A reading list for marketers, Part 1

27 Jan 2011 by Randall Helms, 1 Comment »

So you want to know more about marketing, huh?

I’ve always found that reading books is helpful – strange, I guess, given the way that so much media consumption has moved online, but I definitely feel that there is something about the process of reading a book that helps me to absorb more and think more deeply than, say, jumping around through multiple tabs on a web browser. Perhaps it has something to do with Nicholas Carr’s argument that the internet is altering the way our brains work?

Anyways, I digress. Over the next several weeks I will be publishing a list of some books that I’ve found useful in clarifying my understanding of and approach to marketing. I make no claims that this is a definitive list, merely that these books have helped me to develop how I see marketing; most are not even ‘marketing books; strictly defined, but I will try to explain their relevance.

Here’s part one of the list:

Anderson, Chris, The Long Tail: How endless choice is creating unlimited demand – A ground-breaking work for anyone wanting to understand how the internet has radically upended the traditional hit-driven sales model; without the physical constraints of traditional retail locations, online retailers like Amazon can offer a much greater choice of items, and consumers have responded in kind, allocating their spending to niche products in an unprecedented manner. For marketers, the lesson is simply that something doesn’t have to be a ‘hit’ to make money, and that there are great opportunities available in fulfilling niche desires.

Ariely, Dan, Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces that Shape Our Decisions – In this title, Israeli behavioural economist Dan Ariely explodes our assumptions of the rationality behind our decision-making, instead showing that our minds make decisions based on emotions that don’t take into account the outcomes of their choices (with a great example being, as all marketers should know, the tremendous success of ‘Buy One Get One Free’ offers). A treasure trove of information as to how the human mind actually works, as opposed to how we would like to imagine that it works.

Christakis, Nicholas and James Fowler Connected: The Amazing Power of Social Networks and How They Shape Our Lives – Another title that is not a business book per se, but instead a fascinating exploration of how we are connected to each other, how our lives are a complicated web of relationships, and how ideas, behaviours, and tastes can spread through our social networks. An excellent resource for any marketer looking to use word of mouth to spread the news about their products and/or services.

Gerzema, John and Ed Lebar, The Brand Bubble: The looming crisis in brand value and how to avoid it – In this provocative book, Gerzema and Lebar argue that corporations in general and marketers in particular have been consistently over-estimating the importance of brands to consumers. This is important because the intangible value of ‘the brand’ has become an increasingly large component of the value of most leading companies – and the authors argue that these values are mostly fictitious. A useful corrective to most marketing books, with their obsessive focus on branding.

Gladwell, Malcolm The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference – Sure, this is an obvious selection, but you really need to read this, if you haven’t already. Perhaps one of the most influential books of recent times, in this book Gladwell looks at tipping points, those moments when ideas and/or products go from niche concerns to mass popularity over night, the conditions that lead to them, and the types of people that are essential to their success. A seminal title.

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One Comment

  1. Erna says:

    Good information…

    […]Good to discover a person writing about this vital issue[…]…

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