Over the years, I've read a lot of terrible books about marketing. But a few of them completely changed my life. In this post, I'm going to give you a list of some of the best marketing books out there so you don't have to waste time reading the bad ones.
I'm seven years into my marketing career, and nothing has ever propelled me to a new level of insight and knowledge the way marketing books have.
They've helped me find my dream 6-figure job in marketing, live a digital nomad lifestyle, and make me feel like I've finally picked the right career path.
Okay, maybe I'm being a bit dramatic in saying that books did all of that.
But they definitely did make me stand out when I had conversations about marketing.
I wasn't always an avid reader. As a kid, I hated reading. But as an adult, I grew to really like it because it completely rewired my brain and improved my mental health.
There’s just something about reading as a medium.
It’s such an active way to consume content, as compared to listening or watching (which are passive).
YouTube videos, podcasts, TikTok...
All of these have their time and place.
But, many of today’s mediums of consuming content are decreasing our attention spans.
And what I’ve come to notice about reading (for myself) is that it actually restores my attention span — allowing me to focus on other tasks ever so slightly more. There’s no scientific evidence I can provide for this, I’m just speaking from personal experience.
What is the best book for online marketing?
The best for marketing on our list will probably be Breakthrough Advertising.
It's, in my opinion, the best marketing book ever written. While it wasn't written during a time when the internet existed, it's a book that will help you think about the right things when you start marketing online.
Pair this book up with a more digital marketing focused book like Dotcom Secrets, and you'll be ahead of most marketers today.
Why read marketing books?
In a world where digital marketing gurus constantly want to sell you information, it's tough to know whether that information is from original thought or just rehashed from elsewhere.
What's the best way to learn marketing? Take a marketing course, read a book, or both? It can be confusing.
More often than not, many of today's marketing "influencers" are simply preaching what has already been documented in books for decades, even centuries.
As mentioned earlier, reading is an active away of learning. It forces your brain to only focus on one task.
Have you ever noticed how easy it is to listen to a podcast, take a walk, and stare at nature all at the same time? It's a lot harder to do that when you're physically reading.
Your brain has to work a bit harder to read, so it takes in information in a more engaging way. A way that engrains the material into your conscious and subconscious mind.
On top of that, when people write marketing books they are a lot more thoughtful about the words they are typing. Blog posts are great too, but books seem to be more thoughtful. This is because it can take months, sometimes years, for someone to write a book.
When you read a book, you're literally consuming all the information that was deep in the authors brain. The author had to sit down and put everything on paper. Then they had to rewrite and edit the whole thing multiple times because they knew it would be published to the world.
This is why books are magical.
Which books should I read for marketing?
The best marketing books go over the fundamentals — consumer behavior, advertising, copywriting, sales, pricing, branding, etc.
They teach you what motivates people to buy, how to reach potential customers, and how to get them to be excited about you product.
If you're a beginner, it's best that you start with the fundamentals. Books one through ten in the list below should do just that.
As you progress further into your marketing career, you should aim to be the best in one particular field of marketing — be it, SEO, content marketing, advertising, email marketing, or social media.
As a marketer, you want to be somewhat of a generalist, but you also want to specialize in an area that fascinates you the most. This way you'll stand out to candidates when looking for a job.
So without further-ado, let's go over some of the top marketing books.
At the end of this post, I'll also mention my top four books to read if you're looking to pick something up today.
Top 25 best marketing books you need to read in 2023
Here's a list of the best books on marketing:
- Scientific Advertising
- Breakthrough Advertising
- Play Bigger
- Content Design
- The Greatest Salesman in the World
- Epic Content Marketing
- How to Launch a Brand
- Dotcom Secrets
- Read Me
- Building a StoryBrand
- This is Marketing
- Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products
- The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing
- Hacking Growth
- Intercom on Marketing
- Blue Ocean Strategy
- The 1-Page Marketing Plan
- Upstream Marketing
- CMO to CRO
- Crushing It!
- Invisible Influence
- Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion
- Made to Stick
- The ONE Thing
- Good to Great
Okay, let's dive a bit deeper into each one.
Written by Claude C. Hopkins, Scientific Advertising is an advertising-related book that was published in 1923. It's one of those books that is so fundamental that the information revealed still applies even a century later. It's a must read for all marketers, no matter what stage you are in your career.
This is a notable book in the marketing world because it was the first documentation of processes such as split testing, loyalty programs, and coupon-based tracking. The overall summary of the book is that it goes over how to approach advertising through testing and measuring.
Breakthrough Advertising is one of the best books on marketing — probably the most influential one in this list. Written by award winning copywriter Eugene M. Schwartz, the book was first published in 1966.
Many founders and marketers have attributed this book to helping them make millions. And although the book is technically in the “copywriter” category of marketing books, it talks a lot about the state of awareness customers go through and how you should structure your messaging in your marketing efforts.
The book feels more like a dictionary, rather than one you read from beginning to end. I’ve found it to be a bit heavy of a read at times, mainly because I constantly want to put the book down to take notes.
It is a bit on the pricer side if you try to purchase this book on Amazon, but it is cheaper if you purchase it directly through the books website. If there’s one book to read from this list it’s this one.
3. Play Bigger
Marketing is about driving awareness to bring things to market. So, what's the best way to tackle a market? Create your own.
Play Bigger, by Al Ramadan, Dave Peterson, Christopher Lochhead, and Kevin Maney, is a book about just that — a guide to show you how to be a category creator, so you can dominate your market.
The book focuses on showing you how competition is an old game to play. Rather, the new game is to define a new marketing category, develop it, and dominate it over time.
It’s why some companies are always just top of mind. For example, when you think of ecommerce you might think of Shopify. When you think of search engines, you might think of Google. When you think of live streaming, you might think of Twitch. And so on.
These companies are leaders in their category (aka industry), and Play Bigger dives into how to actually become a category creator.
This is a great book to read if you’re a marketer working at a fast growing company, or one that is trying to scale.
Written by Sarah Richards, Content Design is a book about designing content for the web. Published in 2017, this book feels more like a handbook rather than a book you read straight through.
It's a great read for designers, specifically web designers. But I added it to this list because marketing is about communication. And this book goes over how to design your content so it communicates your message about your product or service effectively.
If you're a marketer that deals with content (whether it's copywriting for landing pages or writing blog posts), or works with other designers, this book is one I highly recommend. I find myself picking it off my bookshelf pretty often when I'm focused on projects that involve a lot of copywriting.
A favorite among many people in sales, The Greatest Salesman in the World, by Og Mandino, is an absolute must read.
Published in 1968, many of todays sales principles and books are based off of this one.
The book tells the story of Hafid, a poor camel boy who achieves a life of abundance, and serves as a guide to a philosophy of salesmanship and success.
This book is a special one, mainly because Og Mandino writes it in a way that is very inspirational and moving. It's book that's hard to put down once you start reading it, and being only 111 pages makes it a fairly easy book to finish.
Originally published in 2013 by Joe Pulizzi, Epic Content Marketing is a bestseller that opened my eyes to the world of content marketing and SEO (search engine optimization) content writing for the first time.
It was the first marketing book I ever read, and was gifted to me by a former manager when I was a marketing intern. It actually set the foundation for me to work as a Content Marketing Manager in San Francisco just a few years later.
This book is a great read for entry level marketers that are looking to help small businesses or start ups acquire more customers through content. Especially if you want to be a content marketing manager.
While it may not go over everything regarding the content marketing landscape today (it does change really fast), it will definitely give you a strong base of knowledge you can build on in the future.
If you're looking to help startups with their brand identity, naming, or positioning, How to Launch a Brand, by Fabian Geyrhalter, is a must read. It's a great book for brand marketers and early stage founders.
It’s sort of like a workbook that guides you through a step-by-step process to building a strong brand identity.
Depending on your field of work in marketing, you may never have to dive deep into branding. But this is one the best brand marketing books to have around and good to refer to from time to time if you’re working at a super early stage startup that is still trying to figure out and communicate its brand message to customers. It’s also a great book to have around if you want to build your one brand one day.
Dotcom Secrets, by Russell Brunson, is one of those books that I read early into my marketing career. It made me get excited about internet marketing and learning how to sell online. If you‘re a digital marketer, or just want to learn about general digital marketing strategies, this book is a must read.
Today, I don‘t necessarily agree with everything this book stands for. As I've gained more marketing experience throughout the years I started to shift my mindset away from internet marketing tactics, to thinking more holistically about the art and science of marketing as a whole.
However, I do think this is still one of the best digital marketing books for an absolute marketing beginner. The book definitely had an impact on me early on which is the only reason why I added it to this list.
9. Read Me
I came across Read Me, by Gyles Lingwood and Roger Horberry, from a TikTok video — I know lol. But it’s one I often refer to from time to time.
I highly recommend this to anyone that does work involving copy. It’ll show you how to write effective copy and how to create sticky headlines that enhance brand identity. The book includes case studies, copywriting techniques, advice from real copywriters, and tons of ad campaign examples.
Make sure to get a physical copy of this one, given it‘s full of images and you'll want to refer to them easily from time to time.
Building a StoryBrand, by Donald Miller, is one of those marketing books that’s pretty hard to put down once you start reading. I have most of my books on a Kindle, but I bought this one in a physical copy so I can highlight all over it, tear pages out, and easily refer to it. Ya, that’s how much I like this book.
The main bulk of the book is about the seven-step storytelling framework Donald has developed. It gives you clear examples and frameworks on the art of storytelling, and shows you how important it is when it comes to brand marketing.
I would probably put this as my second favorite marketing book, behind Breakthrough Advertising. Every marketer should read this one.
This is Marketing, by Seth Godin, is a cult classic among marketers.
The main message of the book is that marketers should use marketing to solve problems their customers face. Marketing is not about the business or the company they work for. But rather, a way to communicate solutions to problems people have.
This is one of those books that reminds you that marketing has a powerful role in society.
Seth has created a strong personal brand for himself writing books. He has a couple of other great books from the late 1900s and early 2000s called Permission Marketing and Purple Cow that are worth checking out.
However, if you're going to pick one of Seth's books to read for the first time, I highly recommend reading This is Marketing as it takes a lot of knowledge from his previous books and modernizes them for the digital age.
Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products, by Nir Eyal, is a national bestseller that shows you how successful companies build irresistible products.
Great marketing can sometimes not look like marketing at all. In fact, some of the fastest growing brand become successful because of word of mouth. But how does one capture word of mouth?
It's all about user retention. The longer someone stays on (and revisits) your website, app, ecommerce. Repeat users and customers are your greatest marketers. This is because the longer someone uses your product or service, the more likely they are to recommend it to others.
The more your products get people hooked, the more likely those people are the spread the word. And as the word spreads, new users get hooked. And those newly hooked users go to spread the word even more. It's an infinite growth loop.
The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing: Violate Them at Your Own Risk!, by Al Ries and Jack Trout, is a widely popular book about marketing.
The book was written pre-internet era, so it can feel a bit outdated. But I added it to this list because it's a very foundational book. While the medium in which we communicate today (i.e. the internet) has changed, the way we communicate has not.
If you're in a strategic marketing or sales role, is book is a must read.
14. Hacking Growth
Hacking Growth, by Sean Ellis and Morgan Brown, is a great book for learning more about growth marketing.
While the term "Growth Hacker" seemed like a buzzword back in 2017, one should not associate this book with "hacks." It is more about the concept of finding ways to grow a business quickly in the digital era.
If you are working at a tech startup, this is one of those books that can help you start thinking about the right things.
Intercom on Marketing, by the team at the software company Intercom, is full of lessons that helped Intercom grow to one of the top customer support platforms.
If you're responsible for launching a product and looking to get your first paying customers, this is definitely a book you should check out.
The book is completely free (just needs you to opt-in).
Blue Ocean Strategy, by W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne, aim to change your view on go-to-market strategies.
There are lots of marketing campaigns out there that try to talk down on competitors and fight for their piece of the pie.
However, the Blue Ocean Strategy, similar to the book Play Bigger, aims at showing you that competition should be irrelevant.
Rather than competing in a red ocean, you should go after a blue ocean where their is a potential for you to have the biggest piece of the pie.
The 1-Page Marketing Plan: Get New Customers, Make More Money, And Stand out From The Crowd, by Allan Dib, isn't just a marketing book — it's a business book.
If you're a founder, or someone in charge of strategic marketing, you need to read this book.
It's one of those books that's clear and to the point, and can seriously help you break through if you're stuck thinking about your quarterly marketing planning.
Upstream Marketing: Unlock Growth Using the Combined Principles of Insight, Identity, and Innovation, by Tim Koelzer, offers a refreshing take on marketing strategy.
This is one of those foundational books that shows you that digital marketing is just one piece of the equation.
For a business to succeed, it needs to provide the best solution to its potential customers. And it must think about all the different principles of marketing and corporate strategy.
This is a must read for any marketer, regardless of what position they hold.
19. CMO to CRO
CMO to CRO: The Revenue Takeover by the Next Generation Executive, by Mike Geller, Rolly Keenan, and Brandi Starr, is a book about revenue operations.
In the most simple business sense, marketing exists to make a business money. The money that a business makes is what keeps it alive to supply products to its customers, and to supply its employees with salaries and benefits.
If a business is not making money, it will eventually die.
If you're in charge of revenue growth, this is a must read.
20. Crushing It!
Crushing It!: How Great Entrepreneurs Build Their Business, by Gary Vaynerchuk, is a classic.
Gary V is coined for predicting the way brands should operate to get the most attention.
This is a great book, with lots of valuable information. But, it should be noted that Gary does promote himself quite a bit as he runs a multi-million dollar marketing agency in New York.
It can be a bit hard to know if Gary wrote this book to attract clients to his agency or if he wrote it for the genuine best interest of marketers.
Regardless, it offers a great view on what's happening now in social media marketing.
Invisible Influence: The Hidden Forces That Shape Behavior, by Jonah Berger, is a book about how things influence peoples beliefs, behaviors, and lifestyles.
The book offers tons of different examples to help you grasp the hidden forces that shape consumer behaviors.
It does feel like this book is mainly for an American audience, so if you're outside of the US you should do your own research before deciding to read this book.
Jonah does have another popular book called Contagious: Why Things Catch On, which could be a viable option to read if you decide to take a pass on this one.
A cult classic, Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, by Robert Cialdini, is national bestseller.
Influence is all about persuasion, and core fundamental to marketing and sales.
Literally everything we do involves persuasion. Asking someone on a date, interviewing for a job, selling a product — all of these require someone to say "yes" to us.
This book is an absolute must read for everyone, not just marketers or business owners.
23. Made to Stick
A New York Times bestseller, Made to Stick, by brothers Chip Heath and Dan Heath, is an insightful book on why some ideas are more "sticky" than others.
I would put this book in the same category as the other book we mentioned, Hooked.
This is a great book if you're in the early stages of product development, or you're working as the first marketer at a small startup.
If you need a blueprint to creating sticky ideas, this book is definitely one to check out.
24. The ONE Thing
The ONE Thing, by Gary Keller (with Jay Papasan), is not a marketing book per se, but rather a book on productivity.
I included it in this list because the concepts in this book have helped me a lot in figuring out what I need to prioritize on a daily basis.
It can feel like a long book that basically explains a somewhat simple topic — find the one thing you need to do to be successful.
But the details in the book make you realize that less is more. It makes you think deeper about how you spend your time and what will actually move the needle forward for your business.
After reading this book, my daily task list has decreased dramatically. I highly recommend this book if you want to run a successful business or lead a marketing team.
25. Good to Great
Good to Great, by bestselling author Jim Collins, isn’t necessarily a marketing book, but it’s a great business book. In fact, it’s a business owner’s must read.
I like to think that the best marketers are the ones that truly understand business strategy and entrepreneurship. The more you can think like an entrepreneur the better.
It’ll help you see clear business problems and make you think on the same level as leaders in business, which is always a good thing if you’re working in marketing.
The book goes over the fundamental reason why most businesses plateau. And knowing that as a marketer is key to not only navigating your way through a company, but also knowing how to think at the executive level.
Reading more will help beyond your marketing career
Reading marketing books won’t just make you a better marketer. It will make you a better thinker, a better writer, a better executor, and a faster reader.
It may even inspire you to take leaps in your career, as I know it has for me.
If you need just 1-4 books that you should read this year I recommend these (in order):
- Breakthrough Advertising
- Scientific Advertising
- Dotcom Secrets
- Building a Storybrand
Starting with any of these books should be a huge help when trying to craft a successful marketing strategy in 2023. Hopefully you have some new books to add to your marketing reading list!
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