The 4 Books Every Marketer Should Read

Marketing is undergoing a seismic shift. As the world moved into the digital era, marketers had to adapt tactics to reach consumers on desktops, mobile devices, and tablets through platforms like Google, Facebook, and Twitter--to name just a few. And at the rate that our mediums of engagement evolve, it doesn’t seem there will ever be an end to this flux. Savvy marketers must continuously keep up with this changing landscape to ensure their skill sets are not made obsolete. Many marketers keep pace with the ever-changing trends by following industry blogs. Luckily, there is a marketing blog for just about every topic: from B2B and content marketing to growth-hacking & SEO. In an age that is dominated by digital content, we were curious to see which books are making a real impact on the way today’s high-growth marketers build their strategies. We tapped our network of rockstar marketers (including one from our own ranks) for their input on the best marketing books out there.

Check out these favorite book recommendations and actionable takeaways from four top marketers:

1) Sarah Downey, Director of Marketing at Ovuline

Startup Institute Boston Alumna and Technical Marketing Instructor.

Sarah's pick: Contagious: Why Things Catch On by Jonah Berger

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Screen Shot 2015-01-21 at 11.35.34 AM

  #1 Takeaway:

“There's a science to the things that go viral. One piece of this equation is in the combination of emotions that a piece of content inspires. Certain physiological reactions are shared more, regardless of whether they're positive or negative.”


  • High arousal and positive emotions, like awe, amazement, humor, wonder
  • High arousal and negative emotions, like anger, disgust, fear/worry, especially of missing out

Not Shared

  • Low arousal and positive emotions, like contentment and peacefulness
  • Low arousal and negative emotions, like sadness and loneliness

2) Sean Johnson, Partner at Founder Equity and Digital Intent

Technical Marketing Instructor, Startup Institute Chicago

Sean's pick: Hooked by Nir Eyal

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Screen Shot 2015-01-21 at 11.40.26 AM

#1 Takeaway:

“Getting traction with digital products is largely about the decisions you make in the product itself. There are ‘loops’ you can bake into your product that dramatically increase the likelihood of your user becoming an active (or paying) customer. Nir's book does a fantastic job of outlining the components in building such a loop, with great examples and practical takeaways.”

3) Harvey Simmons, Marketing Lead at Wellist

Technical Marketing Instructor, Startup Institute Boston

Harvey's pick: Ogilvy on Advertising by David Ogilvy

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Screen Shot 2015-01-21 at 11.44.12 AM

#1 Takeaway:

“This isn’t your typical startup read (and you might need to dig through a yard sale to find a copy), but Ogilivy on Advertising is a timeless gem when it comes to effective messaging and advertising design. I've used the book a handful of times to seek his scientific approach on messaging, and as a reminder on the importance of always providing value to the consumer, even if it's just a promoted tweet or a retargeting ad.”

4) Max Fresen, Chief Marketing Officer at Startup Institute

Max's pick: All Marketers Are Liars, by Seth Godin

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Screen Shot 2015-01-21 at 12.42.26 PM

#1 Takeaway:

“A great story has to be true-- It's the basis of my philosophy about a unified product and marketing discipline.”

So there you have it. If you’re looking to build your marketing skills and need some off-screen time, consider curling up with one of these reads.

Do you have a favorite marketing book that’s not listed here? Let us know in the comments so we can keep adding to our reading list! Interested in brushing up your skills in our marketing courses? Download the course guide for our full-time program below.


Photo credit: Beth Jusino via Flickrcc