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3 Books That Can Help With Your Marketing Strategy

April 7, 2017
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As digital marketers, we are only as effective as the knowledge and tactics that we can leverage to create a personable and appealing ad experience for the end user. A big component of this, though often overlooked, is the knowledge you can gain from research that you do at your own leisure. I personally have found a lot of insightful information from the books that I have read throughout my time here at PDM. Initially, the books that I read were not intended to be leveraged for work; I read them because they were topics that I found myself drawn to.

Upon further reflection, I realized that in reality this is the best way to learn something useful that you can apply to a lot of different facets of your life, including work.  When you’re engaged with a topic, you absorb the information like a sponge, and find yourself brainstorming ways to apply it.

In the spirit of that notion, I compiled a list of 3 books that, while they talk about topics that are a bit more general, have direct pertinence to your marketing and advertising strategy.  They all offer their own unique perspectives on ways to better appeal to your audience, and appeal to the decision-making process of your target audience.

The Art Of War By Sun Tzu

Overview: This was a book written by the ancient Chinese war general Sun Tzu from the 5thcentury BC. His legacy is that of a Chinese military strategist, who was notorious for understanding not only how to defeat an enemy and succeed in most conquests, but how to dismantle his opposition to the point that they aren’t a threat anymore.

His memoirs, The Art of War outlines military strategy in 13 respective chapters, each of which outlining a different principle of war strategy. The book has stood the test of time, however, because it’s principles and tactics are general enough that they can be applied to business, management, and interpersonal relationships as well.

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Marketing Application: One of the chapters of the book speaks to the following tactic: “Exploit your enemy’s weaknesses, avoid his strengths.” This is something that a lot of marketers can learn from. Too often, specifically in terms of branding, we see new businesses trying to play with the “big boys” or existing industry powerhouses, because they see that the USP’s and positioning conducted by those brands has elicited success.

In reality, we have seen it to be a more effective tactic to position and market yourself differently than those big players if you’re an emerging brand trying to compete in a saturated market. In your marketing, specifically in your ad copy, you can exploit the weaknesses of those big brands, like pointing out the fact that a big company can’t adhere as closely to customer service and experience as a company that is smaller.

Don’t, however, try to position yourself as being more efficient or as having more resources because that simply isn’t the case and you’d be setting yourself up for direct competition with a huge entity. Exploit the weaknesses that you can compensate for, but avoid going head-to-head with an enemy (or competitor), that can beat you in that battle.

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Subliminal: How Your Unconscious Mind Rules Your Behavior By Leonard Mlodinow

Overview: This book explores the idea of a “two-tiered brain”, the idea that the conscious and the subconscious aspects of the human brain work in conjunction to not only help us form our holistic perception of reality and the world around us, but also about how our subconscious mind affects more of our conscious decision-making and rationality than many people care to consider.

The book also asserts that academic and business studies like behavioral economics are skewed because of this inherent bias; people want to think they are in control of every aspect of their life, when in reality they aren’t.

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Marketing Application: The author gives a few examples of modern behavioral economics, which are designed to show that what we purchase is decided in large part due to extraneous circumstantial factors like product packaging, color scheme, advertising and price, as opposed to one’s perception of product quality or functionality. If you think about it, this really counteracts a lot of aspects of people’s traditional beliefs about product marketing in particular.

This is also an advantage; you see the high-impact cognitive effects of something like effective advertising or product aesthetics – so leverage that in your marketing efforts as much as you can. If you have a product that has a low price, test using that as a Unique Selling Proposition as opposed to highlighting product functionality. If you have a product that has better-looking packaging than the competition, put the two next to each other and let your target market see the (perceived) difference in quality for themselves.

The applications that can be rendered from information in this book are almost endless because it deals with a part of the human brain that marketers, specifically advertisers, can always seek to leverage to sway someone’s decision making process.

Contagious: Why Things Catch On By Jonah Berger

Overview: This book highlights the common thread or consistent aspects that make a product or idea “catch on” or “go viral”. The author here breaks down those common characteristics into a mnemonic device called “S.T.E.P.P.S”. This is an acronym, that stands for Social Currency, Triggers, Emotion, Public, Practical Value, Stories.

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Marketing Application: In all honesty, the entire book can be applied directly to your marketing and advertising initiatives. That being said, the two that are perhaps the most pertinent are aspects “T” and “E”, triggers and emotion, and how they relate to ad copy and advertising positioning in general.

  • Triggers – the book talks about how being ‘Top of Mind, Tip of Tongue’, and associating your product or offering around ideas or activities that people experience in their day to day life. An example here would be, let’s say you’re advertising for breath mints; instead of saying “try our refreshing spearmint flavor today”, saying something along the lines of “no more morning breath”.
  • Emotion – the book also talks about framing or positioning your offering around what matters most to consumers by asking the 3 “Why’s”; Why is this product important, why is that important, and why is that important. This is aimed at evoking a sense of usefulness and practicality emotionally from your target consumer so that they find your offering appealing and functional at the same time, by appealing to their desire to be amazed and delighted.

Wrapping Up

As you can see, there are a lot of tangible takeaways from each of these books listed above, though at first glance they might not look to be geared towards digital marketing in the slightest, as was the case with The Art of War.

This industry is all about outside-the-box thinking that will differentiate you from other marketers in an otherwise saturated and ever-growing industry, and leveraging the knowledge that you gain from leisurely reading and recreational activities is imperative in that effort. Happy reading!


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