Best Books to Help You Understand the Marketing World

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To understand how the marketing industry works, one only needs to look at how it reacted to recent history. When the pandemic hit, the tendency of most advertising agencies was to pause campaigns and the messaging became one of empathy

The nature of the marketing industry — from the tenor of the messaging to how defensive or offensive it is — is always going to flow with the times. It’s vital that marketers stay on top of the latest industry trends, while still applying the bedrock principles taught in schools. 

Here are the best books — old and new — to help do both. 

Hooked: How To Build Habit-Forming Products by Nir Eyal

It’s a common line of attack from advertising critics to compare the industry to drug dealing — and it’s all true. Much has been written in recent years about social media addiction triggering the same centres in the brain as illicit drugs.

Ethical or not, “hooking” users to a brand or product has become a major business model, and Eyal breaks it down in four shockingly easy-to-understand steps. The hook cycle includes a reward to keep consumers coming back for more.

Controversy aside, what makes Eyal’s book so useful is that it’s written as a how-to guide for young start-ups, featuring steps that anyone can easily apply. 

Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Dr. Robert C. Cialdini, Ph.D

Dr. Cialdini’s seminal work shows up on a lot of best business book lists, but it provides lots of insight on marketing as well. Though written in 1984, it’s still incredibly pertinent to learning how to sell something. 

Anyone who majored in marketing is familiar with Cialdini’s six pillars of persuasion, but they’re far more than just buzzwords. Cialdini’s work is very thorough, outlining how to apply the pillars. 

Cialdini also places a high premium on applying the pillars ethically, which is an especially important foundation when navigating the digital world. 

Contagious: Why Things Catch On by Jonah Berger

Anyone with a Twitter account has witnessed a poorly executed ad campaign. At best, they’re ignored; at worst, they’re the subject of ridicule. Berger explores why some information online goes viral, while some doesn’t. 

It’s an especially critical topic in an age where some of the tenets of traditional marketing, like price and quality, may not be as effective in getting the word out. Berger walks readers through his six steps of making content viral. 

Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of Nike by Phil Knight 

If you want to learn about marketing, learning from one of the most successful brands of all time — Nike — is not a bad point of entry. Not only is Knight’s memoir filled with casual insights about the industry as well as useful lessons on crafting a coherent vision, but he also gives a sense of what success in the field is like.

All of these books give some sort of actionable plan, but Knight’s is perhaps the only one that provides a boots-on-the-ground case study of how to do it.  

Kenny Hedges | Contributing Writer

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