20 Books Every Marketer Should Read in 2020
November 19, 2019
Finishing up the last page of a great book is bittersweet sorrow, invariably followed by a wave of panicked questions.
How did I reach the end so fast? Why must it be over? What will I read next?
Turn that frown upside down. All good things must come to an end, of course, but luckily there is always another excellent read awaiting you. And if you’re looking to build out your 2020 reading list, you’ve come to the right place.
We’ve selected some of our favorite new and old marketing books, compiling them into the list below. Not only that, but we also reached out to the authors of each to find out which works had the biggest impact on their careers, and shared their responses.
The result, we hope, is a definitive collection of indispensable texts for today’s marketers, colored by input from some of the brightest minds in business.
Before you get started, make sure to catch up on our past marketing book and sales book recommendations:
- Marketing Book Worth a Look features
- Your 2017 Summer Reading List: 25 Must-Read Marketing Books
- 20 Books Every Marketer Should Read in 2017
- 10 Books Every B2B Marketing Strategist Should Read
- 20 Books Every Marketer Should Read in 2016
- Sales Experts Reveal the Books that Impacted Them Most in Their Careers
- 8 Books Every Sales Manager Should Read
And now, without further ado…
20 Marketing Books You Should Read in 2020
Two of the foremost voices in content marketing, Pulizzi and Rose have another hit with the follow-up to their 2011 classic, Managing Content Marketing. Playing off the perception that marketing is primarily a cost center, the authors suggest sending this discipline out to pasture — at least the less strategic, less insight-driven, less innovative version they now see — and restructuring it. “What if we completely flipped the idea of the marketing function on its head?” Pulizzi and Rose propose doing so by recognizing media and monetization trends, then turning the department into a clear-cut profit center.
Joe Recommends: Integrated Marketing Communications: Putting It Together & Making It Work, by Don E. Schultz, Stanley I. Tannenbaum, and Robert F. Lauterborn
“This book made a great impact on me early in my career. The author (and father of IMC) Don Schultz stresses that everything about a company can be copied (price, place, etc.) except for how we communicate as a company. I believe in this 100% and it was one of the reasons I was drawn to content marketing.”
Robert Recommends: The Practice of Management, by Peter Drucker
“A classic and must-read for ANYONE in marketing and/or sales. The lessons that Drucker had for us 60 years ago are still as relevant today.”
Robert Also Recommends: The End of Competitive Advantage: How to Keep Your Strategy Moving as Fast as Your Business, by Rita Gunther McGrath
“This book is what has convinced me that businesses (marketing or sales) don’t need to figure out what to adapt into. They just have to develop the skills to adapt.”
Drawing from deep backgrounds in the field of technology, Luckett and Casey offer a scientific look at the world of social media and explain how these networks mimic the rules and functions of biological life. There is actually a chapter called “Cracking the Memetic Code” (referring to memes), which is pretty awesome. By better understanding the deeply interconnected nature of social media, and what it tells us about the human condition, marketers can formulate plans more intelligently.
Oliver Recommends: AdCult USA, by James Twitchell
“During my time in college I studied the early technologies of the renaissance in creating a literate society and the mass distribution of ideas. When I started my career in the Internet and started seeking more and more theories and metaphors to understand the power of mass media and underlying themes, I stumbled upon a book by James Twitchell called AdCult USA. His analysis of the commercial distribution machines of the modern advertising world had a profound effect on me, and my perspective and fear of the power of saturating American society and culture with the cults of desire. I highly recommend this quirky find.”
Michael Recommends: Blue Ocean Strategy: How to Create Uncontested Market Space and Make Competition Irrelevant, by W. Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne
“I found the philosophy behind this book compelling, as it aligned with my view that businesses will grow in the decentralized, network-driven economics of the digital era through collaborative expansion rather than zero-sum approaches to market share.”
We all know that mobile device ubiquity has completely transformed the fundamentals of commerce and consumer behavior. Yet, plenty of marketers are still trying to determine how best to alter their strategies for maximum impact in this smartphone-driven society. Last year, Ghose was recognized by Thinkers50 for his ability to “convert the digital language of the 0 and 1 into useful human insights,” and his translation skills shine through in this work. Complex subject matter is presented in a very digestible and comprehensible manner.
Anindya Recommends: Location is (Still) Everything: The Surprising Influence of the Real World on How We Search, Shop, and Sell in the Virtual One, by David Bell
“A great book on a fascinating topic. It provides an excellent framework by the name GRAVITY that helps firms think through how our offline locations drive our online behavior. It is based on years of academic research. And David is a master at storytelling.”
Want to organize your marketing efforts and ensure you’re leaving no stone unturned? deGeyter has updated his acclaimed handbook from 2014 to ensure it remains a comprehensive resource for today. This collection of checklists spans every facet of digital marketing and helps you avoid missed steps that could hurt down the line. Great for the self-sufficient, jack-of-all-trades marketer. In the 2.0 version, you’ll find traditional staples as well as new additions such as video and PDF optimization.
Stoney Recommends: The Unexpected: Breakthrough Strategies to Supercharge Your Business and Earn Loyal Customers for Life, by Howard Brodsky
“This created a fundamental shift in how we go about customer service. It's not about meeting their needs, but giving them even more than they expect.”
“So many of our judgments and decisions, from the strategic to the mundane, come down to the information we can call to our conscious minds in an instant,” argues Hall in the introduction to his book. “By ensuring that you are top of mind among the people in your networks making those important decisions, you are position yourself for success.” Top of Mind explores the latter imperative deeply. You’ll learn how customers have changed, what you can do to build trust, and why transparency, likability, and consistency are cornerstones for sticking in people’s brains.
John Recommends: Giftology: The Art and Science of Using Gifts to Cut Through the Noise, Increase Referrals, and Strengthen Retention, by John Rulin
John Also Recommends: Give and Take: Why Helping Others Drives Our Success, by Adam Grant
“Both are great books that change the mentality of a marketer to helping and being thoughtful. That's a key differentiating factor for me in a successful marketer so I think both are amazing.”
These days, content marketing isn’t the mystery it once was. Most business professionals have a solid understanding of what it is, and why it’s important. Yet, the strategic underpinning is still amiss in many organizations. A reputed branding expert, Busche dives into the nuts and bolts of effective content creation and management, offering examples and exercises to help you develop a sustainable marketing engine.
Laura Recommends: Consumer Behavior: Building Marketing Strategy, by Delbert Hawkins and David Mothersbaugh
“While I’ve read many impactful business books in my career, none has steered my perspective on marketing like Hawkins & Mothersbaugh’s Consumer Behavior textbook. We tend to go for short reads to understand emerging ideas in our field, but there is nothing like a comprehensive overview of the place where marketing and psychology intersect: consumer behavior. This book is loaded with great examples and visuals to welcome anyone to the fascinating world that is our mind when it interacts with advertising stimuli, environmental influences, and the personality traits that define us.”
In many cases, the things we’d least like to think about are the ones we ought to be thinking about most. In an age where marketers are increasingly wearing the hats of PR and crisis management, familiarity with the principles in this book is critical. Agnes doesn’t focus on reacting to negative events, but rather becoming proactive so your business can anticipate rising threats, then handle them as they inevitably arrive with resiliency and poise.
Melissa Recommends: Exactly What to Say: The Magic Words for Influence and Impact, by Phil M. Jones
“A powerful short read that helps you know exactly what to say, when it matters most. The "magic words" that Phil M. Jones shares within this book can be directly applied to marketing messages to increase influence, action, and conversion.”
Branding is a different animal here in 2018 compared to even a decade ago. A heralded brand strategist, Westergaard shares his thoughts on what it takes to capture attention and keep it at a time where doing so is more difficult than ever. Among the elements scrutinized in his latest work: giving your brand meaning and purpose, reinforcing with the right touchpoints, cultivating a sense of community, and more.
Nick Recommends: Permission Marketing: Turning Strangers into Friends and Friends into Customers, by Seth Godin
“It’s hard to believe that this book is almost 20 years old! This classic from Seth Godin was one of the first books to recast the role of marketing in the digital age. Instead of using these new tools to blast even more messages at an even louder volume, Godin teaches us to offer value up front in exchange for permission. And with that permission, we can continue to build and deepen the relationship with our customers over time. I read this book early in my career, when I was working for an educational publishing company, leading the transition from direct mail to internet marketing. I couldn’t imagine navigating today’s media shifts without it. With more networks and more noise, the lessons are as relevant as ever.”
Bonus: More Marketing Books to Round Out Your List
If you’ve already exhausted the list above, here are a few additional worthy reads we’ve come across recently:
- Building a StoryBrand, by Donald Miller: Learn how to infuse storytelling into your brand’s message to resonate more with customers.
- The 1-Page Marketing Plan, by Allan Dib: A simplified primer on today’s marketing fundamentals that is especially useful for small businesses and startups.
- This Is Marketing: You Can't Be Seen Until You Learn to See, by Seth Godin: Another enlightening and eye-opening work from one of the most innovative minds in human-centered marketing.
- Magnetic Marketing by Dan S. Kennedy: This guide to the new world of advertising and marketing will help practitioners — especially entrepreneurs — acclimate to a transformed landscape.
Replenish Your Reading Shelf
Confucius is credited with saying, “You can’t pick up a book without learning something.” While that may be true, the lessons within aren’t always worthwhile.
We feel confident in saying, though, that the titles listed here — essential guides to the modern business landscape, and inspirational works that proved instrumental to the authors who created them — will prove well worth your while.
Each is liable to generate that familiar twinge of distress as you flip to the final page, but worry not. There’s always another in store.
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