Technique 6 minutes, 12 second read Mark Johnson, Editor, Just.Marketing
With Christmas only a few weeks away, we could offer little better advice than to have a book ready for when you want to lose yourself in its pages over the holidays.
So just in case you fancy reading about marketing, we asked five industry leaders to share the book that has most shaped their thinking over the years – the classic that they think their peers should read and to offer a few of the reasons they are making their particular recommendation.
‘Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion’ by Robert Cialdini
Recommended by Justin Westcott, Chief Operating Officer, UK & Ireland, Edelman
“It’s sometimes easy to forget our profession is built on empirical scientific research; we often get caught in the day-to-day of our clients and forget that at the root of much of what we do we’re looking to drive a change of behaviour, shift mindset or get individuals or communities to take action. I often take the time to step-back and refresh myself on the science, the theory, by going back to some of the classics written on the field of Behaviour psychology. But if I had to just read one, then for me the must-read would be Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert Cialdini. Written in the 1980s, and since updated, the theory and science of what it takes for people to say ‘yes’ is still applicable to everything we do.
“It is in this book that Cialdini first introduced his 6 Principles of Influence to help in persuading others, he was able to show how much impact they each have at a subconscious level.
“They are: Reciprocity – do something for someone and they’re more likely to do something for you; Scarcity – the fewer there is of something the more people want them; Consistency – people unconsciously want to act in accordance with previous behaviour; Social Proof – people tend to go with the crowd, not against; Liking – the people we like more easily persuade us; and Authority – people defer to people in authority.
‘Understanding these subconscious drivers of human behaviour is a valuable play-book for a communicator to have, a book that should adorn every bookcase.’
‘Everybody Writes’ by Anne Handley
Recommended by Laura M. Sutherland, Chief, Aura, and Chair, CIPR Fellows’ Forum
“The book is about storytelling and creating compelling content with impact. It focuses on the purpose of content, the audience, and really looks at nailing what is being written and how it’s supposed to make people feel and what they’ve to do as a result of reading it.
“If you look at everything we write, it includes every form of written communication, which is more important than ever, to cut through all the other content and make yours stand out.
“It’s a practical book with how-to tips. It looks at developing writing styles, putting the customer at the centre of the content and then goes into production and publishing. There is a great section on writing tools, too.
“Whether you work in PR, marketing, advertising, content marketing, SEO, writing is one of the biggest parts of our job. Crafting the launch campaign tweet, writing the perfect headline, tags and content for SEO or pitching to new clients.
“We must continue to sharpen our pencils!”
'Factfulness’ by Hans Rosling
Recommended by Stuart Lambert, Founding Partner, Blurred
“There’s a statement that brooks no argument. And it’s the inarguable reason why everyone – including every marketer – should read Factfulness by Hans Rosling. Factfulness is more than just the book’s title; it’s its purpose, its values, its content, its rationale. Hans Rosling was a Swedish statistician, doctor and – once upon a time, as he relays in his unique style – sword-swallower.
“He was also a passionate evangelist for adopting a ‘fact-based worldview’, one that eschews panic and blame and rash decision-making, and instead seeks to follow a clear-headed and calm approach to policy and strategy based on understanding the world as it truly is, not as you wrongly assume it to be. Because, as he proves beyond doubt, we do wrongly assume things. All of us.
“The book is filled with optimism, and people called Rosling an optimist. But he himself demurred, preferring the term ‘possibilist’. Someone who neither hopes without reason, nor fears without reason. Someone who constantly resists an overdramatic perspective.
“As marketers, our purpose is to lead businesses towards a future where they succeed by helping fix the world’s complex problems. In that light, it’s vital that every single one of us becomes a possibilist.”
‘Eating the Big Fish’ by Adam Morgan
Recommended by Dave Stevens, founder and chair, the Business Marketing Club
“Right now I'm reading a great book by Adam Morgan called Eating the Big Fish. It lays out the argument for how challenger brands – those businesses that trail the market leader in a particular sector – can't compete on a level playing field with the number one and lays out a strategy for taking the fight to them. It's a strategy that has been
used by Avis, Nintendo, and Linux down the years and I've made use of the approach myself in some of my recent marketing roles.
“Morgan offers some good advice laced with concise practical examples. For him, challenger is a state of mind as much as a state of market. In particular, I am impressed by a section that explains how to start applying his thinking from a standing start with a two-day off-site workshop. Most marketing books don’t stray out of the theoretical. And there’s a nice piece around how to retain the challenger brand mentality when you’ve applied Morgan’s methodology once and successfully become the brand leader.
“This is a beguiling book indeed. But there is one thing it lacks. For my money, Morgan could use a few more examples from the B2B world to show more clearly how his ideas and concepts apply here.”
‘Disruption: Overturning Conventions and Shaking Up the Marketplace’ by Jean-Marie Dru
Recommended by Graham Goodkind, Founder and Chairman, Frank
“I've always really enjoyed the creative side of my job and this book helped me to understand and develop a way of thinking that I guess I'd always had quite naturally and
innately. It prompted me to apply a bit more of a process and develop my own methodology – which I eventually trademarked as Talkability® – and is still part and parcel of the Frank approach to this day.
“Jean-Marie Dru is one of advertising’s greats and these days is now Chairman of TBWA Worldwide. He wrote this book in 1996 and for me it is just as relevant today as it was then. Disruption is about uncovering the culturally embedded biases and conventions that shape standard approaches to business thinking and get in the way of clear, creative thinking. It's about shattering those biases and conventions and setting creativity free to forge a radical new vision of a product, brand, or service. It's about spearheading change rather than reacting to it. In this book, Dru explains how to harness the enormous potential of this concept.
“I think its teachings are timeless.”