Sonora Birnie

When was the last time you stepped foot into a library or bookstore? For some of us, the smell of books, paper and the lust for knowledge keeps us going back to these hallowed halls. On the other hand, the rise of digital books, audiobooks and podcasts has made it more convenient for readers to find their next book via online rental services or sellers. 

Regardless of how you obtain books and garner information, any good marketer likely keeps an eye out for the newest books about marketing and advertising. But it can be hard to sift through the hundreds of books published each year to find the ones that hold useful and actionable information. 

This is where I come in and act as your pseudo-librarian, pointing you to the right figurative marketing bookshelf. Hopefully, a few of these timeless and essential books will stand out as worthy additions to your “to-be-read” list. I can almost feel the pages between my fingers… or maybe I’ve been typing for too long. Either way, let’s get started! 

Why You Should Check Out Marketing Books

Not to sound like an old timer (in fact, I could be considered Gen Z) but there are so many ways to obtain information these days that the tried and true method of reading often falls by the wayside. Despite this, books remain one of the most popular methods of getting the info. 

Learning through books and reading is more valuable than you might think. This is especially true for those in the quick-paced marketing industry, where strategies and techniques constantly shift in response to rapidly changing external factors. However, even we can reap the benefits of learning about a new content strategy and reimagining email marketing from an epic content marketing book. 

Although your first inclination as a digital marketer might be to seek out digital resources, which can be helpful, don’t forget about the value that reading can bring to your marketing campaign. As your online librarian, it’s my duty to point out the benefits that come with taking some time to learn through reading for your content strategy. Here are some advantages that come with cracking open a book to boost your knowledge, marketing or otherwise:

Cognitive Engagement 

Reading is good for the ol’ grey matter in more ways than one. Sure, I love books but don’t just take my word for it. Reading helps create neurogenesis, which is the creation of neurons in the brain. Stimulating the brain “promotes neuron growth in adulthood,” according to scientists at the UNC School of Medicine. Now, you can use your newly grown neurons to pull out an impressive marketing fact at your next team meeting. 

Brain Power Boosts

Reading a book is a great way to actually retain the information that lies within its pages because the mere act of reading can help increase memory. In addition, a 14-year study released in 2020 shared evidence that reading can act as a guardrail against the toils of time on your brain. It reported that those who read once or more every week saw a smaller cognitive decline across 6-year and 14-year intervals.

Marketing Books to Help Your Professional Growth 

Reading the right marketing books can give you some important insight into how you and your team can improve your advertising strategies. Diving into these texts can be the ideal way to get advice and learn from the experience of history’s greatest marketers. Modern legends and older experts alike spill the beans on their best marketing tactics, using real-life examples to drive the point home. 

The information is coming right from the horse’s mouth, so to speak, and it can give you new perspectives and real-life marketing strategies, as well as give your content purpose.  Whether the expert rose to prominence during the age of social media and digital marketing or not, reading a marketing book by one of the greats can boost your professional knowledge. Even the fast-paced world of marketing goes back to the written word to express its expertise for the rest of us to learn from.  

Alright, your friendly neighborhood librarian’s rant is over, and if I haven’t convinced you to enjoy the true joys of marketing reading, I don’t know what will. On that note, keep reading as we make a journey to find some of the best marketing books of all time.  

Picking a Marketing Book

Before we get into the thick of it, I wanted to give you some tips to help you find the right marketing book for your goals and interests. Do you go for a classic Malcolm Gladwell book or head to a trendy  Gary Vaynerchuk text? It can be complicated. After all, you’re not always going to have the expert help of yours truly to guide you in the right direction. 

With thousands of marketing books available, it can be hard to know which are the right ones for you. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, you’re not alone. With an estimated 360 million+ nonfiction books sold in 2022 alone, who wouldn’t find it hard to pick the perfect text? It’s a good thing you’re with me, someone who knows how to find the right book for the right occasion. 

1. Beginner vs. Expert 

It’s time to be honest with yourself. Trust me, it’s worth it in the long run. Are you ready to dive into the deep end of the bookstore, or do you need to wade in a little and get used to the water? There is nothing wrong with starting with a beginner’s marketing book to get the concepts down before moving into something a little more complex. In fact, I recommend it. Knowing what level you’re at can help you pick the right book from a sea of thousands. 

2. Marketing Branch

While there are marketing books that work to encapsulate the entire marketing industry, there are ones that specialize in a particular kind of marketing. If, for example, you are more interested in digital marketing and social media than out-of-home marketing, find something that is more focused on online strategies. 

3. Define your Goals 

Before looking for the ideal marketing book to help you reach your goals, it’s important to define what you want from your reading experience. Ask yourself questions like: 

  • Do I want to promote a personal business through marketing? 
  • What do I want to learn the most about?
  • What perspectives am I hoping to gain? 

Once you create tangible goals, you have a great starting point in order to find the best marketing book for what you want to achieve. 

10 Reading Picks for Marketing Professionals

Hopefully, you are already feeling more confident than you were at the beginning of this journey. Ready to finally start adding some must-reads to your TBR? Let the smell of bound text carry you into this next section, where I will let you in on the best marketing books of all time

1. This Is Marketing: You Can’t Be Seen Until You Learn to See 

By Seth Godin 

Brafton Meter image for blog article_Beginner

Seth Godin is an iconic author who writes about marketing and entrepreneurship using his experience as a tech business executive. His first book was released to much acclaim in 1999, and he went on to publish 18 international bestsellers. 

Ideal for both beginners and experts, This is Marketing is a 2018 book that exclusively focuses on advertising and marketing. The text was a No. 1 Wall Street Journal Bestseller and an Instant New York Times Bestseller. 

2. The Social Organism: A Radical Understanding of Social Media to Transform Your Business and Life     

By Oliver Luckett and Michael J. Casey

Brafton Meter image for blog article_Intermediate

The book offers compelling insight into how the new world of social media and how it connects to biological life, mimicking ancient evolutionary processes despite its unprecedented impact on marketing. 

Oliver Luckett and Michael J. Casey published the conceptual text in 2016, and much of its content continues to ring true. It’s a refreshing read for any marketer, even ones who don’t focus on social media in their everyday professions.  

3. Location is (Still) Everything: The Surprising Influence of the Real World on How We Search, Shop, and Sell in the Virtual One      

By David R. Bell

Brafton Meter image for blog article_Beginner

Recently published in 2022, Wharton professor and marketing expert David R. Bell walks us through the way people use the internet and the impact of the physical world on our digital buying habits. Professor Bell argues that factors like location, lifestyle and the people we’re surrounded by daily affect online commerce and digital marketing strategies. In a deeply digital world, it can be difficult to detach from the internet, but evaluating physical location is more important than we might think. 

4. Contagious: Why Things Catch On  

By Jonah Berger

Brafton Meter image for blog article_Intermediate

As a digital marketer, you no doubt have fever dreams trying to predict the newest trend and how your team can capitalize on it. Enter Jonah Berger, a doctorate professor who is an expert on natural language processing, change, word of mouth, influence, consumer behavior, and why things catch on. 

His book, published in 2016, focuses on what makes things popular and takes a scientific approach to why viral trends are…. well, viral. It’s a beginner-friendly read that has plenty of real-life examples that Dr. Berger uses to explain his hypotheses.  

5. Scientific Advertising 

By Claude Hopkins 

Brafton Meter image for blog article_Intermediate

This book is a classic piece of literature from the 1920s and is ideal for those who are already well-versed in the world of marketing and advertising. Claude C. Hopkins is known as the “father of modern advertising,” and his book includes landmark marketing laws and traditional psychology. 

Regardless of how much marketing has changed since the first publication of the text, Hopkins’ expertise regarding the use of test campaigns and marketing spend is still applicable in the modern age. 

6. CMO to CRO: The Revenue Takeover by the Next Generation Executive 

By Mike Geller, Rolly Keenan and Brandi Starr 

Brafton Meter image for blog article_Advanced

Aimed at chief marketing officers, this book is written by traditional marketing experts and acts as a guide on how to increase revenue through marketing. Another more advanced read, the content of the book focuses on strategies to unite problematic strategies by reorganizing the business and creating consistency, all in an effort to boost revenue. The information provided is based on modern entrepreneurship and business for organization leaders but offers important insight for marketers at any level. 

7. Faster, Smarter, Louder: Master Attention in a Noisy Digital Market    

By Aaron Agius and Gián Clancey 

Brafton Meter image for blog article_Intermediate

This book is a must-read for anyone who is in the digital marketing industry and might be especially beneficial for those who work in an agency for external clients. Experts in the field, the authors claim that capturing attention and seeing success relies on a combination of digital planning and social strategies. They use personal experience and reliable research to show readers how to master attention, despite the online clutter. 

8. Product-Led SEO: The Why Behind Building Your Organic Growth Strategy 

By Eli Schwartz      

Brafton Meter image for blog article_Beginner to intermediate

This book is perfect for SEO junkies and interested learners out there. According to his website, Eli Schwartz is “an SEO expert and consultant with more than a decade of experience driving successful SEO and growth programs for leading B2B and B2C companies.” 

The book focuses on the ins and outs of search engine optimization and is a great read for a newbie or a seasoned professional. It doesn’t just tell you what to do, but how these strategies work in the first place. 

9. Social Media Marketing 2023

By Tom Ruell 

Brafton Meter image for blog article_Beginner

Grab this read whether you are a social media content creator, a manager or an entrepreneur. Tom Ruell walks us through updated LinkedIn strategies, using Instagram the right way and how to capitalize on TikTok. Every marketer knows that social media is an important part of any marketing plan. This is a very beginner friendly book but is also good for anyone looking to brush up on their social media skills. Even if you aren’t a social media guru, the information provided is valuable in understanding the marketing ecosystem.  

10. Advertising Creative: Strategy, Copy, and Design

By Tom Atstiel, Jean M. Grow, Dan Augustine and Joanna L. Jenkins 

Brafton Meter image for blog article_Intermediate to advanced

The sixth edition of Advertising Creative is a fantastic read for marketing designers and writers who work to build digital brands through creative messaging. The authors encourage you to take calculated risks and work with technology, not against it. Not only does this book touch on nearly every aspect of advertising and marketing, but it also discusses topical issues that the industry faces in the digital age. 

If this list of 10 books isn’t enough for you, I have good news. There are a lot of choices out there, and Brafton has curated even MORE of our favorite marketing books for your perusing pleasure. 

Boom! I just gave you 18 more books carefully picked for you depending on whether you love marketing analytics, graphic design or how to sell a brand story. Still not satisfied with that? Geez… I guess I do have a few more pieces of literature that could satisfy you. 

Honorable Mentions 

If knowledge is power, and you’re about to be the most powerful marketer in the world (thanks to me). Here are 2 more honorable mentions, which are books that I enjoy but they didn’t quite make it to the top 10. 

One of the more complex topics, marketing analytics and data are some of the most powerful marketing tools that we have. Robert W. Palmatier and Shrihari Sridhar have put together a comprehensive book called Marketing Strategy: Based on First Principles and Data Analytics that dives deep into the concept of marketing analytics. 

Lastly, I’ll recommend a fascinating read by Noel Schaffer that touches on the new power of influencer marketing. The Age of Influence: The Power of Influencers to Elevate Your Brand is about online personality and adapting to the digital age. 

Are you satisfied with your options yet? I hope so because we are about to move on to the value of knowledge when put into action. 

What To Do With All That Knowledge

Alright, now that I’ve dragged you all around our metaphorical library, hopefully, you’ve found some books that strike your fancy. Whether you’re reading for pleasure or to advance your career, there are sure to be some useful nuggets of information in any text that you choose. 

But once you’ve read to your heart’s content, you may wonder what to do with all your newly garnered information. As your resident content marketing librarian, I may have a few good pieces of advice. Absorbing knowledge is one thing, and it’s a great starting point. But next, you need to turn the insight into practice. Discuss the topics and information you find in the books with your leaders and colleagues, and determine ways to incorporate it into your job to help you and your time see more success. 

I know better than anyone that there are seemingly endless amounts of books, each with different content marketing strategies and approaches. When reading something new, it’s important that you take in this information with a discerning eye, and only apply the elements and practices that resonate with your goals. After all, you can’t change everything about your marketing procedures after every new book you read… that would be insane.

A good marketer is always open to learning more about their industry, including different strategies and techniques that could boost your approaches. Reading different marketing books can help you understand different perspectives and give you a broader range of understanding of digital content marketing. 

However, it’s important to pick and choose the different components of the books you read that align with your specific type of marketing strategy. For example, if you are focusing on increasing your team’s production of rich content, you may want to extract key elements from books that will help achieve these goals. 

Whether you’re picking up a deeply intricate advanced textbook about digital marketing SEO strategies and permission marketing, or just want to read broad professional advice from an industry expert in a beginner-friendly marketing book, there is something out there for you. 

The best marketers are the ones that are always open to learning more, regardless of their experiences. As the legendary Chaka Khan put it when she sang the theme song for the iconic PBS show Reading Rainbow, “Take a look, it’s in a book!”   

And all that marketing knowledge is really in a book, waiting to be turned into practical action. It’s time to stop reading this… and start reading your pick of the best marketing books of all time. Thanks for visiting my little marketing library, come back anytime. I’ll be here, wandering the imaginary bookshelves, curating the best lists for your enjoyment.