Insightful Marketing Books



“Business has only two functions – marketing and innovation.” — Milan Kundera

I’ve put together a comprehensive list of marketing books that I’ve found to be insightful or useful in some way.  I see marketing as identifying needs, sizing and segmenting markets, surfacing value, differentiating, positioning in the mind and market, branding, sales, pricing, packaging, distribution, and relationship management.  Marketing is ultimately a blend of skills, capabilities, and focus across a variety of disciplines.

Personal Marketing is Everybody’s Business
In today’s "open and connected" world, I think personal marketing is even more crucial whether it’s selling yourself, selling your work, or creating a name for yourself among your peers … or becoming indispensible to your employer (… Linchpin, anyone?)  Simply put, learning marketing skills is a way to take care of your personal business … the business of you.

The Marchitecture of Business is Evolving …
I see social media transforming marketing in very deep and pervasive ways.  From relationship-marketing on Twitter and Facebook to micro-niches and highly-targeted, location-specific advertising to customer-connected product development, the game is changing.

Proven Practices and Timeless Principles
You can learn a lot about the patterns and practices of marketing from many amazing books.  For example, you can learn proven practices for influence from Robert B. Cialdini in his book, Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion.   Claude C. Hopkins was an early pioneer in the art and science of advertising, and he was a big believer in sampling.  You can lean about his mindset and methods in his book, Scientific Advertising.  If you want to learn a set of timeless principles that help explain our changing world, you can read The 22 Immutable Laws of Branding, by Al Ries.  In Married to the Brand, William J. McEwen teaches you proven practices for measuring customer engagement and emotional connection.

Call to Action

  1. Explore my list of insightful marketing books.
  2. Tell me what books I need to know about.
  3. Tell me *why* I need to know about them.

It’s a living library of marketing books.  I’m regularly expanding my library and I regularly recommend books to people, beyond the halls and walls of Microsoft.

* update – Thanks to Guy Kawasaki for suggesting I add The Anatomy of Buzz Revisited and Crossing the Chasm to the list.


  1. Marketing Without Money by Lyons and de Bono is about entrepreneurs and focuses on value creation. Great stuff.

    Some parts of The Innovator’s Solution (that talk about what people use products for) is great too.

    As to Seth: Who would pay attention to someone who declares themselves a liar?

  2. Hmmm, I wasn’t familiar with many of the books in your marketing list. I guess I’ve only read a few of those over the years. Certainly an area that I need to brush up on. Thanks for the comprehensive list.

  3. @ Evan — I actually haven’t heard of that one — I’m going to have to check it out. de Bono is a machine and he has such a wide array of insanely useful books. I thought I was the only one who read all of de Bono’s lesser known books, but it looks like you found all his gems.

    Good point on The Innovator’s Solution.

    I think that’s why he shifted too all marketers tell stories 😉

    @ Jannie — You already have your enchanting ways, but I think you’ll find Cialdini especially insightful because he’ll help explain why certain things work the way they do. For example, you’re great at creating rapport, and rapport is a precursor to persuasion.

    @ Jk — A few years back I went haywire with marketing, because it was my weakness. I’ve focused on the technical side for so long, I didn’t have enough of the marketing under my belt. I wanted to make sure my marketing skills would not be a glass ceiling and I figured my short-cut would be to read the right books and find the right mentors. Mentors are always the short-cut. In fact, they helped me quickly find the right books. The 22 Immutable Laws of Branding changed my game in so many ways and opened my eyes to a whole new perspective. I think that’s the book that gave me new respect for marketing.

    @ Alik — Thank you. Great point — if there’s anybody who needs to know marketing, it’s consultants. Nothing beats insight from the trenches (except the balcony 😉

    @ Vered — Linchpin is a fun read. Knowing how you like to get results, I would recommend The 22 Immutable Laws of Branding. It’s a quick read, and yet amazingly effective. Al cuts to the chase, and he’s rich with concrete examples. Some of the examples will be dated, but the principles are timeless … and once you know them, they keep showing up.

  4. Hi JD! I have some Crush It but I haven’t ready it yet. I guess it’s time I did. Your list is very comprehensive. I could come up with a suggestion. I guess it’s a good thing.:) Loving blessings!

  5. Hi JD .. I’ve had a quick glance through the list .. and am interested in the two you’ve promoted to Jannie and Vered .. as well as Andrea’s TED talk by Gary Vaynerchuk .. & also the rest!! Some I’ve read .. but not many & I guess I need to get reading .. when I can .. cheers Hilary

  6. Hi JD .. it’s interesting I’ve just tried to search for The War of Art by Steven Pressfield .. and it didn’t come up! But I only tried two lists .. not sure where it would slot.

    So I don’t know if you can do an A-Z of all the books, and similarly of the authors?

    Hope you’ve had a wonderful Christmas and will enjoy this week in the lead up to the New Year .. cheers Hilary

  7. @ Hilary — I like the idea of a master A-Z list. I think that would help for fast scanning.

    Ultimately, I think The War of Art falls under the “creativity” bucket, which I haven’t put together yet. But I think it can also make sense under Personal Development, given it’s a book that helps you get over resistance. It’s also a “career” type book in that it’s a mindset for mastering your craft, and it is also a great book for helping writers build their discipline.

    Thank you — I’ve had a great Christmas and I’ve been enjoying the downtime.

    Happy Holidays!

  8. Hi JD .. thanks .. how on earth is downtime .. 1.00am in the morning?! Or perhaps you’re stuck in snow on the East coast .. when you would be up and about – connected .. not sure what with though.

    Cheers – enjoy tomorrow when it comes! You too enjoy the rest of the break time .. Hilary

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