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What are the Best Marketing Books?

Whether you’re a marketing manager at a large company or a small business owner trying to make it to the next level – expanding your intellectual arsenal is always a good thing.  And there’s nothing quite like turning off the computer and sitting down with a good book. Here are 5 books to add to your marketing reading list this summer. Since you probably don't have the time to read them all, we included the key takeaways from each book.

Contagious: Why Things Catch On

By Jonah Berger

Contagious combines groundbreaking research with powerful stories. Learn how a luxury steakhouse found popularity through the lowly cheese-steak, why anti-drug commercials might have actually increased drug use, and why more than 200 million consumers shared a video about one of the seemingly most boring products there is: a blender. If you’ve wondered why certain stories get shared, e-mails get forwarded, or videos go viral, Contagious explains why, and shows how to leverage these concepts to craft contagious content. This book provides a set of specific, actionable techniques for helping information spread—for designing messages, advertisements, and information that people will share.

Key Takeaways: Aspects that help things catch on include: Social Currency - being “in-the-know; Trigger - how one thing will instantly trigger a thought of something else; Emotion - feelings inspire us to share; Public - social proof sways the masses; Practical Value - information that is useful is likely to be shared; Stories - when a good story is told, it will pull us in.

Building a StoryBrand: Clarify Your Message So Customers Will Listen

By Donald Miller

Donald Miller's StoryBrand process is a proven solution to the struggle business leaders face when talking about their businesses. This revolutionary method for connecting with customers provides listeners with the ultimate competitive advantage, revealing the secret for helping their customers understand the compelling benefits of using their products, ideas, or services. Building a StoryBrand does this by teaching listeners the seven universal story points all humans respond to, the real reason customers make purchases, how to simplify a brand message so people understand it, and how to create the most effective messaging for websites, brochures, and social media.

Key Takeaways: You shouldn’t be the hero of the story. Portray the customer as the hero of the story, and presenting your company as a guide. Never assume people understand how your brand can change their lives – tell them. If there’s no danger, there’s no story that matters.

How Brands Become Icons: The Principles of Cultural Branding

By D.B. Holt

Based on extensive historical analyses of some of America's most successful iconic brands, including ESPN, Mountain Dew, Volkswagen, Budweiser, and Harley-Davidson, this book presents the first systematic model to explain how brands become icons. Douglas B. Holt shows how iconic brands create "identity myths" that, through powerful symbolism, soothe collective anxieties resulting from acute social change. Holt warns that icons can't be built through conventional branding strategies, which focus on benefits, brand personalities, and emotional relationships. Instead, he calls for a deeper cultural perspective on traditional marketing themes like targeting, positioning, brand equity, and brand loyalty.

Key Takeaways: Following trends can never build an iconic brand. Brands that become icons speak into a cultural conversation in a relevant way and take on meaning beyond their categories. There are three audience levels - insiders, followers, and feeders - and the importance of focusing on the first two groups, even though the third is the largest source of profit.

Buyology: Truth and Lies About Why We Buy

By Martin Lindstrom

In BUYOLOGY, Lindstrom presents the astonishing findings from his groundbreaking, three-year, seven-million-dollar neuromarketing study, a cutting-edge experiment that peered inside the brains of 2,000 volunteers from all around the world as they encountered various ads, logos, commercials, brands, and products. His startling results shatter much of what we have long believed about what seduces our interest and drives us to buy.

Key Takeaways: We rarely have any rational control over why we buy some products and not others. This is because our brain subconsciously chooses for us. Traditional marketing methods no longer work in our society and the reasons we think we buy are very deceptive. Product placement doesn’t work. Subliminal messaging is everywhere and still highly effective.

Everybody Writes: Your Go-To Guide to Creating Ridiculously Good Content

By Ann Handley

In Everybody Writes, top marketing veteran Ann Handley gives expert guidance and insight into the process and strategy of content creation, production and publishing, with actionable how-to advice designed to get results. These lessons and rules apply across all of your online assets — like web pages, home page, landing pages, blogs, email, marketing offers, and on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and other social media. Ann deconstructs the strategy and delivers a practical approach to create ridiculously compelling and competent content.

Key Takeaways: Shed the obvious.The notion of brevity has more to do with cutting fat, bloat, and things that indulge the writer and don't respect the reader's time. Good writing anticipates the questions that readers might have as they're reading a piece. Don't say solution—tell me what your product does. Don't say a lot—tell me how many.