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The 10 greatest marketing books ever written

October 13th, 2017 by Bob Bly

Subscriber RK writes:

“Bob, I am trying to read some of the classic marketing books you
recommend, such as those written by David Ogilvy, Claude Hopkins,
John Caples, Robert Collier, and Vic Schwab.

“But all the examples in them are print ads, and it’s hard for me
to see how these relate to app banners or email follow-up

I hear this a lot from millennial marketers: They believe that
the rapid pace of change has made the marketing of the 20th
century irrelevant to marketing in the 21st century.

Here’s why such thinking is fallacious:

Yes, the technology, media, and methods — newspapers and network
TV commercials vs. social media, programmatic advertising, and
hyperlocal marketing — are much different today than they were

But the core of marketing is not channels, technology, databases,
or media.

Rather, the most important element of marketing and selling is
human psychology — or more specifically, the psychology of

And as the great Claude Hopkins noted, human psychology has not
changed in ten centuries.

That means the core persuasion techniques of Ogilvy, Caples, and
the other master marketers whose books I recommend have not lost
one microdot of their power and effectiveness.

And here are the 10 books I fervently believe every marketer, and
that goes especially for you young folk, should devour:

1– “How to Write a Good Advertisement” by Vic Schwab, Wilshire
Book Company. A common-sense course in how to write advertising
copy that gets people to buy your product or service, written by
a plain-speaking veteran mail order copywriter in 1960.

2– “My First 50 Years in Advertising” by Max Sackheim,
Prentice-Hall. Another plain-speaking, common-sense guide that
stresses salesmanship over creativity, and results over awards.
The author was one of the originators of the Book of the Month

3– “The Robert Collier Letter Book” by Robert Collier, Important
Books. While Schwab and Sackheim concentrate on space ads,
Collier focuses on the art of writing sales letters. While some
of his letters may seem old-fashioned and dated, Collier’s
timeless principles still apply.

4– “Reality in Advertising” by Rosser Reeves, Alfred A. Knopf. The
book in which Reeves introduced the now-famous 3-part concept of
Unique Selling Proposition; not one marketer in a hundred today
knows the 3 essential parts of a winning USP.

5– “Breakthrough Advertising” by Eugene Schwartz, Boardroom. A
copywriting guide by one of the greatest direct-response
copywriters of the 20th century.

6– “Tested Advertising Methods” by John Caples, Prentice-Hall.
Presents the principles of persuasion as proven through A/B split

7– “Confessions of an Advertising Man” by David Ogilvy, Atheneum.
Charming autobiography of legendary ad man David Ogilvy, packed
with useful advice on how to create effective advertising.

8– “Scientific Advertising” by Claude Hopkins, Bell Publishing. A
book on the philosophy that advertising’s purpose is to sell, not
entertain or win creative awards — and that only testing, not
subjective opinion, can determine what actually works.

9– “Method Marketing” by Denny Hatch, Bonus Books. A book on how
to write successful direct response copy by putting yourself in
the customer’s shoes.

10– “Advertising Secrets of the Written Word” by Joseph Sugarman,
DelStar. How to write ad copy by a master of mail order

Have I left any out? Yes, many. But this list is a good start.

How many have you read? If not all, you ignore them at your own


This entry was posted on Friday, October 13th, 2017 at 11:51 am and is filed under General. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

14 responses about “The 10 greatest marketing books ever written”

  1. Harry Joiner said:

    Bob, thank you so much for the post. In fact, thank you so much for all you do to advance thought leadership for marketers everywhere. I realize you’re far too modest to include any of your own books, but your book on copywriting (The Copywriters Handbook) is a classic. Also, recently I picked up a used copy of your Advertising Managers Handbook on Amazon. Absolutely excellent resource — even today. A life-changing book for me was Permission Marketing by Seth Godin. Zag by Marty Neumeier is excellent as well. Finally, it’s probably not a bad idea for your readers to understand the mechanics of growing a business. To that end I’d recommend Every Business is a Growth Business by Ram Charan and Crossing the Chasm by Geoffrey Moore. My 2 cents.

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  14. Hamza Khan said:

    I personally like the Meditations – by Marcus Aurelius – not so much a spiritual book as a philosophically based set of observations or points of guidance. The Tao Te Ching / I Ching – influenced Eastern Philosophy profoundly including Hinduism, Taoism, Confucian and Shinto faiths and to a lesser extent informing some early views of Christianity. motivation and emotion In your question it’s not clear but strictly speaking not too many religious texts are strictly original, and as such the Christian Bible is not an “original” document, it was directly preceded by the Torah, which itself was a variant of the written Sumerian and Babylonian Creation mythos based on various texts but centered on the Zoroastrian dualistic faith.

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