Whenever people ask us about building challenger brands, inevitably the discussion turns to what books have been most influential for us and which are our favorites. Admittedly, asking our crew to list their favorite books is like asking which of their children they like best. But after a lot of discussion (and one ugly arm wrestling match), we’ve narrowed our canon of influence to the 16 books that have most shaped our agency, our mindset and our work.
If you’re interested in building a challenger brand, or a challenger brand agency, reading this library is an outstanding place to start.
UNDERSTANDING TARGETS AND HOW TO REACH THEM
The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing by Al Ries & Jack Trout
As the adage goes, you have to learn the rules before you can break them. First published in 1993, this book remains one of the classic primers for anyone and everyone working in advertising and marketing. Each chapter focuses on an “immutable” law the authors caution should be “violated at your own risk.” The laws are simple (The Law of Leadership: It’s better to be first than it is to be better) and explained with vivid examples. Easily one of the first three books every new marketing graduate should read if they haven’t already.
Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman
In this groundbreaking book, Nobel Prize Winner Daniel Kahneman takes the reader on an amazing journey through the mind and challenges everything we think we know about how we (and other people) think. Kahneman shows there are two systems that drive the way we think: System 1 is fast, intuitive and emotional. System 2 is slower, more deliberate and more logical. You’ll learn the fascinating truth about our extraordinary capabilities, but also our faults and biases, the impact of loss aversion, overconfidence on corporate strategies and the profound effect of our cognitive biases. If you really want to understand how consumers think, start here.
Influence by Robert Cialdini
If the first step to reaching consumers is understanding how they think, the second is understanding how to influence and persuade them and no one understands that better than Robert Cialdini. This seminal work explores the psychological foundation of marketing and lays out six principles of ethical persuasion: reciprocity, scarcity, liking, authority, social proof and commitment/consistency.
As you’ll see, Cialdini views influence as a matter of science and as such, backs up his assertions with strong social scientific testing and retesting. If your job is getting people to buy or vote for something, this is required reading.
Tribes by Seth Godin
Seth Godin’s book is at once a call to leadership and a fresh look at how the Internet now affords us extraordinary opportunities for consumer segmentation. Whether done purposefully, or organically, we all gather with groups of people who are like us. And where once, our groupings were dictated by our physical proximity, today the world is literally our stage. The question is, with all of these groups, who will stand up and lead them? Once again, Godin thoughtfully challenges the status quo and encourages each of us to do the same.
UNDERSTANDING YOUR TEAM
The 5 Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni
Before you can even think about building effective brands, you’ve got to build an effective team. That may sound easy enough, but the truth is most teams aren’t nearly as effective as they could be. In this “leadership fable,” Lencioni explores the five dysfunctions that hold teams back: the absence of trust, fear of conflict, lack of commitment, avoidance of accountability and inattention to results. Whether you’re leading a team, or simply a part of one, this book will help keep you grounded in what’s really important so you and your team can reach your highest potential.
Creativity Inc. by Ed Catmull
For more than 20 years, Pixar has been the dominant leader of the animation world and along with founder John Lassiter, the man leading that charge has been Pixar Animation and Disney Animation President Ed Catmull. On its face, Catmull’s book sounds a bit like a guide to creativity, which it is. But it’s much more. In it, you’ll discover what makes Pixar such a spectacularly special place, how the power of narrative and story drive everything and how a culture of emotional authenticity leads not to hurt feelings, but a collaborative spirit that both drives and protects Pixar’s ultra-creative environment. If your company is all about concepting and nurturing big ideas, this is your guide for the right way to do it.
The Power of TED by David Emerald
If there’s one book that we’ve embraced more than any other, this transformative little story from David Emerald is it. Told as a story, The Power of TED explores a number of profound concepts that when applied, literally have the power to reshape the way you think and act in the blink of an eye. In it, the stress and hopelessness of being caught in the “Dreaded Drama Triangle,” where “Victims” are persecuted and seek rescue, is met with “The Empowerment Dynamic,” where instead, “Creators” are challenged and coached into moving toward their goals and their purpose. This book is literally a life changer (we’ve seen it) and one that will positively affect the way you see your company, your life and yourself.
How the World Sees You by Sally Hogshead
Though published just this summer, Sally Hogshead’s New York Times bestseller has already become an agency favorite due to the insightful and fascinating way it frames what’s special about each of us. As it says in the front book jacket, “You already know how you see the world, but do you know how the world sees you? How is your personality most likely to impress and influence the person siting on the other side of the desk, or boardroom?”
The book comes with a code for an online assessment with a step-by-step method to making the most of your results. Only by being at your authentic and confident best, can you determine and deliver your highest value to your company, yourself and the world. This book will show you how.