Ten Books for Digital Marketers

If you’re into digital marketing, and want a reading list that will enhance your perspective on your field, here’s a list of ten of the most relevant books for you to read.

QR Codes Kill Kittens: How to Alienate Customers, Dishearten Employees, and Drive Your Business into the Ground – Scott Stratten

What’s better than a book on marketing which tells you what to do? One that lists off exactly what you should not be doing and what’s wrong with it, of course.  Any idiot can get published these days with some self-improvement idea or the other, whether or not it’s actually been tested (and besides, in terms of ideas and marketing, what’s popular is not necessarily a good idea to follow anyway). Scott Stratten highlights everything you could be doing wrong in this must-have book for marketers.

Stratten tells us about which business decisions to avoid, on the somewhat comical and sarcastic basis that if bad marketing practices killed kittens, we would avoid them like the plague.  After all, “experts” are always going on and on about how to improve your business (in six easy steps!), but how do you filter out bad advice?  A list of what you should do is far less useful than having a list of what you should avoid at all costs, after all.  And most of these mistakes can be easily avoided – Stratten shows us real-life examples of how to avoid mistakes like using new technologies because you can and not because you should, insulting and ignoring your customers, trying to profit from tragedies, and deluding yourself into thinking you can automate authenticity.

Simple: Conquering the Crisis of Complexity – Alan Siegal and Irene Etzcorn

Keep it simple – this should be your mantra if you’re in the field of marketing.  All too often, that’s not the case, with simplicity being overlooked and too many complications being involved.  Alan Siegal and Irene Etzcorn have worked with businesses for years, teaching them that streamlining things and having a concise and clear message can deliver effective results for companies to engage with consumers.  Simple examines the best and worst practices of various enterprises, and shows how simplicity can be very effective as a philosophy, as a design aesthetic, and as a writing technique.  Simply put, simplicity can increase your revenues and improve your service or brand, both essential for any organization which is built on customers’ trust – so basically any business.

Spin Sucks – Gini Dietrich


Sales pitches are really annoying, and even if you are into marketing, there are far more productive things you should be doing rather lauding your company’s product as if it’s the best thing that ever happened to the world since the printing press was invented.  No one really believes you anyway, so what’s with this heightened sense of artificiality?  If you really want to engage in sycophancy, you should give up your marketing job and go handle PR for the North Korean government.  Don’t know how to do that (no, I don’t mean how to get a visa to North Korea), since half of the guides on PR tell you that spinning things will do you wonders? Well, you’re in luck, since Gini Dietrich has written a book on how to stop with the spin, and regain peoples’ trust in your company’s products, honestly and effectively.  In other words, no more turning to sex, extortion, or exaggeration; you can instead humanize your company and gain customers’ trust.

The Art of Social Media – Guy Kawasaki and Peg Fitzpatrick

Digital marketing implies that you’ll be working with digital media, and one could safely assume that includes social media such as Facebook.  And if you can’t manage this, you need to learn it or find a new career path.  Fortunately, Guy Kawasaki and Peg Fitzpatrick have written a book on exactly how to deal with your campaigns on social media effectively.  The duo gives insights into building a bottom-up strategy for producing a focused, thorough, and compelling presence on social-media platforms with various tips and insights.  This is an effective guide for you to acquire more followers, integrate social media and blogging, optimize your profile, and amass digital assets.  Not to be missed if your into digital marketing.

Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products – Nir Eyal

Repeat customers are the best customers a business could ask for. Nir Eyal sets forth a four-tiered process for subtly encouraging customer behavior, so that you don’t have to rely on advertising or aggressive messaging to grow your base.  Eyal basically wrote Hooked in order to give the world what he wished he had as a resource when he founded his start-up, and it’s based on years of research, consultation, and experience.

Unselling: The New Customer Experience – Scott Stratten and Alison Kramer

If you’re part of a business, you should know that repeat customers are one of the best things you can have.  And there’s far too much emphasis on this idea of the sales transaction being so essential, with less focus on more important things like customer service, support, branding, product quality, and customer experience.  You’ll do well to remember that someone’s decision to purchase a product is already partly made before they come to your company.  In Unselling, Scott Stratten and Alison Kramer tell you how to become the go-to company before clients even need you, how to build relationships to get repeat customers,  and how to create loyal clients who will actually refer others to you – all essential for marketers.

Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die – Chip Heath and Dan Heath

You’ve probably wondered why some ideas regardless of how true they are, tend to circulate the world over and ingrain themselves inextricably in peoples’ consciousness.  That’s exactly what Chip and Dan Heath explain in Made to Stick, and it’s important knowledge to have if you’re into marketing or advertising or anything else in a related field.  Essentially, anything that “sticks” has six essential traits, and this book highlights how you can apply these rules in order to further your message.

The Pirate’s Dilemma: How Youth Culture is Reinventing Capitalism – Matt Mason

Young people should be part of your target audience if you’re into marketing; otherwise you’re not really going to get anywhere unless you’re selling products to senior citizens.  In order to understand young people as an audience, you need to grasp the nuances of youth culture. In The Pirate’s Dilemma, Matt Mason gives us insights into the countercultural movements which have become mainstream industries and movements – it’s food for thought, given the changing times.  Mason argues that how people, governments, and corporations react to the changes in a world where innovators are sailing uncharted waters (thus the titular “pirates”) will ultimately chart the course for this century.

UnMarketing: Stop Marketing, Start Engaging – Scott Stratten


Ah, you’re a marketer . . . like it or not, that’s how the world sees you.  People in your field have a reputation for doing things like calling people and randomly interrupting their lives, flooding their inboxes with junk, interrupt television programs with ads, filling their actual mailboxes with junk flyers, filling our cities with visual clutter (billboards and posters and buses covered in this insulting assault on aesthetic sensibilities).   You spin things like there’s no tomorrow, like everyone in the world actually needs your product desperately, and as if the human race is so gullible to believe that there’s no distinction between fact and sales pitch (okay, so that’s true to a degree, a fact exploited by advertisers).

In UnMarketing, Scott Stratten tells you how to move beyond marketing into consumer engagement. This holds valuable lessons in a world where business-consumer relationship dynamics are changing, where your role as a marketer is to create a dialogue with consumers rather than forcing your product down their throats. You’ll learn how to get people to listen and engage with you, setting up a position for your company to be logical choice for your customers by building trust.

Contagious: Why Things Catch On – Jonah Berger

If you’re a marketer, you crave for viral consumer engagement.  If you have a product which fills a niche, if you’re the only player, or if you’re Apple, then this isn’t so much of a pressing concern.  But that’s not the case for many companies.  And you’d do well to remember the fact that people listen to their peers, not advertisements.  In Contagious, Jonah Berger explains what makes certain products and ideas garner so much excitement, what makes online content go viral, and the social science behind word-of-mouth and social transmission.  This is essential to understand if you’re trying to build your brand’s image.

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