Optimize My Brand

Strategy, tactics, ideas and tips from Creative Company.

9 must-read marketing books

Favorite authors and
recommended marketing books

recommended marketing booksI’m asked fairly regularly which marketing books I recommend, especially by those just starting a marketing career. And with all the new options out there–from digital to inbound marketing to social media to traditional media channels, it can be hard to decide how to proceed. A good book is an excellent foundation. These are just a few of my favorites, my recommended marketing books.

Back to the basics–positioning

The classic by Al Ries and Jack Trout, “Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind,” is still worth reading. The concepts presented are foundational to effective marketing. The idea of defining and capturing a “position” in someone’s mind is the basis for a good brand. Standing for an idea and being known as the top choice for one narrow category is demonstrated in the classic statement, “if you can’t be #1 in a category, create a category where you can be #1.” Apple showed us how this idea worked by creating the category “desktop publishing” when their main competitor was IBM.

The first book to deal with the problems of communicating to a skeptical, media-blitzed public, Positioning describes a revolutionary approach to creating a “position” in a prospective customer’s mind-one that reflects a company’s own strengths and weaknesses as well as those of its competitors. Writing in their trademark witty, fast-paced style, advertising gurus Ries and Trout explain how to:

  • Make and position an industry leader so that its name and message wheedles its way into the collective subconscious of your market-and stays there
  • Position a follower so that it can occupy a niche not claimed by the leader
  • Avoid letting a second product ride on the coattails of an established one.

From the Amazon.com review

From positioning to immutable laws

Al Ries, called “a legendary branding strategist,” also penned two more recommended marketing books, practically bibles–“The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing” in 1994 with Jack Trout, and “The 22 Immutable Laws of Branding” with his daughter, Laura Ries, in 2002.

Following the same breezy, straightforward style, Ries summarizes essential concepts with plenty of well-known examples to guide an effective marketing program and to build a brand. Both books are easy to read and worth referring to again and again. Consider them a practical, actionable road map to marketing success.

Understanding how people think and respond

“The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference” by Malcolm Gladwell was not written as a book for marketers. Yet the insight and examples described are remarkably telling for anyone who needs to reach and motivate people–a marketer. When applied to how people choose, think and respond, you’ll discover how little things can make or break your communications.

The premise of this facile piece of pop sociology has built-in appeal: little changes can have big effects; when small numbers of people start behaving differently, that behavior can ripple outward until a critical mass or “tipping point” is reached, changing the world. Gladwell’s thesis that ideas, products, messages and behaviors “spread just like viruses do” remains a metaphor as he follows the growth of “word-of-mouth epidemics” triggered with the help of three pivotal types.

From Publishers Weekly, on Amazon

Marketing the intangible

Harry Beckwith has written a series of recommended marketing books which, like the ones from Al Ries, are easy to read, brief, witty, to the point and packed with plenty of “aha!” Beginning with “Selling the Invisible: A Field Guide to Modern Marketing” and moving to “The Invisible Touch: The Four Keys to Modern Marketing”  and “What Clients Love,” I recommend reading all three. They’re even compactly sized so you can drag them around with you to read in a waiting room or on a plane. If, of course, you still like hard copies.

As with Al Ries, Beckwith has written other books … all recommended. But these three are the ones I remember best, refer to again and again, and recommend most often.

Wisdom from Seth–unleashing ideas and purple cows

The prolific Seth Godin has continued to churn out books about culture, marketing, attitudes and fresh approaches to business. And he’s prolifically wise, pithy and practical. Amazon comments, “… the author of fifteen international bestsellers that have been translated into over 35 languages, and have changed the way people think about marketing and work.”

Any book by Godin is worth a read, but I am most fond of “Purple Cow: Transform Your Business by Being Remarkable,” and “Unleashing the Ideavirus.” His style, too, is to the point, simple and easy to read. His ideas are enlightening and interesting. And his writing turns what you may have thought of on your own sideways, to give you a new look at what’s possible.

Who are your favorite authors or marketing gurus?

I could go on. As an avid reader, I’m always finding new writers that spark an insight or shift my thinking. Yet, when someone asks me in conversation, these are the ones I always come up with. Actually, I could go on with more than nine recommended marketing books … but this is a start!

Please share your thoughts!

One more suggestion …  a bit of shameless self-promotion

I’ve dipped a toe into publishing my marketing perspective in my e-book, 10 Steps to Optimize Your Brand. It summarizes Creative Company’s brand optimization methodology, centered on the “point of choice,” where your audiences choose to take action.
Download the e-book - 10 Steps to Optimize Your Brand

About the author

Jennifer Larsen Morrow

Jennifer's four decades of work in the industry, starting as a designer and adding marketing, copywriting and digital marketing, has generated response for clients since 1978.

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  1. Thanks for the kinds words Jennifer, Your fellow Oregonian, but transplanted for a couple decades, Harry Beckwith

    • Hi Harry … I LOVE your books! Thanks for finding my review and subscribing to my blog. Really appreciate it. Do you miss Oregon? It’s really quite spectacular this time of year.

  2. The New Rules of Marketing and PR by David Meerman Scott. Invaluable for its emphasis on really knowing your buyers.


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