In fairness to marketing books, the ones we’ve picked are not traditional marketing books by any means—in fact, we’ve included a memoir and a novel—but the idea behind marketing books is incredibly difficult.
They’re hard to make because they follow the culture and therefore are constantly outdated. Although there are some strategies that remain true, executions are changing daily, so marketing books are better replaced by mediums like podcasts, webinars, and interviews.
Because there is so much ebb and flow in the marketing world, we at Heard look for books that teach us how to think as opposed to what we should tactically be doing. We also like books that encourage us to think about ideas that are off the beaten path.
With that in mind, there are two honorable mentions before we get to the three essential marketing books.
Trust Me, I’m Lying by Ryan Holiday
Before fake news, hysteria, and all that sort of thing that is more common today, Ryan showed how he was able to manipulate journalists to give his company at the time, American Apparel, a bunch of free advertising. Ryan gives some very tactical advice (some of it would apply, some of it would not), but strategically, there’s a lot in this book to like.
Hey Whipple, Squeeze This by Luke Sullivan
If you’re interested in a traditional, what-works-historically marketing book, this is an advertising classic that gives the fundamentals of what a good ad should be. We’re big on practical knowledge here at Heard and this book has a lot of ad case studies that have worked, why they worked, deconstructing those, and so on.
The Best Marketing Books
#3 — Thank You Economy by Gary Vaynerchuk
If you don’t read any of Gary’s other books or you don’t like his personality, that’s totally understandable, but still check this book out because he explains how the internet works at a fundamental level. Gary explains the social contract that marketers and their audiences engage in, how you can offer value upfront to be rewarded with attention and commerce down the line, and what that looks like practically.
This book is essentially the thesis Gary built his entire empire on. Like him or not, you can’t really argue with how that thesis has played out over the last several years. Gary wrote this book before he hit the fame he’s at now, so you can read it and then look at the steps he took. He followed his own advice and it worked.
#2 — Shoe Dog by Phil Knight
Phil Knight is a marketing genius and this book is the story of how he started Nike by spending an unreasonable amount of time doing things that don’t scale. In the marketing business, sometimes you wonder how long you’re going to have to be in the weeds of a subject or topic. Phil did it for years and had the patience for things to develop while his brand was finding its legs. The messaging was not even really resonating, but he still kept pushing and finding where those stories could take place. Shoe Dog is a great story of endurance (no pun intended) because it’s Nike on a brand level.
#1 — Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk
This book teaches us about human nature in a way that most other books can’t and just don’t. Fight Club explains why we as humans are compelled to be a part of something bigger than ourselves, why we so desperately want to be a part of a secret— that’s why the first rule of Fight Club is you don’t talk about Fight Club. Fight Club talks about human nature and culture in a way that a lot of other books miss out on and will help you understand important principles about creating a brand or movement that people will feel compelled to be a part of. That is pretty valuable knowledge.
Those are our top three here at Heard. If your top three are different, we’d love to know what they are at email@example.com.