Books that have shaped my school of marketing

Hello people. I am trying to keep my promise of doing at least 1 post in a month although I am super delayed on this one. Let me try and be punctual and deliver on promised timelines in the future. The genesis of this post is a conversation I had last week at the lunch table with some colleagues who were trashing Kotler and saying how it was a waste of time & how it didn't help them to learn anything at all that has aided them in delivering on their jobs. I of course disagreed because I personally am a big fan of Kotler. I know a lot of you will be scoffing right now and may not read the rest of the post at all because of this. But honestly, step back once and think - did Kotler not make all of us know 4Ps of marketing inside out. We all have evolved our thinking on the 4Ps and in fact have moved into more evolved models of 5Ps and 7Cs and all of that. But the first time we all understood what does marketing mean is through Kotler and often enough we all resort to jargon from that book only. So yes, I am a big Kotler fan. But then I came across the below listed books - some recommended by people I respect in the field & some just because I happened to read them. So hopefully, you will find the list useful and will read some (if not all) of them. Since it is my blog I can set the rules and hence my only rule if you pick up any of the books to read is to read them fully and not the synopsis. The beauty of the books resides in the details & the examples & sometimes just the way some expressions are used to say the most obvious & mundane things making your eyes go wide.

1. How Brands Grow: What Marketers Don't Know by Byron Sharp: famously known as the red book of marketing has to at some point of time become your marketing bible. And while writing this I realised that the red book may not refer to just the cover of the book but also the analogy to the field of astrology in India followed by the 'laal kitaab"  - coincidence? Maybe! So How Brands Grow..... the book has 2 simple rules which it goes to explain through the pages (I am para phrasing here of course) - make your brand more available on the shelf & in people's minds. Brands grow only and only when you manage to do these two things. The book also kicks up a big controversy about sharply defined target audience, creating value through niches and how all of it is a misnomer. The biggest myth this book aims at breaking is about brand distinction & is it more important to create emotional connect with the consumer of create consistent memory structures which make the brand distinctive in the consumers mind. All of this may seem outrageous for those who have not read the book but trust me once you read the book, run the numbers on your own brands it is an eye opening exercise. Byron Sharp & his institute have dedicated themselves to proving their theories with actual numbers and those are water tight. In the long run, brands that run behind penetration and at wide audience win.

2. Practice of Marketing; Science or Superstition by Shyamal Ghose: this is one of those nondescript books that most people have not heard about and few have read. Or rather I should say in my limited sample set of people I discuss marketing books with; its not a known book and hence I am very glad that I chanced upon it. The story behind this is actually funny. I was supposed to attend a strategy training by Shyamal Ghosh so I read up on him and then bought the book so that I at least know what is school of thought in marketing is - the nerd that I used to be! On hindsight, I am glad I bought it and read it. His book outlines how marketing will win when it becomes an exact science and he describes it using models. He details the scientific models of looking at data in the most simplistic language making people like me who inherently were not data savvy grasp the concept easily. This book I think should definitely be read by all newly minted brand managers just to be able to envisage all marketing models that can help you decipher your brands better

3. The End of Advertising as We Know It by Sergio Zyman: I have to admit that this book is a bit outdated now as the advertising and media world have changed substantially since I read this book. But if one wants to understand when to use which media and what should the messaging be like then this is a good book to turn towards. I would still recommend this book in the new age world of digital media to really just get the basics right. It also of course appeals to my firm right brain belief in the power of advertising - it needs to sell and the art and everything fuzzy about it as just by products.

4. Culture Code by Clotaire Rapaille: if you want to understand how human brains work and what drives them then this is the book to turn to. It is not essentially a marketing focussed book per se. In fact, I came across this when I was reading on the concept of nostalgence related to fragrances. The fragrance expert on my brand brought up this book and talked about the reptile brain. The concept fascinated me and then I read the book. I think it is one of the better written books on consumer motivations and how they emanate from fundamental belief systems and memory structures - language, history & most importantly culture that one grows up in. Intuitively it seems consumer behaviour 101 but the way the brain is described and then different cultural symbols that can be used to appeal to the Culture Codes. One of my all time favourites.

5. Nudge by Casss Sunstein & Richard Thaler: This one definitely is not a marketing book. In fact it is one of the better books written on behavioural economics and this work truly nudged Thaler towards his Nobel Prize. Why I recommend Nudge for marketing is because I think if one wants to understand & in turn impact behaviour change for their TG then this is the book to read. It uses examples of healthcare, anti smoking campaigns and what makes people change their behaviour. It outlines how people make choices and at what points in the process can you impact it. What part of the brain should these interventions appeal to for being impactful and eventually how to make it into a habit. Lately, I have found more answers in this book than others that I have read over the years. It is also one of those books I have read over & again to design my concepts & campaigns.

These are just a few of my favourite ones and in no way an exhaustive list. There are loads more to read and eventually to design your own school of thought in marketing. Marketing irrespective of how scientific it gets & how much analytics can lead to decisions; is a gut feel and only when you have educated yourself enough can you develop one of your own. I have diligently invested in reading, understanding, debating, discarding & eventually imbibing what makes sense to me. Hoping that whoever reads these books can fall in love with them as I did. 


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