These are the Top Marketing & Strategy Books of all time.
My favorites, the ones that shaped my thinking and taught me the most. A few leadership and management books thrown in as an extra. These are the books I would recommend to someone who wants to become an awesome marketer, strategist or leader – students, product marketers and CEOs.
I would love to hear what books you think I should add to the list, please add your suggestions in the comments.
I love reading. In addition to Kindle, I have listened to probably a hundred books on Audible.com. I stopped listening to music on my commute, instead I have had the opportunity to learn a lot from dozens of authors. I really recommend it, try Audible here, you get two books free.
Best Books on Marketing Basics
Positioning: the Battle for Your Mind – by Al Ries and Jack Trout
This is the book that made me realize marketing was my calling after reading it in middle school. Ries and Trout are the pioneers of positioning, a fundamental concept for strategy, branding and for almost every marketing activity. This is a timeless classic. It is easy to read and powerful. If you love this book, you will probably love marketing warfare from the same authors.
Kotler on Marketing – Philip Kotler
Philip Kotler is one of the most influenctial marketing academics, a professor at the Kellogg School of Management. This is an ‘essentials of marketing’ book that covers most of the basics. Highly recommended for novices and for anyone who wants to review the fundamental concepts of marketing.
Best Strategy and Marketing Strategy Books
The Halo Effect – Phil Rozenweig
The author challenges traditional management gurus such as Collins and their “Good to Great” observations. What makes a new company great is strategy. Not culture, not leadership, not 5-point management principles. Just as important, the author talks about the 9 delusions of high performance in business, 9 business traps to be aware of. Every manager should read this. Read a summary of this great book here.
Crossing the Chasm – Geoffrey Moore
This is a classic. The fundamental concepts of these book are critical for anyone in a technology industry as it explains how products are adopted, and what are the behaviors of customers in different stages of the adoption curve. Understanding why and how early adopters, futurists, mainstream and laggard buyers buy is foundational. There are a few more books from the author that expand on this concept, all good reads.
Playing to Win – A.J. Lafley
A fantastic book by the former CEO if Procter & Gamble that clearly explains what is strategy and provides real-world examples of strategy from his time at P&G. There are plenty of stories of products launched, markets entered and strategies that produced results. Lafley bases on the definition of strategy of Where to Play and How to Win to provide a very practical view on strategy.
Understanding Michael Porter – Joan Magretta
Michael Porter is the top authority on strategy. But his books are dense and his concepts are complex. The five forces model is an important framework to understand industries for strategy planning but it is hard to grasp. Joan Magreatta does a wonderful job of summarizing and making Porter accessible. It’s a great read.
Trout on Strategy – Jack Trout
For Trout, there is no difference between marketing strategy and strategy. I don’t agree, but still, this is a wonderful ‘strategy for dummies’ book that covers more than the basics. This is an easy and a quick read, with more than a few powerful concepts. Trout has written other books that are fantastic: Differentiate or Die, The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing and The Power of Simplicity are my favorites.
The Discipline of Market Leaders – Michael Treacy and Fred Wiersema
This is a favorite because it very clearly covers three basic strategic options: you can lead with price, service or product – and what are the implications to your company culture and value chain to focus the company in one of those areas. A must read for every CEO.
The Pumpkin Plan – Mike Michalowicz
Strategy can be complex, but it does not have to be. This book is a perfect guide for small business owners, freelancers and consultants to understand the power of focus and specialization as the path to success. The most basic principle of strategy could be summarized around this: focus on a market segment or customer need to differentiate and win. This book is an easy read: clear and practical.
In Search of Stupidity – Rick Chapman
This is not a ‘strategy book’ per se. But it covers 20 years of technology strategy mistakes. It is a practical book that shows how strategy and execution shaped today’s technology landscape. It was published some 10 years ago, I hope to see a sequel.
Best Books on Behavioral Economics and the Psychology of Influence
Predictably Irrational – Dan Ariely
Smart marketers know customers buy on emotions and then justify their decisions. In this book you will find fascinating examples of our irrational behavior, and critically important lessons that should guide every marketer. A great introduction to behavioral economics from a psychology professor. I have listened to the audio book more than a few times. Insightful and entertaining.
The Tipping Point – Malcolm Gladwell
Why do some products suddenly reach a tipping point where they go from obscurity to market phenomenon? This is Malcom’s best book, where he explains the role of different types of consumers in how ideas are spread. A primer on influencer marketing that should be read by community managers to CEOs.
Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion – Robert Cialdini
Cialdini is the authority on the science of influence. This is the foundational book you must read to gain insight into what, why, and how to influence buying decisions. Another cladssic psychology-meets-marketing book. Cialdini’s six principles of ethical persuasion: reciprocity, scarcity, liking, authority, social proof, and commitment.
Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us -Daniel Pink
Once you get hooked on behavioral economics after reading Ariely, Pink provides another set of practical insights into how consumers behave. Another must read, especially for digital marketers. There is a great video summary on YouTube .
Best Leadership and Management Books
The one Thing You Need to Know – Marcus Buckingham
The author of the Strengths Finder philosophy, provides a useful view into what motivates employees and what managers need to know to be good leaders. This book is ful of practical insight and clearly one of my favorites. You can read a summary on this post that explores the differences between managers and leaders and what it takes to be great at each.
The Five Dysfunctions of a Team – Patrick Lencioni
Lencioni’s books are always easy to read as they are written almost like fables. And yet, they capture key insights that are key for any manager. This book (all of Lencioni’s really) should be on every manager’s bookshelf.
Best Communications and Writing Books
Made to Stick – Chip and Dan Heath
This is a classic. What messages stick? how to create ideas and messages that are remembered and effective? I have read this book a few times and it is always a great investment of my time. If you have not read it, stop what you are doing and buy it now to learn how the human scale principle, the Velcro Theory of Memory, and creating curiosity gaps can help your ideas and your message .
Your Attention Please – Paul B. Brown and Alison Davis
Every marketer should write. This is my favorite book on writing clearly and effectively. It is full of examples. Sadly it is a little hard to find. I bought a copy for every member of my team at work.
Good Books that Inspired me to Write a Summary Post
The Age of Context – Robert Scoble and Shel Israel
A view into the near future, the internet of things, and how our world will change with the latest technologies. In this post I explore the implications for marketers
The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon – Brad Stone
The story of Amazon.com is fascinating. This post looks at seven insights from the book that made Jeff Bezos successful
The CMO Manifesto – John Ellett
A summary of the marketing manifesto that defines a modern marketer and provides the basic principles for a CMO to build a team and a marketing strategy
The Conversation Company – Steven Van Belleghem
This post is a summary of this book, which is the bible for a social media or community manager. Well written, practical and effective.
Do You Matter? how great design will make people love your company – Robert Brunner
This is a post about the importance of design and usability in the success of any company, based on this book, looking at Apple as the company that best exemplifies this philosophy