The Modern Marketing Blog covers the latest in marketing strategy, technology, and innovation.

  • November 4, 2011

5 Foundational Marketing Books You Need to Read

Today's guest post comes from Todd Defren, a principal at SHIFT Communications, a co-founder of Social Media Club and author of the blog PR Squared. He's work with some of the most respected brands in world. He shares the marketing books he's derived inspiration from over the years.

You're an eager beaver. A go-getter. This atrocious economic malaise does not impress you; you will not be deterred; you are girding yourself for a long, successful career.

There is only one weapon you need:  Knowledge.  There are three types of knowledge: foundational understanding, contemporary intelligence, and street smarts.  I can’t help you with the third – that comes from within. But, I can tell you there are five books you must-read if you want to acquire foundational knowledge.


  1. Good to Great by Jim Collins is the single text to which I return most often.  When Collins describes concepts such as the Big Hairy Audacious Goal, the Fox and the Hedgehog, and the Flywheel, it still sends a shiver through my brain and causes me to question what I am doing right (and wrong) in business.

  2. New Rules of Marketing & PR by David Meerman Scott.  There are a ton of great Social Media Marketing books out there (Brogan’s Trust Agents and Solis’s Engage and Falls’s No-Bullshit Social Media and Chapman and Handley’s Content Rules are all must-buys, too).  But David Meerman Scott got there first, and this seminal work – now in its 3rd printing – remains the most influential work in the field.

  3. Positioning by Al Ries and Jack Trout.  If Meerman Scott is the original sage of Social Media, Ries and Trout are still the first wise men on the mountaintop of marketing.  Because you’re such a savvy smartypants, you’ll already know everything in the book… and yet I bet you’ll find yourself reminded of well-worn concepts in a brand-new way.

  4. Selling the Invisible by Harry Beckwith.  A less well-known work, it was influential to me in coming to understand the rising importance of marketing in a service-oriented economy.

  5. The Innovator’s Dilemma by Clayton Christensen should scare the crap out of you.  You can do amazing things in business and yet …still find your lunch eaten by a swift, nimble, Johnny-come-lately competitor.  You’re not ready for battle until you read this work, which if anything is more relevant than ever in our hyper competitive age.

When it comes to “contemporary intelligence,” I have a simple piece of advice.  Read the newspapers (and top magazines and blogs). I cannot tell you how many times in my career I sounded brilliant in front of a client or prospect merely because I had read the most recent issue of WIRED or the New York Times. You want to be a success?  Stop checking your Facebook Newsfeed every ten minutes and pick up a copy of Fast Company instead.  Make the time to be smarter than everybody else.

This article was originally produced as part of the Real World Marketing Syllabus. For even more great articles and links to resources on a wide variety of topics, just click the image below to download.marketing-books



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