7 Books Every Marketer Should Read In 2017

Often the incomprehensible pace at which the world is moving — sometimes beyond what we can predict or imagine — keeps changing the business rule book and how we interact with consumers every day.

To keep up with the pace, it is important every marketer read and read often. In this blog, we highlight 7 books (and a special mention) that will help make you a better marketer in 2017.

1. “HOOKED: How to Build Habit-Forming Products” by Nir Eyal

What makes some products like Facebook, Pinterest, Snapchat, and email engaging and addictive? What makes people click, like, scroll, and come back for more again and again? Nir answers these questions and more in this fascinating short read about the psychology of addictive products.

Hooked created quite the buzz in the San Francisco tech scene, due to its outline of the four-step model called the Hooked Model.

These four steps are a) Trigger b) Action c) Variable d) Reward Investment

Here’s the Hooked Model explaining the addictive cycle of using Pinterest.

In a nutshell, Trigger is what brings the user to a product to take an action that results in a reward that’s followed by further investment.

Whether you are an entrepreneur planning to create an engaging product, or a business trying to figure out how you can increase your site’s CRO, Hooked will tell you how to build that stickiness factor for your brand.

Best quote:

“Companies leverage two basic pulleys of human behavior to increase the likelihood of an action occurring: the ease of performing an action and the psychological motivation to do it.”

About the author:
Nir has taught at the Stanford Graduate School of Business and Hasso Plattner Institute of Design. His writing on technology, psychology, and business appears in the Harvard Business Review, The Atlantic, TechCrunch, and Psychology Today. He writes for Nirandfar.com.

2. “Thinking Fast and Slow” by Daniel Kahneman

Thinking Fast and Slow helps you understand the core of all your marketing initiatives: people.

Kahneman offers an insightful and perspective altering deep dive into what makes people tick and why they make certain judgments and decisions. In this groundbreaking page turner, he describes two important systems of thinking.

The first focuses on the intuitive, fast, and emotional aspect of the mind. The second concentrates on the more logical and rational part. Kahneman describes how both systems function, the fallacies at work, and how we make decisions based on them.

To get a sense of Daniel Kahneman’s capability of changing how you think, watch his TED Talk about the riddle of experience vs. memory.

Best quote:

“A general “law of least effort” applies to cognitive as well as physical exertion. The law asserts that if there are several ways of achieving the same goal, people will eventually gravitate to the least demanding course of action. In the economy of action, effort is a cost, and the acquisition of skill is driven by the balance of benefits and costs. Laziness is built deep into our nature.”

About the author:
Daniel Kahneman is an Israeli-American psychologist and winner of the 2002 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences, notable for his work on behavioral finance and hedonic psychology.

3. “Influence the Power of Persuasion” by Robert Ciadldini

Robert Cialdini explores the six principles that form the base of how businesses market and get people to say “Yes.”

Reciprocation: Why providing long-term value and building trust are key to acquisition and retention.
Commitment and Consistency: How to make small commitments go a long way.
Social Proof: Why people display herd behavior and how you can use it to market more efficiently.
Liking: Why people get influenced by who they like and how you can use it to create better marketing offers.
Authority: This principle highlights why people tend to respect and obey authority.
Scarcity: In a nutshell, why flash sales work.

Check out this video summarizing these principles of persuasion and influence.

Although Influence came out in the 80’s, the principles are applicable today. It’s a definite must-read for those wanting to understand how cognitive gaps and biases play a huge role in our decision making.

Best quote:

“A well-known principle of human behavior says that when we ask someone to do us a favor, we will be more successful if we provide a reason. People simply like to have reasons for what they do.”

About the author:
Dr. Cialdini is President of INFLUENCE AT WORK, an international consulting, strategic planning and training organization based on the Six Principles of Influence.

4. “Rework” by Jason Fried

Rework shows you how you can do business better by giving you invaluable lessons and advice.

It highlights the importance of working smarter and truly serving the customers. The best part about Rework is the practical wisdom it offers. Whether your business is just starting out or has been around for you, this book offers you tips on how to tighten up your development strategies.

Best quote:

“Working without a plan may seem scary. But blindly following a plan that has no relationship with reality is even scarier.”

About the author:
Jason Fried is the Founder & CEO at Basecamp and the co-author of “Getting Real”, “Remote”, and “Rework”.

5. “Traction: How Any Startup Can Achieve Explosive Customer Growth” by Gabriel Weinberg & Justin Mares

“Poor distribution — not product — is the number one cause of failure.” — Peter Thiel

Acquiring customers during the initial launch of your business is a key indicator of how your company will perform in the long run.

Traction provides a bullseye framework for growth used by the founders of Wikipedia, Evernote, and Reddit, to build some of the most successful companies and organizations in the world.

The framework is essentially a three step process you follow to arrive at the center of your target, i.e. the channels that will drive the most growth.

In total, Traction covers 19 marketing channels with strategies on how to use each effectively to drive growth and revenue. This quick read is a must for all entrepreneurs.

Best quote:

“Traction and product development are of equal importance and should each get about half of your attention. This is what we call the 50 percent rule: spend 50 percent of your time on product and 50 percent on traction.”

About the authors:
Gabriel Weinberg is the founder and CEO of DuckDuckGo, the search engine that doesn’t track you and protects your search history.

Justin Mares is the former Director of Revenue at Exceptional, a software company that Rackspace acquired for eight figures in 2013.

6. “Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions” by Dan Ariely

An experiment conducted by Dan Ariely found of the three subscription options for the Economist — print & web for $125, print for $125, and web for $59 — the number of people who chose print & web significantly increased when the publication introduced the print only version for the same price.

As consumers, we want our economic decisions to be carefully considered and rational. Many of them, however, are not. In this book, Dan Ariely challenges our assumptions that decision-making is based on rational thought.

Best quote:

“We usually think of ourselves as sitting the driver’s seat, with ultimate control over the decisions we make and the direction our life takes; but, alas, this perception has more to do with our desires for how we want to view ourselves, than with reality.”

About the author:
Dan Ariely is the James B. Duke Professor of Psychology and Behavioral Economics at Duke University and is the founder of The Center for Advanced Hindsight and also the co-founder of BEworks.

7. “Contagious: Why Things Catch On” by Jonah Berger

Why do certain products take off and others don’t? What makes a video go viral? How does a trend begin? Contagious describes the six basic principles that govern how ideas spread and go viral.

These principles are called STEPPS or Social Currency, Trigger, Emotions, Public, Practical Value, and Stories.

Source: Digital Rezonance

As a marketer, this book will help you understand how you can help your campaigns resonate with your audience.

Best quote:

“Why does it matter if particular thoughts or ideas are top of mind? Because accessible thoughts and ideas lead to action.”

About the author:
Jonah Berger is a professor at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. He is an expert on word of mouth, viral marketing, social influence, and trends.

Special Mention: “The Unpublished David Ogilvy” by David Ogilvy

An advertising classic by the original Mad Man himself, this book is a collection of letters acquired over five decades.

It is full of lessons on how to be better at business, how to practice the art of selling, and the importance of the creative process, among other things.

On September 7th of 1982, David Ogilvy sent an internal memo to all employees of his advertising agency, Ogilvy & Mather. The memo had the following advice on how to write, which also happens to be one of the best nuggets from the book.

Read the Roman-Raphaelson book on writing. Read it three times.

Write the way you talk. Naturally.

Use short words, short sentences and short paragraphs.

Never use jargon words like reconceptualize, demassification, attitudinally, judgmentally. They are hallmarks of a pretentious ass.

Never write more than two pages on any subject.

Check your quotations.

Never send a letter or a memo on the day you write it. Read it aloud the next morning — and then edit it.

If it is something important, get a colleague to improve it.

Before you send your letter or your memo, make sure it is crystal clear what you want the recipient to do.

If you want ACTION, don’t write. Go and tell the guy what you want.

The Unpublished Ogilvy is a short read and is a must for every Marketing & Advertising professional.

About the author:
David Ogilvy was an advertising tycoon, founder of Ogilvy & Mather, and known as the father of advertising.


The marketing landscape is always in a state of flux. The only way to stay relevant is by being open to learning new things.

Hence, books are not just an important source of knowledge but a necessity for growth — both personally and professionally.

So read, and read often.

This article was Originally published at marketing.sfgate.com

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