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April 08, 2016

In his now-famous remark, Philip Kotler eloquently sums up a central challenge all marketers face: "Marketing takes a day to learn. Unfortunately, it takes a lifetime to master." At a time when the marketing landscape is shifting more swiftly than ever, it's imperative that marketers stay abreast of new technologies, trends, and tools. The following are three of the best marketing books that examine the industry's evolving frameworks and concepts.
GROWTH HACKER MARKETING
"Growth hacking" may be a buzz phrase but, as both startups and established companies are constantly looking for cost-effective ways to generate sales and users, it's one we should be paying attention to.

There is no better introduction to growth hacking than Ryan Holiday's Growth Hacker Marketing. The book clearly explains what growth hacking is before introducing case studies that examine how companies like Facebook, Dropbox, and AppSumo put theory into practice with huge results.

In one particularly illuminating case study, Holiday discusses how Hotmail successfully grew its email service without using marketing dollars. When Hotmail was first starting out, they decided to automatically add the phrase "PS: I love you. Get your free e-mail at Hotmail" and a clickable URL to the bottom of their users' emails. This link helped spur viral growth for the company: the more emails users sent, the more links were clicked, and the more accounts were created. The only cost was the time it took the developers to embed the link across its user base.

Ryan Holiday doesn't just write about growth hacking, he's also used growth hacking tools to promote his own brand—to prove the concept of this marketing book, Holiday applied growth hacker principles to the book's launch. To learn more about the launch, see the detailed and fascinating case study published in Observer.

Growth Hacker Marketing makes growth hacking easy to understand and contains a wealth of scalable, practical advice, which makes it one of the best marketing books for any marketer to read, regardless of their industry or product.

CONTAGIOUS
In Contagious, Wharton professor Jonah Berger shares the six principles that make products or services go viral and explores how human behavior influences our decision-making process.

In one fascinating case, he describes how Kit Kat boosted sales and market share by associating the chocolate bar with something most us do every morning: drink coffee. The marketing team wrote a jingle that associated the two activities. So when a consumer saw or thought of coffee in their daily lives, they would be reminded of the Hershey chocolate bar.

Coffee, Berger writes, "is a particularly good thing to link the brand to because it is a frequent stimulus in the environment...so by linking Kit Kat to coffee, [Kit Kat Marketing Manager] Colleen created a frequent trigger to remind people of the brand." Simple message, incredible result.

Virality isn't random. If you want to know why things get shared, or why products become best sellers, this is one of the best marketing books available.

SMARTCUTS
Author Shane Snow describes Smartcuts as "shortcuts with integrity. Working harder and achieving more, without creating negative externalities." Snow's book isn't about marketing per se; rather, it's about lateral thinking and creative solutions to help you advance your career or your business. By examining the lives and habits of people and companies that have achieved the extraordinary in an exceptionally short period of time, Snow has distilled a number of lessons to work—and live—by.

One example Snow uses is Alexander the Great, who conquered the known world before he was 25. While that's incredible, it's often overlooked that he was mentored by Aristotle, one of the most important philosophers in history. Mentorship, Shane writes, can help us accelerate our career paths. "The mentor story is so common because it seems to work—especially when the mentor is not just a teacher, but also someone who's traveled the road herself."

Marketing isn't just about metrics or KPIs—those are secondary to understanding the concepts and frameworks. These are three of the best marketing books you can read to gain a solid understanding of the concepts that are at the heart of the new era of marketing—the convergence of technical tools, behavioral economics, and human interaction.

Eric Ruiz is a marketing manager for Waze Ads.
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