ASK A GROUP OF A half dozen marketers to define the term “marketing” and you’ll likely get a dozen or more answers. Most will agree marketing is a broad topic, involves both art and science, and covers a wide range of activities in growing a business.
While there are literally hundreds of definitions of marketing, here’s a simple one that fits our purposes: Marketing is meeting wants and needs profitably.
With the definition set, here is EquiBrand Consulting’s list of the top 10 marketing books that deliver on that objective.
One caveat: you won’t find titles here that focus exclusively on digital marketing. While digital marketing is a necessary part of marketing, it tends to be downstream in nature. Our focus is further upstream – on creating and capturing new market spaces and building strong brands.
Here is the list of best marketing books of all time:
#1. Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap . . . And Others Don’t by Jim Collins
Is potentially the best business book ever written. The criticism? Published over 20 years ago, some of the companies profiled are no longer in business. Still, the lessons described are timeless.
#2. Playing to Win: How Strategy Really Works by A.G. Lafley and Roger Martin
Uses a strategy-as-choice approach to growth, including a series of cascading questions, like ‘where to play,’ and ‘how to win.’ The book draws heavily on the consumer products industry, though the principles also work in business-to-business settings.
#3. Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action by Simon Sinek
Tees up a fundamental question: Why are some people and organizations more innovative, more influential, and more profitable than others? Some of the most successful leaders in life and in business had had little in common, but they all started with why. They realized that people won’t truly buy into a product, service, movement, or idea until they understand the why behind it.
#4. Business Model Generation: A Handbook for Visionaries, Game Changers, and Challengers by Alex Osterwalder and Yves Pigneur
Helps you understand, design, and implement game-changing business models – or improve existing ones. Along the way, you’ll apply upstream marketing principles, and gain deep insight into your customers, distribution channels, partners, and core value proposition.
#5. Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind by Al Ries and Jack Trout
Describes how to create a “position” in a prospective customer’s mind – one that reflects a company’s own strengths and weaknesses versus those of its competitors. Positioning is used in all forms of business and personal communication. It’s just as essential in politics as it is in personal expression.
#6. Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert Cialdini
Explains the psychology of why people say yes and how to apply these principles ethically in business and everyday situations. If you’re looking for deep insight into how people buy and decide on things, look no further.
#7. The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing: Violate Them at Your Own Risk! by Al Ries & Jack Trout
Identifies principles to consider in positioning and promoting products. While many of the examples in the book are dated and focus on brands with big ad budgets, the lessons are still applicable today. It’s a short book that covers the basics and then some.
#8. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey
Advocates a principles-centered approach to business and leadership. Some may see this title as a self-improvement book, but at the heart of successful marketing is customer sensitivity, discipline, and good habits.
#9. Blue Ocean Strategy: How to Create Uncontested Market Space and Make Competition Irrelevant by W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne
Argues that it’s best to avoid trying to beat competitors. Instead, focus on making them irrelevant by creating a leap in value for buyers and your company. In other words, the answers to market growth reside with customers, so focus on understanding and delivering on their needs.
#10. Marketing Management by Philip Kotler and Kevin Keller
No list of the top marketing titles would be complete without a book from Philip Kotler, the father of marketing. While Kotler has published over 80 books, this is one of his first and arguably his best. It’s the world’s most widely adopted textbook in MBA programs and should be on the shelf of anyone interested in understanding marketing better.
Upstream Marketing: Unlock Growth Using the Combined Principles of Insight, Identity, and Innovation by Tim Koelzer and Kristin Kurth
This new title draws on the lessons learned from the list of top marketing books and ties them together. The book introduces the concept of upstream marketing, defines it, and establishes a new framework to drive growth, drawing on core principles of insight, identity, and innovation.
The book is written by EquiBrand co-founders Tim Koelzer and Kristin Kurth. If you’re interested in learning more about EquiBrand or Upstream Marketing, use this contact form.