“What’s the one book all marketers HAVE to read?” You could pose the question to ten different people and receive ten different answers. From the tried-and-true classics to the more modern bestsellers, new bestsellers seem to come out just as often as best practices change and platforms push out updates.
But there’s a reason we keep returning to the written (or digital page). The books we’ve included here have stood the test of time and cover a wide range of topics valuable to digital marketers, including behavioral psychology, business strategy, marketing mindset and social media. While every book might not be right for every reader, we hope you spot at least one worth adding to your bookshelf!
Why Digital Marketing Books?
On this site, we normally espouse the benefits of online learning and bootcamp courses that can be taken from just about anywhere. But that doesn’t mean we don’t recognize the value of having a physical resource you can return to over and over again. Bestsellers and all of the books you see on this list are published by vetted industry professionals, so you can rest easy knowing the information you’re receiving is at least research and scientifically-backed, even if it doesn’t resonate with you personally.
Overall, bootcamps and online information can’t be beat when it comes to up-to-the-minute information on platforms like Facebook and Google Search. The publishing industry simply can’t keep up with the pace of updates. However, if you’re looking to broaden your knowledge base in the practice of marketing outside of your day-to-day activities, picking up a book is always the right way to go.
Top 10 Books on Digital Marketing
Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert Cialdini
A foundational text in the field of marketing, more than five million readers have turned to this book to learn Cialdini’s methods of the psychology behind why people say “yes”. Storytelling and real-world examples are used to explain the six principles of persuasion and how they’re used in a business setting. You can directly translate the six principles here (reciprocity, consistency, social proof, authority, liking, and scarcity) into laser-focused digital marketing copy and strategy
Publication Year: 1984 (Periodically Updated)
Amazon Review Quote: “All his knowledge is contained in this new volume. It’s 50% bigger with a wealth of new information, including the 7th rule of influence. You could spend a lifetime putting his knowledge to work in your business and personal life. But you need to start by buying this book today.”
Ogilvy on Advertising by David Ogilvy
Another classic, we recommend this one less for putting its methods into direct practice, but more for gaining a greater historical understanding behind the industry and one of its giants. While the medium might change, messaging remains the same. Ogilvy walks through his secrets for getting a job in advertising, how to write successful copy and the secrets behind advertising that works. A fascinating look behind the man responsible for one of the biggest agencies today.
Publication Year: 1985
Amazon Review Quote: “It cuts to the core of what makes effective persuasive advertising. Distilled wisdom from decades of experience. I did not expect a title written in the 1980s to hold up so well. The world has changed greatly but the principles behind good advertising, I learned, are timeless.”
Hit Makers: The Science of Popularity in an Age of Digital Distraction by Derek Thompson
Zooming ahead to the present day, Derek Thompson’s book examines the hidden psychology behind why we like what we like and how those factors shape the economics of mass cultural markets. The Atlantic writer uses engaging examples from decades of popular culture to explain that nothing truly goes “viral” totally out of nowhere. A thorough and compelling read, even to the non-businessperson.
Publication Year: 2017
Amazon Review Quote: “One of the most engaging books I have read…Mr. Thompson has a gift for weaving in some amazing stories from different areas of the world to illustrate his idea of the science behind hit-making. A great read for anyone interested in taking a deeper look into the things that surround us in culture and society.”
What Customers Crave by Nicholas Webb
The best companies in the world exhaustively research their customers before even thinking about bringing a product to market. That is, according to Nicholas Webb, who shares his secrets for reinventing your business by exceeding customer expectations. To complete this task, you must be able to answer two questions: what do your customers love and what do they hate? Webb walks through how to engineer experiences across micro markets and engage at the five most critical touchpoints.
Publication Year: 2016
Amazon Review Quote: “Nicholas Webb knows his stuff! Unlike a lot of theorists and those in the ivory towers of education, he actually has been out in the field year after year. He gives many many examples of the clients he’s had, and how they so often miss “the forest for the trees.” What Customers Crave is an example of practicing what you preach…as it zeros in with laser beam focus to its intended audience.”
Alchemy: The Dark Art and Curious Science of Creating Magic in Brands, Business, and Life by Rory Sutherland
Is marketing an art or a science? Your answer might change, depending on the day. But, a work of magic? Vice Chairman of Ogilvy Rory Sutherland combines thirty years of field work with hilarious case studies to break down the magic and madness of branding. His unconventional approach has made him a superstar on the TED talk circuit, with tens of millions of views, and this book expounds on his approach to incorporating psychological insights and storytelling into crafting campaigns.
Publication Year: 2019
Amazon Review Quote: “A Book to Unsettle, Entertain, and Enlighten. This book is unusually deep for such an entertaining read. It is easy to zip through it and minimize its significance but it points to fundamental psychological and indeed metaphysical truths about us crazy humans.”
The Big Data-Driven Business: How to Use Big Data to Win Customers, Beat Competitors, and Boost Profits by Russel Glass and Sean Callahan
Expert perspective and practical advice on big data from two authors who saw it coming. Russell Glass and Sean Callahan are two senior-level executives who break down how big data is transforming major corporations and marketing technology. Through case-studies and real-life examples, the authors provide a guide towards better targeting, better reach and better decision making.
Publication Year: 2017
Amazon Review Quote: Big data is changing the world of marketing; this book will convince you to embrace the opportunity. It isn’t a detailed guide to using specific digital tools. It is a compelling call for action. Begin with small steps. This book will get you moving forward.
Digital Marketing Strategy: An Integrated Approach to Online Marketing by Simon Kingsnorth
The most “textbook-like” book on this list, but we love it for its comprehensiveness and approachable style of writing. Updated through 2019 and with a new edition coming in 2022, Kingsworth guides marketers through best practices for social media, SEO, content marketing, automation and much more. The book also covers the latest cutting-edge innovations in AI, data protection and privacy strategies, and includes downloadable templates and online resources to create a roadmap for implementation in your business.
Publication Year: 2019 (new edition forthcoming in March 2022)
Amazon Review Quote: “As an advertising professional with almost 20 years experience this book gave me some really useful and practical planning principles for my ‘toolkit’. What will keep it evergreen is that It often references how quickly the digital landscape will change and emphasises the need to keep staying curious and open minded.”
Behind the Cloud: The Untold Story of How Salesforce.com Went from Idea to Billion-Dollar Company—and Revolutionized an Industry by Marc Benioff & Carlye Adler
This one is a must read for any aspiring entrepreneur or CEO. While there’s tons of business books claiming to share the wisdom of successful unicorn organizations, we like this one for the way its organized, with each of its nine sections focusing on a different aspect of company building. The “playbook” categories include start-up, marketing, events, sales, technology and finance. Founder and CEO Marc Benioff provides unconventional advice and unusual call-out lessons that can be applied to any business hoping for lasting success.
Publication Year: 2009
Amazon Review Quote: “The first thing I did when I arrived at my office after starting the book was to order copies for key staff members. I plan to read the book again…and again. The book truly has “take-home value” (my litmus test for a business book), even for an old guy like me with 40 years of entrepreneurial experience. If you are interested in business, if you are an entrepreneur or aspire to be, I urge you to read “Behind the Cloud…”
Everybody Writes: Your Go-To Guide to Creating Ridiculously Good Content by Ann Handley
It’s all there in the title for this book. It’s an extremely practical approach for those looking to create compelling and competent content (aka everyone). Sections include easy grammar and usage rules tailored for business in a fun, memorable way and best practices for “things marketers write,” the fundamentals of 17 specific kinds of content. From web and landing pages to blogs, email and social, this book has tips and tricks for them all.
Publication Year: 2014
Amazon Review Quote: “Save yourself hundreds of dollars buying other books looking for the secret sauce to good writing. I encourage anyone who writes for pleasure or profit (or hopes to write for profit) to buy this book, turn off the T.V., radio, computer, etc. and just read “Everybody Writes” from beginning to end. Then go back and read it again, extracting the strategies and tips that resonate to you. This is the most practical, readable, and enjoyable book on writing I’ve read.”
The Human Element: Overcoming the Resistance That Awaits New Ideas by Loran Nordgren and David Schoenthal
What does fuel and friction have to do with marketing? This book challenges marketers’ instinct to convince people to say “yes” to a new product by adding features and benefits and sizzle to messaging. Instead of this “Fuel-based mindset,” The Human Element examines the psychological friction that opposes change and suggests methods for disarming that resistance in your customer base. A perfect read for any team launching a new or unfamiliar product.
Publication Year: 2021
Amazon Review Quote: “Even in a world driven by sophisticated data and analytics, instances abound where quantitatively robust strategic initiatives fail to garner support from leadership, break down during implementation, et cetera. Why? We’re still missing the “other half of the equation”, the human element. This book helps fill that gap by explaining the natural human opposition to change and then prepares you to eliminate the “frictions” that hinder innovation. Our relationships with customers, clients, and coworkers can all benefit by turning resistance into receptivity.”
Embarking on a Digital Marketing Career
Hopefully, this list provides some inspiration for fascinating titles to add to your to-read list! Also be sure to check out additional resources on digital marketing at codingbootcamps.io:
- Our complete guide to the top digital marketing bootcamp offerings online and in-person
- An overview of careers in digital marketing and adjacent fields, such as graphic design, web development and search engine optimization
- Read about the most popular digital marketing platforms and top digital marketing tools
- Our interview with a digital marketer