CMOs and marketing directors know they need to stay ahead of their competitors by out-reading and out-researching them, but even the process of selecting a title is a grind. But where do you start? Do you focus on strategy, video, design, data, planning, or organization? No worries! To give you a head start, we did that for you by selecting 7 marketing books we see as “must-reads” for marketers to read in 2020.

The Lessing-Flynn team consists of data geeks that love to dive into spreadsheets and identify trends; video directors/producers who are tech junkies tinkering with the latest gadgets and apps; and creative artists digging into “the next big thing.” The accidental collision of our ideas from our diverse backgrounds created the need for our very own agency book club. Once a quarter we pick a selection and get together to hash it out.

Here are the top 7 marketing books we recommend reading in 2020 and, because we don’t want you buying anything without an executive summary, we included a cliff note summary and key takeaway reference for you as well. Happy reading!


7 Marketing Books Recommended for 2020

1. “Killing Marketing: How Innovative Businesses are Turning Marketing Cost Into Profit” by Joe Pulizzi & Robert Rose

The cliff notes: Marketing, for many companies, is a “tax” that they wish they didn’t have to spend. This book is a collection of case studies for various companies (Red Bull, Coca-Cola, Arrow Electronics, and more) that are turning marketing dollars into a cash return through owned media channels, conference and events as well as premium content.
A key takeaway: Features and benefits are only as important as the value they provide to the customer. Change your perspective on owned content marketing — it will not only build audiences and retain them; it will do so by creating a profit. 


2. “Range” by David Epstein

The cliff notes: Many experts will argue that if you want to develop a specific skill or become an expert in a certain field, you must rack up as many hours of practice as humanly possible. Epstein would counter that many of the world’s most successful people are actually “generalists,” and find their path later in life — not as child prodigies.
A key takeaway: “Don’t feel behind. Compare yourself to yourself yesterday, not to younger people who aren’t you.” In a world of changing technologies and digital solutions, it is natural as marketers to feel that we are constantly drinking from a fire-hose to keep up. Grant yourself time to learn soft and hard skills required today and lean in on experts when needed — you don’t have to know it all.


3. “The Power of Moments: Why Certain Experiences Have Extraordinary Impact” by Chip and Dan Heath

The cliff notes: We all experience meaningful moments in our lives that stand out in our memory. The Heaths explore what traits make moments meaningful and how as marketers (and regular people) we can create extraordinary experiences for others in simple ways.
A key takeaway: Forget “reasonableness” when it comes to brainstorming and creating impactful moments (i.e. ignore the negative Nancy). It is going to be hard to get everyone on board and delightfully surprise customers with everyone’s buy-in, but the long-term benefit to break the script is well worth it.


4. “Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love Parent and Lead” by Brené Brown

The cliff notes: In June 2010, Ph.D. Brené Brown gave a TED Talk showcasing her research on human connection and our ability to empathize, belong, love. The TED Talk exploded and has garnered over 44 million views and has pushed Brown to publish several books. After over a dozen years of research, Brown found that vulnerability is the core of all emotions and feelings. This is a pretty philosophical thought, but in its simplest form, it encourages people to take risks, celebrate the wins and discuss life’s lows.
A key takeaway: Vulnerability in corporations means shining a light in dark corners — as scary as that may sound. Challenge your teams to have honest conversations about frustrations or give critical feedback. It’s uncomfortable, but you better believe that the vulnerable discussions will add positivity to your culture in the long-term.


5. “Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity” by David Allen

The cliff notes: As marketers wearing many hats, we are busier than ever. Allen has compiled simple and easy-to-implement tips and tricks to make our personal and professional lives more efficient.
A key takeaway: Some of the best books for marketers, don’t necessarily focus on marketing, but efficiency. If a task on your to-do list takes less than two minutes to complete, do it now before writing it down again. The time and mental energy it takes to pile it on your plate again elevates stress levels and decreases your chance of completing the task at all.


6. “Gamestorming” by Dave Gray, Sunni Brown and James Macanufo

The cliff notes: Our latest Lessing-Flynn read and our favorite thus far! This is a collection of brainstorming games that re-imagines the way we cultivate new ideas.
A key takeaway: Your typical brainstorm probably looks like this: Someone schedules a meeting on the calendar, the team gathers in a conference room, the leader says: “We need to come up with new ideas.” Then everyone stares blankly at each other. Gamestorming encourages writing, shouting and sharing that does not make any resemblance to the prior scenario. Be open to try new games and come ready to “play.”


7. “Finish This Book” by Keri Smith

The cliff notes: This is a creative adventure if you are up for one! Smith’s book places you as a sleuth and encourages you to fill-in-the blanks along your journey. Readers are sent on missions to document observations and draw or write their explorations. Great to complete as a group or with your family.
A key takeaway: Books, especially books for marketers, are meant to be scribbled on! There is no right or wrong answers when creating your own book. This is an adventure worth taking.


Our recommended top 7 marketing books should be just the thing you and your marketing leadership team needs to spark creativity, and sets the tone for a year of strong leadership. To quote Harry Truman, “Not all readers are leaders, but all leaders are readers.” Get to it!