Read Your Way to CMO Status With the 9 Best Marketing Books

Contagious by Jonah Berger
Jonah Berger

Everything revolves around marketing these days—just this week I attended an interesting talk about self-promotion on social media. Most of us not only work for a brand in one shape or form, but we are also curating our own personal brands, too. And in either case, the best marketing books out there come in handy. No matter what you’re trying to market more effectively, you’ll need to learn some basics first.

Unless you took several marketing classes in college—I took just one, and I was a business minor—you could probably use a refresher on the topic. The good news is that there is a bevy of books out there that cover just about every aspect of marketing—what makes something go viral, how to curate a personal identity, and even affiliate marketing. Going back to school may not be necessary: The best marketing books will catch you up to CMO status in no time at all. Read one—or all nine—and you’ll be one step closer to your corner office.

Performance Partnerships by Robert Glazer
Robert Glazer Performance Partnerships $16

Did you ever realize that some of your favorite bloggers make a percentage of proceeds every time someone clicks a link to a product they recommend on their site? Enter the world of affiliate marketing. It can be a mutually beneficial relationship for both the influencer and the brand, which is what Robert Glazer talks about in his book Performance Partnerships. One reader calls it “a great read for CMOs and digital marketers” since more than 20 industry vets break down the practice and where they think it’s going.

Top of Mind by John Hall
John Hall Top of Mind $18

John Hall, the CEO of Influence & Co., takes a deep dive into what makes certain brands leaders in their categories. In the book, he insists that it’s all about creating an authentic brand, which you can do through the content you churn out. “If you’re looking for strategies to keep your company’s brand in the minds and hearts of your audience, this book is a great start,” muses one reader.

Contagious: Why Things Catch On by Jonah Berger
Jonah Berger Contagious: Why Things Catch On $9

Wharton professor Jonah Berger breaks down the six steps that make a product or thing “contagious,” or viral. The most popular things rise to that status because of word of mouth, but it’s how you market a product everyone can’t stop talking about that is the real conundrum.

Difference by Bernadette Jiwa
Bernadette Jiwa Difference $7

The premise of Bernadette Jiwa's book Difference is that in order to be a successful company, you should have something that makes you unique among your competitors. How to do that? Create a plan to connect with your customers and find characteristics that help you stand out. One reader says: "Unlike many business books, this one had very little 'fluff.' It was a quick read explaining a couple of fundamental ideas and providing a simple tool for applying them."

Hit Makers: How to Succeed in an Age of Distraction by Derek Thompson
Derek Thompson Hit Makers: How to Succeed in an Age of Distraction $12

The Atlantic editor Derek Thompson delves into how—and why—certain ideas take-off (and why others don’t). He details the rise in popularity of everything from Fifty Shades of Grey to Facebook. One reader muses about Thompson: “He’s a journalist and uses this book to go much further than he could with just simple articles. You’ll be surprised and gain a lot of insight into contemporary culture, which will make you think about what you like and dislike and why.”

The Life of P.T. Barnum by P.T. Barnum
P.T. Barnum The Life of P.T. Barnum $13

I’m from Connecticut—P.T. Barnum’s home state—so the showman’s success story is no surprise to me (he’s the genius behind the Barnum & Bailey Circus). Although it’s not a strict “marketing book,” this autobiography is worth a read for anyone trying to cultivate their own personal brand. Readers said there were tons of anecdotes and stories throughout—some that even made them laugh out loud—but don’t stop before reading the entertainer’s rules for success at the very end.

Chief Marketing Officers at Work by Josh Steimle
Josh Steimle Chief Marketing Officers at Work $30

If you aspire to be a CMO, why not hear exactly how these high-level execs honed their skill sets to get to where they are today? And there’s no better format than in long-form interviews with thought leaders from GE, Spotify, and Home Depot (just to name a few). You’ll hear all about leading with statistics, gauging the environment, and how to collaborate with other top-level employees.

Purple Cow: Transform Your Business by Being Remarkable by Seth Godin
Seth Godin Purple Cow: Transform Your Business by Being Remarkable $8

The premise of this book is that if you saw a purple cow in the street, you would stop in your tracks because it was something you had never seen before. The goal? To market your products in a way that makes them a purple cow. “The world of marketing is changing dramatically, and Seth nails the issues of marketing clearly,” says one reader. We think the best part is that he brings in real-life examples from successful companies like Starbucks, Apple, and Krispy Kreme.

Everybody Writes by Everybody Writes
Ann Handley Everybody Writes $17

This book on content marketing discusses how important the written word is, from crafting simple tweets to writing full-on blog posts. Author Ann Handley touches on everything from simple tricks for better grammar to how to fully express yourself through choice words. “I found the author’s style to be entertaining and insightful as well as practical,” shares one reader. Tricks as simple as a formula for judging your writing will stick with you long after you’ve turned the last page.

Now that we’ve taken you on a tour of the best marketing books on the shelves right now, it’s time to start reading your way to being a stronger marketer. We believe in you.

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