Tag Archives: business books

the marketer’s bookshelf

As I consult or speak, people often ask me for marketing or business book recommendations. While I sometimes review new business books on the blog, I didn’t have a list of the classics. I thought it would be nice to have a central repository that I could point to as the “essential marketing book shelf”. So here are some of my top picks in several business categories:

— The Essential Essentials —

There are only a few people in the world that I consider worthy of the title of marketing guru. So I could probably list the entire Seth Godin canon in this post. However, there are two of his books I consider fundamental reading.

I distinctly remember when I was honored to receive one of the 1st copies of Purple Cow. The milk carton that came in the mail freaked out the secretaries at the office I was working in at the time. The book was remarkable in that it practiced what it preached in the way it was distributed. When I do a marketing keynote, I lay out 3 essential elements of successful marketing for the audience. The ideas in Purple Cow parallel my first step which is “Great marketing begins with the product”.


The other essential Godin book is Permission Marketing. This book was written in 1999 and predates Facebook pages, Twitter feeds, and YouTube channels, but the basic idea works for those items as well as the traditional marketing channels that Seth discusses in the book.


While he’s not a marketer, per se, the other prolific business author who has multiple books that could be on this list is Malcolm Gladwell. Much of creating successful marketing is understanding the way society and individuals think. Both Blink and The Tipping Point are important books to read to understand this better.


Ogilvy on Advertising is an old book. David Ogilvy is dead. But if everyone who created TV, radio, print, or online ads had a copy and referred to it, we wouldn’t see so much horrible advertising today. If you’re only going to read a few books on this list, make this one of them.


— Branding / Brand Strategy —

I’m a big proponent of the idea that strong brands are created by consumers, not marketers. But the majority of the time in order for that to happen, the marketer must have a solid brand strategy in place. Positioning by Al Ries and Jack Trout is a must-read that helps you understand the importance of developing a strong thought-out brand strategy.


Closely related to Positioning (literally) is The 22 Immutable Laws of Branding which Al Ries wrote with his daughter Laura. It’s basically a more bite sized version of Positioning with plenty of real life examples.


If I’m recommending marketing and business books, I suppose I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Brand Zeitgeist. I wrote it because I wanted a comprehensive look at the branding and marketing basics that I want audiences to understand. Brand Zeitgeist reinforces basic marketing and branding principles and illustrates how businesses can use fundamental aspects of human nature to develop a brand strategy.


— Entrepreneurship / Career —

I have two tchotchkes, both given to me by wife, that have similar mantras. One has a quote from Thoreau that says, “If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away.” The other one has Dan Zadra’s simple quote of “Trust your crazy ideas.”
There are advantages to being different. I was first drawn to Chris Guillebeau because of his amazing travel quest, but related to that is his outlook on life which is outlined in The Art of Non-Conformity.


I spoke on a panel with Pamela Slim in 2010. In our chats both onstage and offstage, I found her message from Escape From Cubicle Nation was a needed one. Too many people are stuck in jobs they hate. Don’t be like that.


Another good resource for job seekers or would-be entrepreneurs is Dan Miller’s 48 Days to the Work You Love


— Communication —

While it covers visual presentation in general, I feel it should be mandatory to pass a test on Garr Reynolds’ Presentation Zen before someone is allowed to create a slide in PowerPoint or Keynote.
(Bonus points if you also read Seth Godin’s Really Bad PowerPoint e-book.)


Up in the “branding” section of this post, the books will tell you repeatedly to avoid brand extension, but Jay Conrad Levinson has successfully milked his Guerrilla Marketing concept for all it’s worth. His numerous books which all revolve around the same ideas have good points. Much of it common sense stuff that you need to do. A copy of one of the guerrilla marketing books needs to be in every small business owner’s hands.


— Social Media —

At any given time, there are a lot of good books about social media marketing. Everyone wants the answers to social media presented as a neat package in a book. But the trouble with printed books about social media is that they’re outdated by the time they roll off the press or even onto your Kindle. You need a big picture overview of the fundamentals BEHIND social media that you can apply to any platform.
The book you need for this was written over 12 years ago before social media as we currently define it even existed. Most of the 95 theses in The Cluetrain Manifesto can be applied to your marketing strategy for any current social media platform. Don’t want to buy the book? Read it for free.


— Corporate Culture / Ethics —

I have to stop myself from using Zappos too much as an example of how great corporate culture and employee empowerment can contribute to a strong brand and a healthy bottom line. In Delivering Happiness, Zappos founder, Tony Hsieh, outlines the Zappos philosophy and how you can do it in your business.


Successful long term businesses have a strong moral code at their foundation. I have found that the KJV Bible provides a specific set of guidelines and principles that will work in every possible situation.


— The Usual Suspects —

Robert Waterman / Tom Peters’ In Search of Excellence may be a little heavy for every application / user and parts of it are dated, but it is the definitive resource for how to manage a company.

Most essential business reading lists like this one will include Sun Tzu’s The Art of War, Niccolo Machiavelli’s The Prince, and Adam Smith’s The Wealth of Nations. All these have valuable business insight, but I would challenge anyone to find someone who is not a MBA nerd who has actually read these books. Put them on your shelf, but read the Cliffs Notes version of all three.

— Virtual Bookshelf —

The books on your shelf are great for the big ideas that stay constant, but the tactics of marketing are changing every day. You need updates. Don’t get caught up in the ‘fad du jour’ mob mentality on Twitter, but do stay abreast of marketing trends by following marketers on Twitter. (I may do a follow-up post to this one of Twitter recommendations … posted on a Friday, of course.)

And there’s still a need for longer content than 140 characters so make it a habit to read competent marketing blogs and online versions of marketing publications. Look on the right sidebar of this page for my marketing blogroll. (link for rss readers)

And while not reading, you should be watching TED videos.

— Your books —

Initially, this post seemed like a great idea as a quick listing of essential business books. But it’s been one of the hardest I’ve written. I have had to leave out many books I enjoyed and found valuable, but would have made this list much too long.

So I’m turning it over to you. What essential book on the marketer’s bookshelf did I miss? Feel free to leave your recommendations in the comments.

Disclosure: I wrote one of these books. Most links are Amazon affiliate links. A list of these books can be found on Amazon.

blitz aftermath

You should never eat food cooked by a skinny chef. You also should never buy a marketing book from someone who can’t get the message out about that book.

I am really happy with the success of Tuesday’s Amazon Blitz for Brand Zeitgeist. The book rocketed up the Amazon Sales Rank. It started in the sub-basement at #446,248 and went all the way up to the high water mark of #3,148 in just a few hours. I am most pleased that we stayed in the top 100 of books in the Marketing category for most of the day. The high point was when Brand Zeitgeist was the #33 most popular marketing book on Amazon.

Of course, the whole endeavor was just a gaming of the Amazon rank system. Today, the book has fallen back down (just checked — it’s at #9,732 this hour). But the blitz accomplished several of my goals: it’s still allowing the book to occupy a higher spot than it did (9,732 is better than 446,248) But more importantly, it put the book in the hands of a lot of people on Tuesday.

Obviously, the sales are nice from that. But I’m hoping for a secondary effect as those people read it, blog it, review it, tweet it, and spread it in all manner of ways to their IRL and online networks. It’s confirmation of a point I made in the book. You have to grab the attention of the Innovators and Early Adopters in any new product launch for the brand to become fixed in the zeitgeist.

The nice way to describe my budget for the blitz is “bootstrapped”. The more accurate word is “cheap”. Basically I leveraged and co-ordinated my existing networks. I called in favors. I did a few targeted media buys (the 800-lb gorilla of those being a HARO ad). I used the Brand Zeitgeist Facebook page as a central communication hub that fed out to other SM as current fans of the book helped spread the word about the blitz through their networks. And I prayed.

As with anything, there were mistakes. I wish I had co-ordinated my blog tour a bit better. I wish my publisher had listed the book in more categories (I would have shown up higher in some additional categories). And I wish I had done a smaller pre-blitz to give the main blitz a better jumping-off point than from #446,248. But — hindsight is 20/20.

The Amazon rank is just a number. The point is not to sell books. The point is to spread the ideas. The Amazon blitz was a good jumping off point for the rest of the book’s promotion. I now head into media interviews (some additional ones generated by yesterday’s blitz) and physical location book tours for the next few months (counting down to the book tour kickoff with home field advantage on May 2nd in Bowling Green).

The big thing I take from the blitz is not the rank or the sales figures — it’s the people. There were people spreading the word for me that I had never met. I had lots of personal friends, who maybe were not that interested in marketing, buying a book just to help me out. I got lots of encouragement from several people.

If you bought a book, spread the links to your friends, or just wished me well — I truly appreciate it.

And if you didn’t get to take part yesterday, it’s never too late. http://www.amazon.com/Brand-Zeitgeist-Relationships-Collective-Consciousness/dp/1450206794  😉

amazon blitz

In the spirit of Joseph Jaffe’s Amazon bumrush, I’m holding the Brand Zeitgeist Amazon Blitz on Tuesday.

Basically, the Amazon blitz is a focusing of all online efforts to game the Amazon sales ranks. If a book goes up on the charts, there’s a good possibility that it will stick. If you’ve ever seen any of my presentations where I talk about media planning, it’s a bellyflop instead of toes in the water.

If you’re going to purchase a copy of Brand Zeitgeist online, I would appreciate it if you did it sometime on Tuesday 3/23. Here’s the link:

I don’t plan to knock Michael Lewis’ The Big Short out of the top #1 spot, but I would love to see Brand Zeitgeist a little higher on the marketing charts.

Invite your friends via Facebook here or you can download the event to your Outlook or other calendar.

Or you could just forward this link: http://www.amazon.com/Brand-Zeitgeist-Relationships-Collective-Consciousness/dp/1450206794

As always, thank you for your support. I appreciate all the support I’ve gotten thus far from blog readers, friends, and complete strangers who have gotten excited about the book.

Look for my IRL book tour dates coming soon.

business book reviewers

My publisher has provided me with a limited number of review copies of Brand Zeitgeist. I am looking for a few good online mavens and connectors who want to review the book.

If you have an active (couple of posts per month) small biz or marketing related blog, some dedicated Twitter followers, you’re a power Amazon reviewer, or you have some other online superpower — please email me and I’ll mail you a free copy of the book.

You’re under no obligation to provide a positive review — just an honest one. The reviews will be highlighted on this site and others during the online book tour from March 22 – 26.

The book is a quick read, 108 pages, and full of interesting case studies. The big idea behind Brand Zeitgiest is that it reinforces basic marketing and branding principles and illustrates how businesses can use fundamental aspects of human nature to develop a brand strategy. Find the pdf of the Brand Zeitgeist sell sheet here.


By the way, the best way to keep up with events and other info about Brand Zeitgeist is to connect on the Brand Zeitgeist Facebook page (or if you’re not a FB person, all the Facebook posts feed to @BrandZeitgeist on Twitter.)

And mark your calendar for the Brand Zeitgeist Amazon.com Blitz on March 23rd. (Download a reminder for your calendar here.)

(Or if you can’t wait 😉 buy your copy of Brand Zeitgeist on Amazon.com or Barnes & Noble today!)

want to write a business book blurb?

UPDATE: manuscript has been sent to all who requested it for blurbs. If you requested and didn’t get an email from me, contact me.


For the past year, I’ve been writing a book.
(a blog post will eventually be written about the joys and struggles of doing so)

It’s due to the publisher the week of Thanksgiving. (thankfully)

This new business book will hit the streets (as well as bookstores and Amazon) in early 2010. It looks at how groups and the overall society relates to brands and how brands can relate back to their markets’ culture. The book is geared toward brand novices. But it can also can be enjoyed by branding experts as a fresh look at how brands relate to society as well as a refresher of branding basics.

I’m looking for experts with demonstrative credentials in branding, advertising, or other business marketing areas to offer blurbs about the upcoming book.  These blurbs will be used in the forthcoming promotion of the book with the possibility of some being used on the book cover.
(uh, exactly what is a BLURB?)

If you’d like to write a short blurb about the book, please contact me via email or twitter by this weekend.

A pdf of the manuscript will be sent over the weekend only to those respondents that have offered sufficient credentials in their initial request. (super bonus points for previously published business authors!)

You’ll have a week (until 11/20) to read the manuscript (it’s a quick read) and send the blurb back to me along with how you’d like to be credited. If after reading the manuscript you feel that you cannot offer a positive recommendation, you are under no obligation to do so.

Bonus for people who read to the end of blog posts: Currently, the book will be published without a foreword. If after reading the book, you feel you can offer a 500 – 2000 word foreword. I’d be delighted in talking to you about how we can do that.

And if you’re stressed that you can’t help me right now, don’t despair. After the first of the year, there will be a blog book tour, a sales blitz, and the opportunity to do reviews.

business books at the movies

You know, the movie is never as good as the book.

Seems it’s pretty hard to capture the essence of a fictional (or real life) written story into a screenplay. But what kind of huge challenge would be faced when making a non-fiction business book into a movie?

Apparently, we’re going to find out as Malcolm Gladwell‘s Blink is going to be made into a movie starring Al Pacino. (no joke)

Possible Pacino movie quotes from Blink the movie?
(Scent of a Woman flavored) — “Chah-ley, my boy, in the first five seconds after approaching her table, I knew I would tango with her. Hoo-hah! I’m just gettin’ stah-ted!”
(The Godfather flavored) — “Fredo, don’t thin slice anyone against the Family again.”

I digress.

What if this catches on? What if other business books are adapted to the screen?

In Search of Excellence
by Tom Peters and Robert Waterman
Two dudes travel through time collecting important people from business history for an oral presentation in their MBA program.

Guerrilla Marketing
by Jay Conrad Levinson
In 1972, a crack commando marketing unit was sent to prison by a military court for a crime they didn’t commit. These men promptly escaped from a maximum security stockade to the Los Angeles underground. Today, still wanted by the government, they survive as guerrilla marketers. If you have a marketing problem, if no one else can help, and if you can find them, maybe you can hire… The Guerrilla Marketing Team.

The Wealth of Nations
by Adam Smith
Socialists send a cyborg assassin back in time to kill Adam Smith’s mother.

War in the Boardroom
by Al and Laura Ries
An Army Major is assigned a dozen convicted creatives/marketers to train and lead them to infiltrate an off site meeting of CEOs at a chateau in France.

100 Best Business Books of All Time
by Jack Covert and Todd Sattersten
Kramer tries to convince Elaine to pitch his idea for a “business book about business books” to Mr. Lippman.

The Wisdom of Crowds
by James Surowieki
A tidal wave overturns an ocean liner. People must make the decision to stay put with the majority or follow a ragtag group up through the bowels of the ship.

Purple Cow
by Seth Godin
A spider uses outdoor advertising in a high traffic area on the farm to convince others that a cow is “remarkable” and “some cow”

What are your ideas? What biz book would you like to see made into a movie? Leave them in the comments. Also — bonus points for anyone in the comments who can list the movies/tv shows I’ve based these descriptions on.

me 2.0

A few weeks ago, Dan Schawbel forwarded me a sneak peek of his new book, Me 2.0: Build a Powerful Brand to Achieve Career Success and asked me to offer a review.

The idea of a personal brand not a new idea. I remember chewing on the concept when Tom Peters introduced it back in one of the first issues of Fast Company magazine. But Tom may have been a little ahead of his time (he usually is). When he introduced the idea back in the late 90s, the web was still primarily a one way medium of electronic brochure websites. But today’s social web offers an easy on-ramp for anyone to build a personal brand. The problem is that most people (young and old) don’t realize they’re building (or destroying) their brand with their online actions.

Dan has geared his book toward Gen Y / Millennials young professionals. But it’s a good basic primer for anyone who wants to control the brand image they’re projecting. While Me 2.0 does offer advice on networking and the off-line real world, most of the book focuses on how to use personal websites, blogs, and social networks to build an online brand for the individual. Frankly, it should be required reading before anyone can sign up for a Facebook, LinkedIn, or other social network account.

If you’re a seasoned pro at networking (online and off), the book will probably be a bit too basic for you. But if you’re just starting a career or are new to the online world, Me 2.0 is an essential guide. The job market is rough for anyone right now — especially so for young professionals. Me 2.0 solidifies the idea that has been true for sometime now. The “company man” has faded into the background and is gone. Each individual is a product that needs to stand up and be noticed. The way to do that is with your personal brand.

It’s a lot like the old saying: the best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago; the second best time is today. You should already be properly managing your personal brand. If you’re not, now is the time to start.

DISCLAIMER: Dan provided me a free copy of the book to review.