Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Want to get into marketing? Read everything.

Image courtesy of Olivander

This post is aimed at anybody trying to get into a marketing communications career.

When starting out 11 years ago in marketing, I got an initial surprise. I realised that many of the marketers I met didn't seem interested in studying the past. In learning more.

For example, I met people that considered themselves direct marketing professionals - yet had not read the books by John Caples, Claude Hopkins or even David Ogilvy. There were people responsible for online marketing who gave me blank looks when I mentioned Jakob Nielsen. I bet there are people today responsible for email marketing who had never read Permission Marketing, Unleashing the Ideavirus or anything by Seth Godin.

I was surprised but pretty happy. This was a real opportunity for me. So I studied everything I could find.

Direct marketing and online marketing were the areas I was working in. So I started there. I read every book or article I could find by these guys - John Caples, Claude Hopkins, Drayton Bird, Denny Hatch, Bob Stone, Graeme McCorkell, Jay Abraham, Seth Godin, David Ogilvy, Julian L. Simon as well as others somewhat connected to the discipline like Richard Koch and Ries & Trout.

There were obvious links between direct and online marketing. Online was getting bigger, so I decided to upskill myself more. I bought some books on webdesign and usability (Steve Krug, Jakob Nielsen) and taught myself how to build and design websites using the Macromedia products Dreamweaver and Flash. And I started reading Danny Sullivan's newsletters about search engine optimisation.

Later on, I read everything I could find on advertising and brand management, from the likes of Jon Steel and John Grant to Alan Cooper and David A. Aaker.

Third hand knowledge is not a substitute for experience. But even with experience, having knowledge from others will vastly improve your decisions. And if you don't have the experience, and really want to become an expert in an area, start reading everything you can about it.

If you really want to get into marketing communication - start with the authors above. But don't limit yourself to books. Blogs, email newsletters, articles, forums. There is so much information available. Much of it is free. Email me if you want names of other good books.

Have a read of Outliers too - Malcolm Gladwell's explanation on what is required to master any given area.


Kevin Kent said...


Great post, totally agree. Too often people just float through their careers believing they are keeping up to date using buzz words to impress people.


William L said...

I would like to echo my approval for this post with the previous poster.
I would share your sentiments Paul.

Seth Godin seems to be universally admired and revered these days and with good reason. His blog is incredible and his book - The Dip- sparkles with new and relevant ideas.

I am constantly surprised and disappointed at how little people read, especially those that have chosen to cultivate careers in advertising.

Oh well – sadly it appears that we are living in an increasingly illiterate era.

I would disagree with you though about Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell. I thought that his book was just stating the obvious and it lacked the profound and genuinely original conclusions he arrived at with The Tipping Point and Blink.
Gladwell’s 10,000 hours theory has already been refuted. The book caused a stir in America though as they still believe in the myth that success is determined by sheer force of will and destiny rather than underling social and environmental factors.

I notice you have omitted Chris Anderson's The Long Tail as it is definitely worth a read. Indeed,upon turning its pages you can hear a whole paradigm being shifted.
Co-incidentally Gladwell wrote a scathing review of Chris Andersons new book – Free – in the New Yorker.

I would also include in your list “Persuasion - The Psychology of Influence” by Robert Caldini. It is essential reading for anyone in advertising or whose job typically involves convincing, cajoling and generally exhorting people towards a desired outcome.

Paul Dervan said...

cheers Kevin and William.

Agree on long tail. And also on Caldini, some good experiments and case studies in it. I preferred Outliers to Blink. I've read the criticism of Outliers but he is a great story teller.

My own view is luck plays a large role in success, but so does attitude, work and willingness to put yourself in a good place to grab a lucky break.

'Made to Stick' is also worth a read if you haven't picked it up. It's not new. I bought it a while back but only read it (or listened to it) recently.

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