To become better marketers, we need to understand how people’s minds work. Every idiot with an infomercial can “guarantee” to turn you into better marketers just by signing up for their course. That’s not how development works.

Marketing Books that Educate and Inspire

If you want to get better at the art and science of marketing, talk to your target audiences and read a lot. I can’t help with the former, but take a look at my top picks for interesting books. They can help you to broaden your foundational understanding of human behaviour and point you to some very exciting primary research.

Foundation

This part deals with universal issues pertaining to behaviour, psychology and the art and science of making choices.

Malcolm Gladwell

This book is about thin-slicing and making snap judgments. Humans are able to make up their minds based on very limited context. Surprising, isn’t it? It turns out they are often right. To study cases when they are wrong, pick up Gladwell’s most recent book Talking to Strangers.

Alchemy: The Surprising Power of Ideas that Don’t Make Sense

Rory Sutherland

Experienced ad man talks about managing perception to solve problems of reality. This book is stuffed with counter-intuitive insights into human psyche. Sutherland wrote it to be easier to read than hardcore behavioural economics books. At the same time, foundation on which most of his ideas rest remain solid and scientific.

Thinking, Fast and Slow

Daniel Kahneman

One of the most masochistic ideas I’ve ever had was to pick up this book and expect actionable insight. It’s dry, scientific, and susceptible to misinterpretation. On the other hand, it’s the foundation of behavioural economics. Please, read the actual book, not it’s Wikipedia page / Cliffnotes version.

Influence: Science and Practice

Robert B. Cialdini

Marketer’s bread and butter. We know that marketing has strong ties to psychology and communication. Cialdini cuts through the clutter of academic journals and makes social psych research understandable. Filled with actionable advice, this book is a must for every current or aspiring practitioner of the marketing craft.

Ogilvy on Advertising

David Ogilvy

Timeless classic; just read it. You will thank me later.

Strategy

Reading these books will help you to anchor your marketing initiatives in broader business context.

The Long and the Short of it: Balancing Short and Long-Term Marketing Strategies

Les Binet, Peter Field

Binet and Field looked at the most effective ad campaigns of the last two decades, piled another tonne of econometry on them and worked out how one should spend their marketing budget. If you don’t read this one, you are missing out big time.

Optional mix

Predictably Irrational

Dan Ariely

No list of this sort would be complete without Dan Ariely. Read Predictably Irrational once you have gone through Kahneman.

Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard

Chip Heath, Dan Heath

Brothers Heath present examples how changing details in perception leads to lasting change. To this day I still remember the distinction between the elephant and the rider.