Best Marketing Books

“Drayton Bird knows more about direct marketing than anyone in the world. His book about it is pure gold.” – David Ogilvy

Drayton Bird’s Books

Drayton has written 3 business books.

Sales letters that Sell – by Drayton Bird

Anyone involved in writing business communications will benefit from this valuable text whether you’re selling your services to customers, prospects, or just writing internal correspondence. Practical examples, tricks, tips and techniques to get better results from your mailings.

“I guarantee that anybody reading this book and acting on any one of its many telling lessons will recoup the price many, many times over” – R. Heller, founder, Management Today

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Commonsense Direct & Digital Marketing – by Drayton Bird

A practical yet entertaining guide to the intricacies of direct marketing.

“If you read no other book on direct marketing you should find the time to read this one” – Direct Marketing International

“Read it and re-read it. It contains the knowledge of a lifetime.” – David Ogilvy

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Marketing Insights and Outrages – by Drayton Bird

A collection of articles published on Marketing, Britain’s leading magazine for the advertising and marketing community.

“Much is talked and written about strategy. At length. My simple strategy would be, buy this book, heed its lessons and gain yourself a little competitive advantage in the process” – Barry Jenner, General Manager, Marketing, Gallaher

“If you plough through these pages diligently you will probably end up better informed than quite a number of marketers, too many of whom are little more than plausible idlers (I speak from personal practice, you understand)” – Drayton Bird

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Drayton Bird’s recommended reading list

Ogilvy on advertising – by David Ogilvy

There is no better book on the subject of advertising and certainly none better written. It is full of memorable and amusing examples. Anybody who hopes to succeed in this business is making their life needlessly miserable and frustrating if they fail to read and refer to it frequently.

Perhaps its greatest quality is its readability. You can pick it up and turn to any page sure that you will find a striking example, a witty observation or laconic put-down.

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Confessions of an advertising man – by David Ogilvy

There is considerable overlap between this early work and “Ogilvy on advertising”. Nevertheless this has probably had more influence on more people than any book written on this subject, probably because it is part instruction manual and part success story.

After 40 years, I can still turn to almost any page and be reminded of something worthwhile.

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Tested advertising methods – by John Caples

David Ogilvy told me, one night over dinner, that he and Rosser Reeves – who formulated first the USP concept – agreed that Caples was the person whose work had influenced them both most.

I used to read this book every year for a while. I would probably be doing a better job now if I reverted to that practice.

Nobody who is interested in getting measurably better results should ignore this book or one of any of the others Caples wrote, which are the best introduction to the most important aspect of Direct Marketing: testing. They are also full of interesting and wise observations on what works and what doesn’t creatively.

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A technique for producing ideas – by James Webb Young

This early creative director of J Walter Thompson, Chicago, deserves to be far better known.

This is the only book I know of, which explains how you can get better ideas. Since I find getting any idea a pain, it is difficult to overstate its value. Not listed here, is his book “How to become an advertising man”, the only brief, cogent, carefully reasoned analysis of how advertising works.

Others divide the subject simplistically into “Awareness” and “Brand-building” and the occasional nod in the direction of Direct Response. James Webb Young who built up a highly successful mail-order business after retiring from JWT looks at the subject in a far more sophisticated and intelligent manner.

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The end of advertising as we know it – by Sergio Zyman

This book, with a companion – “The End of Marketing As We Know It” is a real tonic for those who are nauseated by the pretentious drivel which passes for thought in the advertising and marketing business.

Zyman took Coca Cola at a time when no-one thought it could do better and in 6 years helped quadruple its share price and boost its profits 50%.

Here, with no perfunctory bows to politeness, he analyses what’s wrong with the industry – and how to get it right.

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How to advertise – by Kenneth Roman, Jane Maas, and Martin Nisenholtz

My old boss Ken Roman, with two associates, had the splendid idea of covering something so obvious that it had been overlooked as far as I can see by everybody for the previous 60 years. In this book you discover what you should do and what you must know if you wish to commission, run and evaluate advertising successfully.

Bearing in mind the staggering complacency, ignorance and incompetence, which pervade most marketing departments, this may well be the most valuable book listed here, in terms of return on investment.

Who else, for instance, will tell you such practical things as how many words there should be on a poster and how to evaluate a television script properly?

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How to write a good advertisement – by Victor O Schwab

“Schwab and Beatty” was one of the truly successful direct response advertising agencies of the 1930s and 1940s.

The advice given in this book, which is clear and concise, is as relevant now as when first written because – as John Caples observed – “Times change; people don’t”.

You will benefit as I did from reading and re-reading the list of 100 tested headlines in the book, which I still refer to when looking for the starting point for new ideas.

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Million dollar mailings – by Denny Hatch

Einstein said “Example is not just the best way to teach; it is the only way to teach”. This book illustrates and analyses the most successful mailings in America. That is, those mailings which have been unbeaten in tests for the longest period. Better still, it analyses the characteristics, which leading direct mail experts believe made the mailings successful.

This is the book I probably refer to more than any other. And for those of you who imagine what applies to direct mail does not apply, almost entirely, online and to advertising, I can only say: You are wrong.

The fact is that the skill that matters most is knowing how to persuade; the medium and its techniques matter far less.

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Secrets of Successful Direct Mail – by Richard V Benson

If all you ever read are the 31 rules which the author says he found through painful experience always apply and use that knowledge , your investment in this book will probably be repaid a thousand-fold.

Benson’s most famous statement, which others lay claim to, is always worth remembering: “There are only two rules in direct marketing. Rule 1: test everything. Rule 2: Refer to Rule 1”.

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Broadcast Direct Marketing – by Alvin Eicoff

The late Al Eicoff was the man when it came to direct response TV. When he wrote this he had already been responsible for over 20,000 radio and TV commercials.

The book doesn’t just give you some good examples, it explains things that fey creatives tend to ignore blissfully – but which are far more important than profit and loss. Dull things the mathematics of business, how to negotiate successfully, test marketing, analysing results – and so forth. There are also a lot of radio and TV commercials scripts, to learn from.

Full of good stuff.

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Profitable Direct Marketing – by Jim Kobs

Jim Kobs was one of the pioneers in modern direct marketing. This book explains simply how to start, run and improve a direct marketing programme. In some ways the art of the book I found most valuable was an analysis of campaigns by 11 successful direct marketing firms.

A very good book for beginners in this business.

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Direct Marketing Made Easy – by Malcolm Auld

This is Australia’s largest selling marketing text, and it does what the title says. It is full of examples case studies, advice, tips, traps and much more on how to succeed. It’s easy to read and highly practical – hardly surprising as the author has done so many things in marketing, starting with face to face selling.

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New Maxi Marketing – by Stan Rapp and Tom Collins

The first edition of this book was sent to me by David Ogilvy for comment.

Its importance can’t be overstated because it was the first intelligent attempt to point out that the business of getting responses and of building a brand should not be separate but complementary.

Since then a number of people have prospered by promoting this idea, though to this day the great empire of the ignorant continue to imagine that the two have nothing in common. However, what is interesting is that a hundred years ago new brands were being introduced successfully using direct marketing techniques which were deployed by seasoned direct marketers like Claude Hopkins (Click here to get Claude Hopkins’ “Scientific Advertising” free).

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Writing that Works – by Ken Roman and Joel Raphelson

Amongst the greatest barriers to happiness in business is the inability of almost everybody to write coherently.

All of us are confronted by mountains of ill-thought-out, poorly expressed, illiterate drivel. This is the best book I know of which tries to guide people in the direction of clarity, brevity and effectiveness – for, after all, business writing aims to get results, not just communicate.

I’ve already mentioned one of the writers: the finest testimonial I can offer on behalf of the other is that David Ogilvy – a superb writer – sent Joel Raphelson his draft of “Ogilvy on Advertising” with one short request: “Joel, kindly improve – David”.

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Successful Direct Marketing Methods – by Bob Stone

This is the encyclopedia if you want to understand how direct marketing works and how to go about it.

I cannot say it is full of laughs. It contains something much more valuable: wisdom and the fruit of a long, influential career in the industry. It was long regarded as the Bible of Direct Marketing and every other year I try to do a better job. A daunting task.

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The Solid Gold Mailbox – by Walter Weintz

They may have lost their way recently, but many regarded the Readers’ Digest as the university of direct marketing for many years.

I have lost count of the number of people I respect or who have impressed me upon meeting who turned out to be graduates of that university. Walter Weintz was one of the creative forces behind their success and if you want to understand his mind and learn from his achievements, this book is an excellent investment.

To see how the Readers’ Digest would build from one success to the next is highly educational.

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Scientific Advertising – by Claude C Hopkins

Blissfully short, easy to read and to the point, full of gems.

All the modern giants of advertising – and particularly the U.S. Internet gurus – swear by this book. David Ogilvy claimed it changed his life, and “nobody should serve in any advertising function until they have read this book 5 times”.

Despite having been written in 1926, almost everything Hopkins says is as relevant today as it was then. A must-read for anybody serious about marketing or advertising.

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