The 8 Best Marketing Books of 2020

Read up on the fascinating industry with these tomes

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Contrary to popular opinion, marketing is about so much more than simply convincing people that they should buy your product. The best marketing mavens are not con artists or salesmen: they are people who connect people with the products and services they need in a way that is efficient and effective for all parties involved. Marketing requires a basic understanding of psychology, of course, but also for the nuances of why people make the decisions they make. Marketing requires the ability to take risks – and the insight to know which risks are worth taking.

Marketing requires a careful understanding of your product and of the competitive landscape. Marketing requires a nuanced understanding of and appreciation for data and qualitative ways of measuring successes. Marketing strategy requires repositioning, or at times, carving out a new ocean entirely. And for the individual and company alike, marketing relies on developing and maintaining a breathtaking yet believable story. Want some help crafting yours? You will be well on your way to mastering the subtle art of marketing with these books.

Best Overall: Blue Ocean Shift: Beyond Competing

Beyond Competing
 Courtesy of Amazon

This book is hands-down one of the best business books you’ll ever read. W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne teach you how to see the whole business landscape as a world of opportunities – and how to best tap into your potential to control your own unique ocean rather than stumbling over everybody else. You’ll learn to see marketing less as a competition with others and more of a competition to be the very best your organization will be. Not only that, but this book will help you convince your team that you’re not crazy – and that this approach is a winning strategy. This latest edition features incredible examples from powerful leaders in many different fields have used these techniques to carve out successes.

Best For Learning How To Take Risks: The Click Moment: Seizing Opportunity

It’s often said that the best kind of luck is the type you make for yourself, and this book leans into that contradiction. At the same time that Frans Johansson illustrates how success is much more random than most of us admit, he also outlines several important steps that individuals can take to greatly increase their odds of success. This book will teach you to lean into the turning points and “aha!” moments of everyday life. It will teach you the power of networking and to take inspiration from the world around you. But mostly, this book will teach you how to integrate high-potential bets into your company’s marketing strategy – and will convince you that doing so is the best way to set yourself up for success.

Best For Understanding Affiliate Marketing: Performance Partnerships

If you ordered a case of wine but only received 7 of the expected 12 bottles, you’d probably be upset. And yet, many times, marketers pay for things that never make it to their customers. Enter affiliate marketing: a concept based on the idea that you should only have to pay for the quantifiable benefits you receive from a marketing campaign. Unfortunately, it’s a complicated and misunderstood area of marketing, but Robert Glazer’s book is here to help you understand the industry in-depth, from its origin story to how to best use it for your own marketing needs. Glazer emphasizes not only the tangible results of affiliate marketing​ but the mutually beneficial relationships that arise from taking the partnerships seriously each and every time.

Best for Mastering Content Marketing: The Content Formula

The advent of social media made every marketing person’s job infinitely more complicated. Today, everyone from the corner store to huge national brands are expected to produce awesome videos, viral listicles and other posts that engage customers and potential customers – and it can all feel very overwhelming. Before you even think about starting to dive headfirst into the messy universe of content marketing, or before undertaking an overhaul of your existing system, take a few minutes to read Michael Brenner and Liz Bedor’s book. It will teach you the hows and whys of content marketing, how to justify the associated expenses, as well as how to measure success – using concrete formulae rather than abstract terms.

Best for Marketing Yourself: Everybody Writes

For better for worse, and whether you know it or not, everybody has a brand these days. Everything you post on social media, from the Instagrammed pic of the tacos you had last night for dinner to the policy briefing you bragged about on Linkedin, each move you make on social media is fundamentally a marketing move – and unless you know how to do it right, that can be pretty scary! The brightest side of this book by Ann Handley, to us, is that it emphasizes that even in a world where the most common thing we communicate to friends is “lol,” good writing matters. Whether you’re a CMO or a small business owner, the content you post represents your brand, so it’s important to learn how to write properly – and reading this book is a fabulous place to start.

Best Maverick Hot Take: The 4-Hour Workweek

There are three reasons this book makes our list, and the first is that the almost cult-like website Timothy Ferriss has built around this instant success is a treasure trove for any marketing team. The second is that any man who can convince (con?) his clients into thinking that $5/hour assistants do the same quality of work as what they are paying him is clearly a personal marketing guru. And the third reason is, as much as it pains us to admit it, that Ferriss just might be onto something.

Best for Harnessing the Power Of Big Data: Outside Insight

We live in a world where we have more information at our fingertips than ever before – and that makes it all the more important to understand how and when and why to use it in your marketing strategy. Unlike the olden days in which we didn’t have access to oodles of external data, today’s strategy requires looking beyond internal figures and entering the wild digital datasphere. In this book, Jørn Lyseggen teaches you how to use the successes and failures of others – including the biggest names like Apple, Facebook and even President Obama – to guide your own marketing plan for your brand or organization.

Best Character Study: The Life of P.T. Barnum

Hear us out on this one: even if you’ve seen The Greatest Showman already, there’s a lot to learn about marketing from the life of P.T. Barnum. In this autobiography, Mr. Barnum himself shares his secrets for how he built the biggest personal brand in history – well, at least the biggest personal brand in the pre-Trump era. From rags to riches to the whole thing going up in flames, this story will captivate you, delight you, make you cry… and teach you the secrets of personal image crafting from one of the very first experts in the craft.