10 Books to Make You a Better Marketer

If I were to challenge you to name 10 highly successful people who don’t read, you’d be strapped – nearly all are voracious readers. Ask Warren Buffett, Elon Musk, Peter Thiel, Mark Cuban, and countless other uber-successful people, the key to their success, and they’ll tell you it’s reading.

Reading allows you to stand on the shoulder of giants. That’s why I believe it’s one of the best investments you can make with your time.

I’ve put together a list of my top books to help you become a better marketer. You’ll notice only a few books are “marketing” books, while many are about applied behavioral psychology. After all, I believe that’s what sales and marketing boils down to: understanding and influencing the way people act the way they do.

Chances are since you’re reading this post, you are, to some degree, an avid reader. My goal in writing this post is to share some of my favorite titles, in hopes that it opens up new avenues for you to explore in your quest to becoming a better marketer.

Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion

Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion Author: Robert B. Cialdini
Rating: 4.5 (2,007 reviews)
Length: 336 pages
Publication Date: December 26, 2006 (revised edition)

This is the book I’ve recommended most to marketing and sales professionals, and it’s one of my favorites. Robert Cialdini explores psychological tactics used by “compliance practitioners” – from salesmen to waiters and card dealers to fundraisers – to influence our thoughts and buying behaviors. These tactics are reciprocity, scarcity, authority, consistency, liking and consensus.

Cialdini offers various real-world example of these “weapons of influence” at work. More importantly, he also offers how to guard yourself against these weapons being used on you. This is the perfect book for learning how to become a skilled persuader and influence the behaviors of others.

Contagious: Why Things Catch On

Contagious: Why Things Catch On Author: Jonah Berger
Rating: 4.5 (776 reviews)
Length: 256 pages
Publication Date: May 3, 2016

In today’s modern society, we are all under a constant barrage of advertising. From ads and billboards to influencer marketing and product placements. Like it or not, we’re all susceptible to the powers of influence. Jonah Berger, a Wharton professor, draws on his research to explain the six steps that make products or ideas become contagious – from consumer products and policy initiatives to workplace rumors and YouTube videos.

You’ll walk away with a set of specific actionable techniques for helping information spread for designing messages advertisements and content that people will share.

Whether you’re a manager at a big company or trying to boost awareness for your kid’s school fundraiser, this book will show you how.

Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die

Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die Author: Chip Heath and Dan Heath
Rating: 4.7 (1,023 reviews)
Length: 291 pages
Publication Date: January 2, 2007

Brothers, Chip and Dan Heath, draw extensively on psychosocial studies of memory, emotion and motivation to discover the art of making ideas unforgettable. However, they do a great job at making the ideas in this book stick by applying their own framework of making ideas stick to their writing (I know, it’s very meta).

What makes ideas unforgettable across time and cultures? The Heath brothers attribute six core principles: simplicity, unexpectedness, concreteness, credibility, emotions and stories. Each principle is illustrated with stories and anecdotes to explain how to get and keep the attention of others.

Read this book to help you understand why ideas are not only remembered but spread far and wide.

Thinking, Fast and Slow

Thinking, Fast and Slow Author: Daniel Kahneman
Rating: 4.5 (2,881 reviews)
Length: 499 pages
Publication Date: April 2, 2013

This book is an absolute classic. Written by the winner of the Nobel Prize in Economics, Daniel Kahneman, it reveals the work he and his close colleague and friend, Amos Tversky, have done on behavioral economics. They explore the two systems that drive the way we think: System 1 – the fast, intuitive, and emotional system – and System 2 – the slower, more deliberative, and more logical system.

Kahneman examines psychology, perception, irrationality, decision making, errors of judgment, cognitive science, intuition and behavioral economics. Rather than exploring the systems through stories, he takes a scientific perspective and draws upon his research from fieldwork, studies and analysis.

He offers practical and thought-provoking insights into how choices are made in both our business and our personal lives, and how we can use different techniques to guard against the mental glitches that often get us into trouble.

Though a pretty lengthy book, it’s well worth the read for anyone who wants to understand the workings of the human mind.

Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness

Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness Author: Richard Thaler, Cass Sunstein
Rating: 4.0 (537 ratings)
Length: 312 pages
Publication Date: February 24, 2009

Another pair of economists who also won the Nobel Prize in Economics, Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein, explain how we make every day choices. Relying on both real-world examples and decades of behavioral science research, Thaler and Sunstein show that we are all susceptible to biases that can lead us to make bad decisions.

By knowing how people think, you can use sensible “choice architecture” to nudge people toward the best decisions without restricting their freedom of choice.

This book pairs perfectly with Thinking, Fast and Slow. So, if you enjoyed that one, you’ll enjoy this one as well.

Captivology: The Science of Capturing People’s Attention

Captivology: The Science of Capturing People's Attention Author: Ben Parr
Rating: 4.1 (38 reviews)
Length: 256 pages
Publication Date: October 18, 2016

Author, Ben Parr, reveals how and why our mind pays attention to some events, ideas and people but not others.

This is another book that is brought to life through stories of entrepreneurs, musicians, filmmakers, thought leaders, political strategists, magicians, and other masters of attention. Parr explains how attention works through seven captivation triggers: automaticity, framing, disruption, reward, reputation, mystery and acknowledgment.

After reading this book, you’ll know how to capture and retain the attention of friends, colleagues, customers, fans and even strangers.

Trust Me, I’m Lying: Confessions of a Media Manipulator

Trust Me, I'm Lying: Confessions of a Media Manipulator Author: Ryan Holiday
Rating: 4.3 (381)
Length: 352 pages
Publication Date: July 2, 2013

One of my favorite authors, Ryan Holiday, explains how marketers and professional media manipulators are encouraged by the toxic economics of the broken news business. Today, the speed and force at which rumors travel online and get “traded up” on the media ecosystem, until they become real headlines and generate real responses in the real-world, is astonishing. The ease at which it’s done is even more unbelievable.

Holidays clarifies in his own words, “I wrote this book to explain how media manipulators work, how to spot their fingerprints, how to fight them, and how (if you must) to emulate their tactics. Why am I giving away these secrets? Because I’m tired of a world where trolls hijack debates, marketers help write the news, opinion masquerades as fact, algorithms drive everything to extremes, and no one is accountable for any of it. I’m pulling back the curtain because it’s time the public understands how things really work. What you choose to do with this information is up to you.”

This book can be used for good or evil – I mention it in this list in hopes of the former.

The Advertising Effect: How to Change Behaviour

The Advertising Effect: How to Change Behaviour Author: Adam Farrier
Rating: 4.7 (17 reviews)
Length: 240 pages
Publication Date: July 1, 2014

In my opinion, this is a very underrated book in marketing circles. I’m surprised this doesn’t come up more often. Adam Ferrier is a respected former advertising insider. He reveals 10 strategies, used by the best-known brands across the globe, to change behavior through action rather than the conventional advertising practices. They are utility, modeling, reframing, evocation, ownership, collectivism, play, skill-up, eliminate and commitment.

Ferrier explains that the easiest way to persuade someone is to allow them to persuade themselves. He argues that advertising is all about behavior change – ultimately if behavior has not changed then advertising has not succeeded. This book will demonstrate how to affect behavior change.

Every marketing professional should read this book.

The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business

The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business Author: Charles Duhigg
Rating: 4.5 (4,548 reviews)
Length: 371 pages
Publication Date: January 7, 2014

In his Pulitzer Prize–winning book, business reporter, Charles Duhigg, investigates why habits exist and how they can be changed. Habits are at the core of everything you do, and if you learn how to shape them, you will have an impact on your life, business and society.

From the boardrooms of Procter & Gamble to the sidelines of the NFL to the front lines of the civil rights movement, Duhigg demonstrates an unmatched understanding of human nature and its potential. He explains that the key to exercising regularly, losing weight, being more productive, and achieving success is understanding how habits work. He then provides a framework for how you can harness this new science to transform your life and the lives of those around you.

I highly recommend everyone read this book as it can have a tremendous impact on your life.

Building a StoryBrand: Clarify Your Message So Customers Will Listen

Building a StoryBrand: Clarify Your Message So Customers Will Listen Author: Donald Miller
Rating: 4.8 (226 reviews)
Length: 240 pages
Publication Date: October 10, 2017

Crafting memorable stories and communicating your message clearly is a core skill for every marketer. Donald Miller reveals his StoryBrand process, a method for connecting with customers and getting them to understand the compelling benefits of using your products, ideas, or services.

Miller covers what he deems as the seven universal story points all humans respond to. You’ll discover the real reason customers make purchases, how to simplify a brand message so that everyone understands it, and how to create the most effective messaging. Reading this book will change the way you communicate value, and the way you approach marketing.

This is a must if you’re a brand marketer.

Honorable mentions:

What books have made you a better marketer? I’d love to hear in the comments below.

Brandon Redlinger
Brandon Redlinger
Brandon Redlinger is the Head of Growth at Engagio, the Account-Based Marketing and Sales platform that enables teams to measure account engagement and orchestrate human connections at scale. He is passionate about the intersection between tech and psychology, especially as it applies to growing businesses. You can follow him on twitter @brandon_lee_09 or connect with him on LinkedIn.

6 Responses to “10 Books to Make You a Better Marketer”

April 05, 2018 at 3:00 am, Ken Rutsky said:

Launching to Leading
Crossing the Chasm


April 05, 2018 at 5:19 pm, Brandon Redlinger said:

Some great suggestions, thanks Ken! I think still we have a copy or two of Launching to Leading in our office library 😉


June 19, 2018 at 4:24 pm, Cathy Lamberth said:

Good list and i like Ken’s additions.


August 20, 2018 at 7:39 pm, Bruno Aziza said:

I would add:
Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind (Al Ries, Jack Trout) and
Crossing the Chasm (Geoffrey Moore).


August 20, 2018 at 7:52 pm, Brandon Redlinger said:

Thanks, Bruno, those are two other great books indeed!


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