nail the idea.”

George Lois, Damn Good Advice

Confessions of an Advertising Man – David Ogilvy

Again, not strictly a marketing book, but worth a read.

First published back in 1963, in the height of the Mad Men era, Ogilvy explores what it means to work in advertising.

He gives his insights into inspiration, client management, copywriting and creative.

While Ogilvy can be long-winded (and occasionally pompous), it definitely gets the juices going.

One of my favourite quotes?

“The best ideas come as jokes. Make your thinking as funny as possible.”

David Ogilvy, Confessions of an Advertising Man

Contagious: Why Things Catch On – Jonah Berger

I remember reading this book just after it was published and many of the lessons have stayed with me.

Why?

Because it’s a fascinating deep-dive into why certain behaviours – and marketing activities – go viral.

If you’re interested in human behaviour and motivation, it provides a fantastic grounding for marketing.

“It has been said that when people are free to do as they please, they usually imitate one another. We look to others for information about what is right or good to do in a given situation, and this social proof shapes everything from the products we buy to the candidates we vote for. The phrase ‘Monkey see, monkey do’ captures more than just our tendency to follow others. If people can’t see what others are doing, they can’t imitate them. So to get our products and ideas to become popular we need to make them more publicly observable.”

Jonah Berger, Contagious

On Writing – Stephen King

Although this book is mostly focused on creating works of fiction, there are fantastic insights that can be applied to any type of writing.

For instance, King explains how he manages to produce such a high volume of work, how to generate ideas and how to develop a narrative, all of which can be applied to marketing messaging.

My top takeaway? It’s hard to just pick one, but this stands out:

“The road to hell is paved with adverbs.”

Stephen King, On Writing

Start With Why – Simon Sinek

This is on almost every essential reading list, marketing or otherwise, for good reason.

It’s a thought-provoking, powerful exploration of why we do what we do.

Although it could be classed as a self-help book, it features some great advice for marketers too.

Understanding both your why (or that of your business) and how it overlaps with that of your customers can really help you to reframe your thinking – and your marketing.

“There are only two ways to influence human behavior [sic]: you can manipulate it or you can inspire it.”

Simon Sinek, Start With Why

The Content Code – Mark W. Schaefer

This marketing book has been on my shelf for years and and I often find myself referring back to it.

With chapter titles such as ‘Building Shareability into your Content’, ‘Borrowing Trust’ and ‘The Mystery of Authority’, it covers lots of different aspects of content marketing.

“According to an analysis of 100 million web-based articles, long-form content actually gets shared more than short-form content. In fact, the longer the content, the more shares it may get, with pieces of 3,000-10,000 words getting the highest shares of any category. Research by the New York Times confirms this trend; more than 90 percent of their most-emailed articles are more than 3,000 words long.”

Mark W Schaefer, The Content Code

On Strategic Marketing – Harvard Business Review

I have a confession: I love HBR.

They publish some of the most insightful and interesting business articles out there. Whenever I’m in an airport bookshop, I always end up gravitating towards the HBR shelf.

One of my recent impulse purchases was On Strategic Marketing, a compilation of HBR’s top 10 marketing articles and essays.

Articles include:

As you can see, the time frame for this marketing book is broad, but it gives a great insight into core marketing principles and trends.

“… There is no question that, when Sales and Marketing work well together, companies see substantial improvement on important metrics: Sales cycles are shorter, market-entry costs go down, and the cost of sales is lower.”

Kotler, Rackham & Krishnaswamy

Business for Punks: Break All the Rules – the BrewDog Way

Now, I’ll confess that I haven’t read this one yet.

It was suggested by Anne Morgan on Facebook, who claims it’s the business bible, so I’m definitely adding it to my reading list.

This excerpt sealed the deal for me:

“For today’s business, marketing is everything. Everything you and your business does is marketing. Modern brands don’t belong to companies, they belong to the customer. And marketing dialogue is a two -way street, with customers actively engaged in shaping your brand.”

James Watt, Business for Punks

The 20% Rule®: How to ensure your business is safe, sustainable and profitable – Catherine Gladwyn

Catherine herself got in touch with me on Facebook to recommend her recent book.

In it, she explains why no one client should take up more than 20% of your time and what you can do about it.

Marketing Blogs & Newsletters

Of course, no round-up would be complete without a selection of online outlets.

In no particular order, here are some of my favourite marketing blogs and websites.

What’s missing from the list? What’s inspired you? Which marketing books would you add? Drop us a note in the comments below and tell us what you think!

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