The best marketing books teach you about human psychology, make you a better brand strategist, and train your brain to come up with creative ideas.
When searching for the list of best books on marketing to read, I came across many articles, but none of them showcased the latest books combined with my favourite classics.
So I decided to create my own, the most recommended part of this article being the cult marketing books list that I honestly think every marketer should read.
This article mentions more than 80 digital marketing and branding books from the 1960s through to 2019, each having something special to teach you – from creating advertising strategies to building the products that get people hooked.
Here’s a quick list of the 10 books I highly recommend, with a link to their Amazon pages, in case you prefer to quickly browse through.
My favourite 10 marketing books of all time:
- Thinking, Fast and Slow, by Daniel Kahneman
- Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert Cialdini
- Ogilvy on Advertising by David Ogilvy
- Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World by Adam Grant
- Start with Why by Simon Sinek
- The New Rules of Marketing and PR by David Scott
- Everybody Writes by Ann Handley
- Contagious: Why Things Catch On by Jonah Berger
- Growth Hacker Marketing by Ryan Holiday
- The Advertising Concept Book by Pete Barry
And now, an in-depth list of all the best marketing books covering everything from digital to branding to growth hacking.
The best marketing books published in 2019/2020
1. InstaBrain: The New Rules for Marketing to Generation Z by Sarah Weise
This book is definitely going to my reading list as a promising way to learn the latest Instagram advertising hacks.
Learn what gets people hooked on Instagram, how the audiences make their purchasing decisions, and how to tailor your marketing strategy to attract young audiences.
Learn more about Instagram ads by checking out this list of the best Instagram ads from leading brands.
The key thing you will learn: How to succeed in Instagram marketing and create content that the millennial audiences want to engage with.
2. Digital Marketing Strategy: An Integrated Approach to Online Marketing by Simon Kingsnorth
This second edition of the bestselling digital marketing guide, published in 2019, provides a step-by-step framework for planning, using, and measuring of all popular digital platforms and marketing tactics.
Ranging from social media marketing, SEO, content creation and UX to customer loyalty, automation and personalized advertising, this book features cutting-edge best practices on marketing automation, messaging and email, online and offline integration, the power of technologies such as AI, and even covers the new data protection and privacy strategies.
The key thing you will learn: A quick overview of various digital marketing channels.
3. Becoming A Digital Marketer: Gaining the Hard & Soft Skills for a Tech-Driven Marketing Career by Gil Gildner
Want to get started as a digital marketer but have no idea where to start? This book is a good road guide for both fresh university graduates as well as traditional marketers.
The book touches upon topics from online advertising campaigns to building websites, understanding SEO strategy, and succeeding with email marketing.
A good overall guide that points you towards a wide range of digital marketing topics to dig deeper.
The key thing you will learn: A quick overview of various digital marketing channels.
4. Conversational Marketing: How the World’s Fastest Growing Companies Use Chatbots to Generate Leads 24/7/365 by David Cancel
Here’s the full title of this book: Conversational Marketing: How the World’s Fastest Growing Companies Use Chatbots to Generate Leads 24/7/365 (and How You Can Too). Qiute self-explanatory, right?
Modern messaging apps like Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp have transformed the way we interact with each other. Everyone is used to the instant messaging and getting an answer fast. Conversational chatbot marketing is focused on real-time, one-on-one conversations with customers.
The key thing you will learn: How the chatbot marketing works and how to use technology to automatically convert more leads to clients.
5. Email Marketing Demystified by Matthew Paulson
Full name of the book: : Email Marketing Demystified: Build a Massive Mailing List, Write Copy that Converts and Generate More Sales
Email marketing can be an amazingly effective (and free!) marketing channel. In this marketing book, the author Matthew Paulson presents an impressive list of little-known email marketing tactics – to build big mailing lists, write copy that converts, and to turn the readers into customers.
The book will teach you how to:
- Build a massive mailing list
- Write engaging email copy that drivers the readers to take action.
- Optimize every step of your email marketing funnel
- Keep your emails out of the spam folders
Released in 2019, the new second edition of Email Marketing Demystified includes new strategies, including how to comply with GDPR regulations and how to benefit from web push notifications.
The key thing you will learn: Howw to get started with email marketing and build a big email list fast.
6. This Is Marketing: You Can’t Be Seen Until You Learn to See by Seth Godin
All Seth Godin books are instant marketing bestsellers.
His latest book explains how marketing is essentially offering a solution to your customers’ problems. Instead of spammy emails and irrelevant online ads, Godin teched you how to really tap into the conversation and engage your audiences with marketing that matters to them.
Among other things, you will learn how to:
- Build trust with your target audience
- Smartly position your brand
- Build a product and brand that people deeply care about
- Use powerful storytelling as a marketing strategy
The key thing you will learn: How to build a brand nad marketing strategy that creates real value for your audience.
7. SEO 2019: Learn Search Engine Optimization With Smart Internet Marketing Strategies by Adam Clarke
SEO (Search Engine Optimization) best practices change every year, with Google’s algorithms getting more and more complex.
Based on a 2014 bestseller, here’s an up-to-date version to SEO in 2019 by Google-certified exert Adam Clarke – a must-read for anyone serious about gaining organic website traffic.
The key thing you will learn: The latest SEO best practices from page speed optimization to mobile-responsive landing pages.
by Will Coombe
Running a successful SEO agency in London, Will Coombe’s in a great position to teach you how to reach the top of Google search results.
You will learn how to:
- Do SEO on your own or build an in-house team
- Do keyword research to unveil the low-hanging fruits
- Boost your organic search rankings with the help of social media
The key thing you will learn: How to get started with SEO and increase the organic traffic to your website.
The best cult marketing books
9. Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman
I can’t praise this book enough and will always give it the credit for teaching me about behavioral economics and psychological triggers that get people’s attention.
Explaining the cognitive biases we all have – from playing the stock market to planning our next vacation – Kahneman opens up a completely new world of behavioral sciences that every marketer should be aware of. Knowing about the psychological system shaping our judgments and decisions will help you create a stronger marketing strategy and come up with branding campaigns that get people truly engaged.
The book is an international bestseller and was selected by The New York Times Book Review as one of the ten best books of 2011. I’d also say it’s one of the best marketing books for students.
The key thing you will learn: How irrational the human brain can be and how to use this knowledge to your advantage in business.
10. Contagious: Why Things Catch On by Jonah Berger
The New York Times bestseller that explains why some specific products and brands become popular. If you’re looking to build a product that people want to share with their family and friends, this book will give you some nice ideas.
You will learn how six basic principles can help almost anything to become contagious, from consumer products and policy initiatives to Instagram posts.
The key thing you will learn: How to build virality into your product and brand and creates messages, ads, and content that people will want to share.
11. Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products by Nir Eyal
In this marketing book, Nir Eyal combines many years of research, consulting, and practical experience to explain a four-step process to creating “sticky” products (think Facebook and Instagram for example).
The author will share:
• Practical tips and hacks to create user habits that stick
• Actionable steps for building products people can’t get enough of
• Impressive examples from the iPhone to social media platforms
The key thing you will learn: How to create and market products that keep the users hooked over a long period of time.
12. Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert Cialdini
This book is also available in Amazon Audible for listening.
Influence is one of the cult marketing books that keep getting reprinted over and over again. It never gets old as the human brain will always be working the same way. Writing this article, I realized I’d like to give it a third round of reading.
Teaching about the art of persuasion, the book explains how to get people to say “yes” to you.
The key thing you will learn: How to use the six universal principles (reciprocity, scarcity, authority, consistency, liking, consensus) to convince people about anything.
13. Ogilvy on Advertising by David Ogilvy
“When I write an advertisement, I don’t want you to find it ‘creative.’ I want you to find it so interesting that you buy the product.”
This quote from the book by advertising legend David Ogilvy, first published in 1985, is still relevant today. One of the key things I learned from the book is that your brand needs to have a strong USP (Unique Selling Proposition) that you keep communicating throughout your marketing activities and ads.
The key thing you will learn: How to find your product’s USP and gradually build a strong brand that people relate to a unique benefit.
Read my long review of the book here: 18 Golden Advertising Rules by Marketing Legends
14. The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing by Al Ries and Jack Trout
“The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing” is a classic marketing book that covers topics from leadership to product marketing. You’ll be surprised by how many marketing tactics that were working 20 years ago are still relevant today.
The key thing you will learn: The basics of how to acquire a successful marketer’s mindset.
15. Pre-suasion: A Revolutionary Way to Influence and Persuade by Robert Cialdini
This is the follow-up marketing psychology book that Cialdini wrote years after his initial bestseller Influence. I must admit that I was gravely disappointed with the book, the first one having been one of my favourite marketing books of all time.
According to the author, in order to change “minds,” a pre-suader must also change “states of mind.” Cialdini draws on a list of studies and stories to outline the specific techniques you can use in both online and offline marketing campaigns.
These insights will help you in two primary areas, making it one of the best books to learn marketing:
- Persuading your in-house team and managers to support your marketing strategy
- persuading your target audiences to take appropriate action
The key thing you will learn: How prime your target audience before delivering an important message, so that they’re more receptive to it.
16. Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World by Adam Grant
Grant’s #1 New York Times bestseller examines how people (like me and you) can champion new ideas, and how to avoid falling into groupthink.
How can we come up with new ideas, policies, and practices without risking it all? This business book uses a wide array of stories and case studies spanning business, politics, sports, and entertainment, and teaches the reader to think outside of the box and notice good ideas.
I highly recommend the book, both for its impact on your way of thinking and for interesting stories, e.g. the one about a TV executive who didn’t even work in comedy but saved Seinfeld from the cutting-room floor.
The key thing you will learn: How to originate and recognize great ideas and think outside of the box.
17. Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action by Simon Sinek
More than 28 million have watched Sinek’s TED Talk based on START WITH WHY, the third most popular TED video of all time.
Sinek starts his book with a fundamental question: Why are some people and organizations more innovative, more powerful, and more profitable than others? He goes on to explain that the great minds from politicians to billion dollar business founders all started with WHY – people won’t truly be interested in your product, service, movement, or idea until they understand the WHY behind the concept.
The key thing you will learn: That your product/brand needs a reason to exist – the WHY – and how to find it.
18. The New Rules of Marketing and PR: How to Use Social Media and Viral Marketing to Reach Buyers Directly by David Scott
This marketing book has arguably been the most influential for me, as after reading it, I made a switch from the PR industry to online marketing in less than a month.
Scott’s book is a true eye-opener to anyone still playing by the old offline marketing rules. In today’s highly digital world, the rules have changed, and you need to focus on virality, SEO, content marketing, online advertising, and other digital strategies to get your product noticed.
The key thing you will learn: You’ll get a great overview of the modern marketing and PR tactics – the perfect starting point for any marketing career.
Read more: How to Learn Marketing
19. The Icarus Deception by Seth Godin
Seth Godin could be given the title of a “cult marketer.” In this book, he challenges the reader to find the courage to treat their work as a form of art, constantly looking for ways to improve.
Being an artist isn’t a genetic disposition or a set of specific talents. It’s an attitude you too can adopt. It’s a hunger to keep learning, make connections, and think outside of the box. If you manage to do those things a little more often you’re an artist, no matter what it says on your business card.
The key thing you will learn: The best marketers are constantly learning and testing new ideas. This book will guide you to go the extra mile and do excellent, not average job.
20. Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking by Malcolm Gladwell
In his landmark marketing bestseller, Malcolm Gladwell unveils how we see the world, how we think without thinking, and how to become a better decision-maker.
Gladwell asks some interesting questions:
- Why do some people follow their instincts and win, while others end up making bad decisions?
- How do our brains really work – in the office, in the classroom, at a party?
- Why are the best decisions often impossible to explain to others?
The key thing you will learn: How our decision-making process works and how to make better, non-biased decisions.
21. Everybody Writes: Your Go-To Guide to Creating Ridiculously Good Content by Ann Handley
This is by far the best marketing copywriting book I’ve read this far, teaching both the macro- and micro-level nuances of good writing.
Everybody Writes is a go-to guide for marketers looking to attract and retain customers via stellar wriiten communication.
The sections in the books include:
- How to write better
- Easy grammar and usage rules tailored for business
- Winning your audience’s heart with masterful storytelling
- Best practices for creating credible, trustworthy content
- Content Tools: The best tools you need to get the job done
The key thing you will learn: How to write better marketing copy.
22. Misbehaving: The Making of Behavioral Economics by Richard Thaler
Nobel laureate Richard H. Thaler spent his career studying how humans are predictable, error-prone individuals. Traditional economics assumes rational actors – yet in real life, people are far from rational when it comes to making decisions.
Coupling recent discoveries in human psychology with a practical understanding of incentives and market behavior, Thaler enlightens you about how to make smarter decisions in an increasingly mystifying world (or how to apply the knowledge about irrational decision-making into marketing).
The key thing you will learn: The irrational logic of the human brain and how to use this knowledge to your advantage.
Best growth marketing books
23. Hacking Growth: How Today’s Fastest-Growing Companies Drive Breakout Success By Sean Ellis and Morgan Brown
This growth marketing book dives into building a rapid growth strategy for your company. Exploring the fascinating case studies of the likes of Airbnb and Uber, the authors explore the growth engines behind these companies’ extraordinary rise.
You will learn about leading cross-functional teams and fast A/B testing and iteration that helps you acquire more customers: attain them, retain them, engage them, and motivate them to come back and buy more.
The key thing you will learn: The common tactics and ways of thinking of growth hacking.
24. Growth Hacker Marketing by Ryan Holiday
Ryan Holiday’s book tells a fascinating story of how combining smart public relations, marketing and advertising, you can achieve almost any marketing results. The book is guaranteed to get you excited about growth hacking, yet you’ll have to do plenty of additional research and put in a lot of work if you want to replicate Holiday’s success.
The growth hacking theory relies on testing, tracking and scaling everything you do, which is ideal for marketing in the digital world.
The key thing you will learn: How small, well-planned efforts can lead to fast business growth.
The founders of a well-known Silicon Valley advisory firm looked into legendary category-creating companies and reveal how to notice and buiöd new product categories.
Presenting case studies around the inner workings of “category kings”— companies such as Amazon, Salesforce, Uber, and IKEA – this marketing book introduces the notion of “category design.” By applying category design, businesses can create new demand where none existed, changing customers’ minds so they change their expectations and buying habits.
The key thing you will learn: How to create and promote a completely new product category, gradually building a huge demand for it.
26. Top of Mind: Use Content to Unleash Your Influence and Engage Those Who Matter To You by John Hall
Building trust with your audience doesn’t happen overnight. It takes months (or even years) of calculated effort to reach and stay on top of mind with people. John Hall’s book will teach you how to use content marketing to build a meaningful relationship with your audience.
You will learn about the approach that was used to build Influence & Co. into one of “America’s Most Promising Companies,” according to Forbes, including:
- How to build a helpful, authentic, and consistent brand
- How to create digital content that enriches your target audience’s lives
The key thing you will learn: How to build a content-driven brand and create content that your audience sincerely wants to engage with.
Best branding books for marketers
27. The Advertising Concept Book: Think Now, Design Later by Pete Barry
I found this advertising book while visiting a bookstore in London and it took me a few months to work through it, with ups and downs. I came away with a fresh knowledgeable outlook to building marketing and branding campaigns. I highly recommend it.
From creative ideation to writing ad copy to building a consistent message, this book is a great guide for anyone looking to learn about branding campaigns, including different strategies used for all types of media.
The key thing you will learn: The framework for thinking like an advertising agency.
28. Brand Thinking and Other Noble Pursuits by Debbie Millman
What is a brand? – If you don’t know the answer, here’s a book that will help you understand the concept in a more broad and meaningful way.
By asking questions around “What is a brand?”, Millman presents eye.opening answers from twenty-two interview subjects, among them Malcolm Gladwell, Seth Godin, and godfather of modern branding Wally Olins.
You will find a fascinating road guide to modern branding and how companies and buyers can best understand the behavior behind why we build brands and why we buy them.
The key thing you will learn: How to define the word “brand” and build a strong brand of your own.
29. Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind by Al Ries and Jack Trout
Positioning describes a proven approach to creating a “position” in a prospective customer’s mind by taking into consideration your company’s own strengths and weaknesses as well as those of your competition.
The advertising gurus Ries and Trout explain how to:
- Position your brand as the industry leader
- Maintain the industry leader position as competition gets harder
- Use ad agency techniques to capture a wide market share and become a household name
- Build your branding strategy around your competition’s weaknesses
- Choose the best name for your product
The key thing you will learn: How to position your brand in a crowded market and become the leading business in your industry.
30. Designing Brand Identity: An Essential Guide for the Whole Branding Team by Alina Wheeler
This branding book will present you with a toolkit for creating, building, and maintaining a strong brand. From research and analysis through to implementing a brand strategy and design development, you will come away from this book with plenty of inspiration for building (or redefining) your own brand.
Wheeler’s book features more than 30 all-new case studies showing branding best practices and offers a proven, universal five-phase process for creating and implementing effective brand identity.
The key thing you will learn: How to design and implement a brand that will result in high business ROI.
31. How Brands Become Icons by Douglas B. Holt
In his bestseller marketing book, the former Harvard Business School professor Douglas B. Holt lays down what marketers need to know if they want to build an authentic brand that truly resonates with customers over a long period of time, not just temporarily because of a low price or hype.
Exploring the case studies from iconic brands including ESPN, Budweiser, Mountain Dew, and Volkswagen, Holt shows how to establish a meaningful brand connection with potential customers.
The key thing you will learn: How to build a strong brand that people will care about over a long period of time.
32. Hit Makers: The Science of Popularity in an Age of Digital Distraction by Derek Thomson
Nothing goes viral out of the blue. If you think that a popular movie, song, or app came out of nowhere to become a worldwide viral success in today’s crowded media environment, you’re wrong.
Each blockbuster has a secret history of power, influence, and passionate followers that turn some new products into cultural phenomena.
In his groundbreaking investigation, the Atlantic’s senior editor Derek Thompson uncovers the hidden psychology of why we like what we like and how cultural economics shape our taste. People love a familiar surprise: a product that is bold, yet conveniently recognizable.
The key thing you will learn: How to build viral products by following the simple tactics of simplicity, familiarity, frequency, influential supporters, close-knit supportive groups, memorable copy, cross-channel support, gradual innovation, and ad hoc random influences.
More marketing books to check out
If the above list of 30 bestsellers wasn’t enough for you and you’d like to explore even more marketing books, check out the titles below. 💁
34. Building a StoryBrand: Clarify Your Message So Customers Will Listen by Donald Miller
35. Don’t Make Me Think: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability by Steve Krug
36. What Customers Crave: How to Create Relevant and Memorable Experiences at Every Touchpoint by Nicholas J. Webb
37. The Undoing Project: A Friendship That Changed Our Minds by Michael Lewis
40. Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness by Richard H. Thaler
45. The Choice Factory: 25 Behavioural Biases That Influence What We Buy by Richard Shotton
47. Creative Advertising: Ideas and Techniques from the World’s Best Campaigns by Mario Pricken
48. Book of Ideas: a Journal of Creative Direction and Graphic Design – Volume 1 by Radim Malinic
49. How to Do Better Creative Work by Steve Harrison
50. Made to Stick : Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die by Chip Heath
51. Invisible Influence: The Hidden Forces that Shape Behavior by Jonah Berger
52. Integrated Marketing Communications: Putting It Together & Making It Work by Don E. Schultz, Stanley I. Tannenbaum, and Robert F. Lauterborn
53. The End of Competitive Advantage: How to Keep Your Strategy Moving as Fast as Your Business by Rita Gunther McGrath
54. AdCult USA by James Twitchell
55. Brand New Name: A Proven, Step-by-Step Process to Create an Unforgettable Brand Name by Jeremy Miller
57. Blue Ocean Strategy: How to Create Uncontested Market Space and Make Competition Irrelevant by W. Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne
58. Tap: Unlocking the Mobile Economy by Anindya Ghose
59. The Lead Machine: The Small Business Guide to Digital Marketing by Rich Brooks
60. The Business of Social Media: Clients and Customers Not Just Likes & Followers by Angela K. Denton
62. The Best Damn Web Marketing Checklist, Period! 2.0 by Stoney DeGeyter
63. 500 Social Media Marketing Tips: Essential Advice, Hints and Strategy for Business by Andrew Macarthy
65. Ultimate Guide to Link Building by Eric Ward & Garrett French
70. Powering Content: Building a Nonstop Content Marketing Machine by Laura Busche
71. Crisis Ready: Building an Invincible Brand in an Uncertain World by Melissa Agnes
73. When Coffee and Kale Compete: Become Great at Making Products People Will Buy by Alan Klement
75. Crossing The Chasm: Marketing and Selling Disruptive Products To Mainstream Customers by Geoffrey A. Moore
76. Points: A Blue Print for Digital Marketing Strategy by Sergio Restrepo
77. Exactly What to Say: The Magic Words for Influence and Impact by Phil M. Jones
78. Win Bigly: Persuasion in a World Where Facts Don’t Matter by Scott Adams
79. The Impact Equation: Are You Making Things Work or Just Making Noise? by Chris Brogan and Julien Smith
80. The One Sentence Persuasion Course – 27 Words to Make the World Do your Bidding by Blair Warren
81. Magnetic Marketing: How To Attract A Flood Of New Customers That Pay, Stay, and Refer by Dan S. Kennedy
82. Whatever You Think, Think The Opposite by Paul Arden
83. Selling the Invisible: A Field Guide to Modern Marketing by Harry Beckwith
84. You, Inc.: The Art Of Selling Yourself by Harry Beckwith and Christine Clifford Beckwith