Recently, one of my MBA students at the University of San Francisco asked me what the "must-read" books for any marketing/advertising major are. He wanted to begin building a library of work-related classics. The Great Books of Durham, he called them! Wow! What a question!
As a guy who reads five to seven books a week, so many good ones come to mind. But when I began to really think about it, there are a few that stand out from the others. Some are classics, some are short; some are academic in nature, some are memorable because they get you to think deeply about this business.
So, modestly, here are my book-reading suggestions, with asterisks (**) next to the five I consider "must-reads." I'm sure you have your own favorites you would want to see on this list and I'm just as sure that the list will change a year from now. But all of these are dog-eared books in my advertising/marketing collection, which is pretty extensive. I'd love to get your thoughts and suggestions as well! This is only a reading list, and paraphrasing David Ogilvy, "advertising is a great field; anything can prepare you for it."
The Medium is the Message by Marshall McLluhan. This is one of the classics and most might quote from it, but have never read it. It's so basic and so timeless, and if you're in your business getting a paycheck, read this!
**The Art of Advertising and What's the Big Idea? Both are by George Lois (Abrams), the man who brings us the thinking behind the BIG IDEA. This book got me excited to be in this business, and the Art book is about big visual ideas.
Beyond Disruption: Changing the Rules in the Marketplace by Jean-Marie Dru (Adweek). A total page turner from beginning to end, this book gets you a bit uncomfortable in your thinking.
The Book of Gossage by Howard Gossage (The Copy Workshop). A San Francisco treat! Get a good bottle of Krug and sit back with this and smile!
Lovemarks by Kevin Roberts. I read this last year and it's in my list because Roberts gets you to think about clients and client treatment.
Building Brand Identity by Lynn Upshaw (Wiley). Upshaw is a brand manager who gives you insights and strong academic thinking: she "gets it!"
**Social Communication in Advertising: Consumption in the Mediated Marketplace by Lewis, Kline,Thally & Botterill. This book gives you a perspective on consumer behavior and how messaging and media drive purchase.
Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Dr. Robert Cralladini (Quinn). This is an academic treatise that is about the importance of persuasion.
Creative Leaps: 10 Lessons in Effective Advertising by Michael Newman (Wiley). This is a strong treatise that goes from creative 101 to a PhD in creativity.
The Advertised Mind by Erik DuPlessis (Kogan Page). This is a strong academic book that gets into the mental insights of customers and how to probe and induce buying behavior.
Ogilvy on Advertising; David Ogilvy, an Autobiography; and The Unpublished David Ogilvy. These books collectively make up one of the best trios of books, which provide classic thinking from the best man in the business. The books are so timeless, and each year I re-read parts of them and find the content is all still relevant!
And Now a Few words From Me by Bob Garfield (McGraw-Hill). A critical view from one of the people I so respect, this tome gives you some inner perspective on advertising creativity; and Garfield's wit kills me!
5 Giants of Advertising by Phillippe Lurisi (Assouline). This is a strong coffee-table book that profiles the five giants in this business: how they work, their thinking, and how they continue to help us grow in this business!
Sex Appeal: The Art of Allure in Graphic and Advertising Design by Steven Heller (Allworth Press). Sex is such a part of our business, and this book helps you think about how sex and sensuality sell goods and services.
Leap: A Revolution in Creative Business Strategy by Bob Schmetterer (Wiley). This book provides good lessons from a top agency executive; it's really good for both business development and strategy people in helping them understand some thinking.
Advertising and the Mind of the Consumer by Sutherland & Sylvester (Allen Union). Sometimes you need an international academic perspective to help you think about consumer buying behavior, and this is the one and must-read for that!
Positioning for the Battle of your Mind by Trout & Ries (McGraw-Hill). If you have not read this, why are you in the business? It provides basic fundamental thinking!
Convergence Culture by Henry Jenkins. I heard him speak at an iMedia event and went out and ordered his book. Wow, his intelligence and analysis are so powerful. I'm a big fan, but you might need a Scotch when reading this!
Pyramids are Tombs by Joe Phelps (IMC Publishing). Phelps owns a strong agency in southern California. His book is fine reading, and will scare the hell out of traditional agency thinking. It's good for strategic drive!
**Persuasion in Advertising by John O'Shaughnessy (Routledge). All advertising is to persuade, inform and remind. This academic tome guides you through some persuasive appeals.
Communities Dominate Brands by Ahonen & Moore (Futuretext). Scott Sorokin from Carat turned me on to this book and after one read I discovered that it is so important in helping us understand how communities work and can harness this intelligence for our business.
Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman (Bantam). I am a fan of all of the EQ series, but I think that as we work in this business, we need some emotional stability to keep us sane. This is my chicken soup book, which goes well with a good French burgundy.
**Competitive Strategy by Michael Porter (Harvard Business School Press). One of my favorite must-reads, this book is a strategy driver and a classic. It helps you think of the overall picture and the forces that drive action.
Managing Brand Equity by David Aacker (Free Press). David Aacker is a Cal Berkeley marketing professor who gets it. His book is worth the read, and helps you frame your day-to-day business thought.
**The Imagination Challenge: Strategic Foresight and Innovation in the Global Economy by Alexander Manu (AIGA/New Rider Press). This is the OH WOW read, which I have sent to so many people. It brings the thinking together for 2007 and beyond.
How Customers Think by Gerald Zaltman (Harvard Business School Press). I think so much about how people buy goods and services so Zaltman's book frames some good thoughts. A must-read for creatives!
Life After the 30 Second Spot by Joe Jaffe (Adweek). Joe Jaffe is a friend, and I liked this book for the perspective it brings to the digital world.
The Paradox of Choice: Why More is Less by Barry Schwartz (Gayer Perennial). This is a good book with a cold beer and a hangover. It dredges up deep thoughts, but is well worth it.
Creative Advertising: Ideas and Techniques from the Best Campaigns by Mario Prichen (Thames & Hudson). I used this once as textbook and so fell in love with the whole book. It's good for anyone who wants to see how messaging works, and it provides great examples!
The above represents what should be on your shelves. These provide insight into all areas: strategy, creative, media and personal growth. I know that there are no "sales" books here. I am happy to recommend one or two of those, but a good salesperson in this business will be better for reading these. I would love to hear what's on your own list.