Holiday reading guide: 29 essential books for marketers as recommended by top CMOs

Warning: Very few of these books are about ‘marketing’. Marketing textbooks won’t get you to the top. They’re also no fun to read on holidays and make terrible gifts. Instead, the books in this list explore more interesting things like thinking about technology, thinking about people, thinking about culture and thinking about thinking. But they’re no random selection – they’re recommended reading from some of Australia’s top CMOs.

Whenever Marketing interviews a marketing director or CMO about their path to the top, we ask for a recommended reading list. They’re as diverse as they are essential, so whichever part of the marketing landscape you fit into, there’s guaranteed to be a book in this list for you to brush up on some skills or get some creative inspiration this holiday season. Or to purchase as a gift for a friend, relative or colleague.

The books below contain Amazon Associate links, meaning that purchases made via this site will provide Marketing a small affiliate fee. If you’re interested in purchasing one of them, using these links will not only procure yourself a book that could change your career or make a great gift, but support Marketing to keep publishing free content, too.

the five dysfunctions of a teamThe Five Dysfunctions of a Team: a leadership fable

By Patrick Lencioni

In The Five Dysfunctions of a Team Patrick Lencioni once again offers a leadership fable that is as enthralling and instructive as his first two best-selling books, The Five Temptations of a CEO and The Four Obsessions of an Extraordinary Executive. This time, he turns his keen intellect and storytelling power to the fascinating, complex world of teams.

Recommended by: Matthias Schuecking Asia-Pacific marketing director at Airbnb

 

 

hegarty on advertisingHegarty on Advertising

By John Hegarty

A look into what lies behind great ideas and brilliant advertising, told by one of the industry’s leading players. What makes a great idea? How does one best pitch to a prospective client? What effect will new technology have on advertising? Written by one of the world’s leading advertising creatives.

Recommended by: Matthias Schuecking Asia-Pacific marketing director at Airbnb

 

 

the art of travelThe Art of Travel

By Alain De Botton

Any Baedeker will tell us where we ought to travel, but only Alain de Botton will tell us how and why. With the same intelligence and insouciant charm he brought to How Proust Can Save Your Life, de Botton considers the pleasures of anticipation; the allure of the exotic, and the value of noticing everything from a seascape in Barbados to the takeoffs at Heathrow.

Recommended by: Matthias Schuecking Asia-Pacific marketing director at Airbnb

 

 

start with whyStart with Why: how great leaders inspire everyone to take action

By Simon Sinek

In 2009, Simon Sinek started a movement to help people become more inspired at work, and in turn inspire their colleagues and customers. Since then, millions have been touched by the power of his ideas, including more than 28 million who’ve watched his TED Talk based on Start With Why – the third most popular TED video of all time.

Recommended by: Matthias Schuecking Asia-Pacific marketing director at Airbnb

 

 

disruption overturningDisruption: overturning conventions and shaking up the marketplace

By Jean-Marie Dru

Disruption? It’s nothing new. Just look at any of the breakthrough business ideas of the last thirty years—from Federal Express overnight delivery to Saturn’s fixed sticker price—and you’ll see a perfect example of the principle of disruption in action. Still, do you really understand what makes these ideas great?

Recommended by: Matthias Schuecking Asia-Pacific marketing director at Airbnb

 

 

breaking throughBreaking through: implementing customer focus in enterprises

By Sandra Vandermerwe

In this book the author brings together distinctive and cutting edge work based upon her own research and work with leading companies in the overlapping areas of strategy, marketing and innovation to provide a new and dynamic model to implement customer focus in enterprizes. In an environment of falling margins the model shows how to increase value to customers and improve business results.

Recommended by: Matthias Schuecking Asia-Pacific marketing director at Airbnb

 

 

hacker maker teacher thiefHacker, Maker, Teacher, Thief: advertising’s next generation

By Creative Social

What does the industry need to do today (not tomorrow) to stay valuable and relevant? Pick up this book which features a collection of essays from 35 leading creative directors and business owners.

Recommended by: Matthias Schuecking Asia-Pacific marketing director at Airbnb

 

 

 

e novelE: a novel

By Matt Beaumont

Set in a London ad agency desperate to land a coveted big account, e follows the bureaucratic bungling, cutthroat maneuvers, and outrageous sexual antics of a group of Miller-Shanks employees as they scheme, lie, lust, and claw their way up (and down) the company ladder.

Recommended by: Caroline Patrick, general manager, marketing and strategic relationships at Police Health in Adelaide

 

 

eating the big fishEating the Big Fish: how challenger brands can compete against brand leaders

By Adam Morgan

The second edition of the international bestseller, now revised and updated for 2009, just in time for the business challenges ahead. It contains over 25 new interviews and case histories, two completely new chapters, introduces a new typology of 12 different kinds of Challengers, has extensive updates of the main chapters, a range of new exercises, supplies weblinks to view interviews online and offers supplementary downloadable information.

Recommended by: Caroline Patrick, general manager, marketing and strategic relationships at Police Health in Adelaide

 

brown book of design thinkingThe Brown Book of Design Thinking

By Jose Berengueres

The goal of this course is very simple: to master design thinking skills. Rather than using the traditional MBA case
study method, this is a workshop-based course where we learn by doing. In each session, a thinking tool will be introduced and practiced.

Recommended by: John Moore, marketing director ANZ, Bupa

 

 

 

skunk worksSkunk Works: a personal memoir of my years at Lockheed

By Ben R Rich

From the development of the U-2 to the Stealth fighter, the never-before-told story behind America’s high-stakes quest to dominate the skies Skunk Works is the true story of America’s most secret and successful aerospace operation.

Recommended by: John Moore, marketing director ANZ, Bupa

 

 

 

 

the alchemy of growthThe Alchemy of Growth: practical insights for building the enduring enterprise

By Mehrdad Baghai

The Alchemy of Growth offers managers at all levels the tools and concepts for investing in the right initiatives, capabilities, and talent to propel their companies into the future.

Recommended by: John Moore, marketing director ANZ, Bupa

 

 

 

the second machine ageThe Second Machine Age: work, progress and prosperity in a time of brilliant technologies

By Erik Brynjolfsson

A New York Times Bestseller. A fascinating look at how technology is transforming our work and our lives.

Recommended by: John Moore, marketing director ANZ, Bupa

 

 

think like a freakThink Like a Freak

By Steven D Levitt and Stephen J Dubner

With their trademark blend of captivating storytelling and unconventional analysis, Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner take us inside their thought process and teach us all how to think a bit more productively, more creatively, more rationally.

Recommended by: John Moore, marketing director ANZ, Bupa

 

 

goodgreatGood to Great

By Jim Collins

An intriguing read that examines the reasons why some companies make the transition from being average to great.

Recommended by: Umberto Mecchi, executive manager, strategy and marketing, Host-Plus

 

 

 

brandgapThe Brand Gap

By Marty Neumeier

Offers a new definition on branding. This book sheds the traditional strategic or creative approaches towards branding and offers a way in which both lines of thinking can unite to produce a charismatic brand.

Recommended by: Umberto Mecchi, executive manager, strategy and marketing, Host-Plus

 

 

zagZag

By Marty Neumeier

In his follow up to The Brand Gap, Neumeier drills deeper into the question of how brands can harness the power of differentiation.

Recommended by: Umberto Mecchi, executive manager, strategy and marketing, Host-Plus

 

 

 

 

irratPredictably Irrational

By Dan Ariely

In this unique perspective, challenging widely accepted norms, Ariely refutes the common assumption that we behave in fundamentally rational ways

Recommended by: Umberto Mecchi, executive manager, strategy and marketing, Host-Plus

 

 

 

obvadamsObvious Adams

By Robert Rawls Updegraff

Originally a story of an advertising man, Obvious Adams was quickly recognised as presenting a germ idea basic to outstanding success in the business world.

Recommended by: Umberto Mecchi, executive manager, strategy and marketing, Host-Plus

 

 

marketwarMarketing Warfare

By Al Ries and Jack Trout

Sharply written, with clear advice and minimum jargon, Ries and Trout provides a marketing book with a difference.

Recommended by: Katherine Nguyen, head of marketing, Acer

 

 

 

power simpleThe Power of Simplicity

By Jack Trout

Trout places particular emphasis on simplifying processes and through a series of case studies and interviews, shows managers how to cut through jargon, articulate their vision, and regain control of the vital elements of their business in order to make it thrive.

Recommended by: Katherine Nguyen, head of marketing, Acer

 

 

blue oceanBlue Ocean Strategy

By W Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne

A book that really challenges everything you thought you knew about what it takes to achieve strategic success. With fantastic insights, it’s no wonder Blue Ocean Strategy has been embraced by organisations and industries across the world.

Recommended by: Katherine Nguyen, head of marketing, Acer

 

 

cultureThe Culture Code

By Clotaire Rapaille

Marketing expert Clotaire Rapaille reveals the techniques he has used to improve profitability and practices for dozens of Fortune 100 companies for the first time.

Recommended by: Katherine Nguyen, head of marketing, Acer

 

 

art warThe Art of War

By Sun Tzu

With enduring popularity, The Art Of War, is a classic study of strategy and how to shape your tactics to cope with an ever-evolving situation. A must read for all marketers.

Recommended by: Katherine Nguyen, head of marketing, Acer

 

tipThe Tipping Point

By Malcolm Gladwell

Basic premise is a handful of the right people, fed the right message, can have a massive impact on your brand performance. Teaches you to really think about what makes your message compelling or not and who your core target should be.

Recommended by: Andrew Curran, marketing director, Lindt

 

 

 

ignoreIgnore Everybody and 39 Other Keys to Creativity

By Hugh MacLeod

This book will provoke you to consider things differently and think about how to make your brand stand out from the crowd.

Recommended by: Andrew Curran, marketing director, Lindt

 

 

purple cowPurple Cow

By Seth Godin

A great argument against bland marketing. Encourages you to try and make every piece of marketing remarkable, in order to cut through and change behaviour. Otherwise, can we really justify our efforts and spend?

Recommended by: Andrew Curran, marketing director, Lindt

 

 

 competing on the edgeCompeting on the Edge: Strategy as Structured Chaos

By Shona L Brown and Kathleen M Eisenhardt

Unstable markets, fierce competition, and relentless change are the only certainties in today’s chaotic business world. In their startling new book, authors Brown and Eisenhardt contend that to prosper in such volatile conditions, standard survival strategies must be tossed aside in favor of a revolutionary new paradigm—competing on the edge.

Recommended by: Nick Baker, CEO, RedBalloon and former marketing director of Tourism Australia

 

 

 

 

 

Ben Ice
BY Ben Ice ON 9 December 2016