Books, Marketing, Planning

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A (long) while ago, I posted a list of what I  thought were the best marketing books I had read. Well, that was then. I’ve disovered three new gems that not only make the list but actually elbow their way into three of the top four spots. So here’s an updated list:

1. How Brands Grow – Sharp NEW!
A brilliant, brilliant book that once turned my world pretty much upside down in that it challenged a lot of conventional wisdom in marketing and advertising, such as the inflated belief in loyalty and differentiation. Before buying the book (or if you’re just too lazy to read it), check out Professor Sharp’s presentation on YouTube here.

2. Simply Better – Barwise & Meehan
Because I love myth busting and this one busts the differentiation myth (sort of). But most of all because it’s spot on and puts what any marketer is doing into perspective.

3. The Halo Effect – Rosenzweig NEW!
No matter what we do in life, we all suffer from confirmation bias. It’s human, because it makes the world a simpler place. Or as Anaïs Nin put it: “We don’t see the world as it is, we see it as we are”. When judging company performance, for instance, we tend to attribute success to whatever it is that we ourselves believe in – which most likely correlates with the field we’re in. If you’re a marketeer you attribute success to marketing. If you’re an organizational theorist, it’s all about corporate culture. If you’re in logistics, that’s where the beef is. Well, here’s the cure to that affliction, in the form of an excellent, to-the-point, no-nonsense book by IMD Professor Phil Rosenzweig. Read it and you’ll never be the same again. A word of caution, though: It turns out the world isn’t as simple as we might think (dammit!).

4. Why? – Tilly NEW!
Do you believe what people say, not only in market research but in life in general? Well, I’m not necessarily saying you shouldn’t, only that you should apply another perspective at times. Like the one proposed by the late Charles Tilly, a professor of social science at Columbia, namely that the explanations we give ourselves and others for what we do and what happens in the world around us has very little to do with actual facts and causes but a lot to do with relationships to other human beings. Everything we tell ourselves and others is based on the type of relationship we have with them and serves the purpose of negotiating, establishing, reinforcing, repairing or ending relationships. We do this by more or less non-consciously using four types of tools: Convention, Narratives, Technical accounts and Codes. A fascinating, and very useful, read.

5. Marketing in the Era of Accountability – Binet  & Field
Sure, this is not really a “book” (more of a booklet), it’s only about one slice of marketing – advertising – and it’s hideously expensive. But it’s such a goldmine of insight, thinking and facts rather than opinion, that it’s a must.

6. Strangers to Ourselves – Wilson
The analogy of the conscious mind being the tip of an iceberg is wrong. It’s more like a snow ball on the tip of that iceberg. The rest is non- or semi-conscious – or what Wilson labels “the adaptive unconscious”. A fascinating read into what really determines our behavior to a large – no, huge – extent.

7. Eating the Big Fish – Morgan
Nice book on challenger brands, with lots of thinking and neat tricks you can employ even if you’re not necessarily a challenger brand.

8. Marketing and the Bottom Line – Ambler
I cannot not include a book by one of my all-time favorite thinkers, Tim Ambler, on the list. Connecting marketing and branding to cash flow and other financial metrics is still a black hole in many marketers’ minds. “…on average, meetings of top UK management devote nine times more attention to spending and counting cash flow than to wondering where it comes from and how it could be increased.” Sends shivers down my spine every time (I know, I’m a geek).

9. How Brands Become Icons – Holt
An iconic book in itself within the cultural perspective on brands and branding – all that mushy, soft stuff that square types so detest but that has the power to leverage shareholder value in astonishing ways if you know how to use it. Of course, it’s pretty damn hard and requires not only brains, but balls.

Until next time I’ve read a good book.