People frequently ask me to recommend my 10 favorite marketing books. Let’s go down the list:
1. “How to Write a Good Advertisement” by Vic Schwab (Wilshire Book Co., 1962). A common-sense course in how to write ad copy that gets people to buy your product or service, written by a plain-speaking veteran mail-order copywriter in 1960.
Best part: 100 “archetypal” headlines that people still use in various forms today to create new controls (e.g., “When Doctors Feel Rotten, This Is What They Do”Availability: Still in print (Wilshire Publishing) and available at Amazon.com.
2. “My First 50 Years in Advertising”; by Max Sackheim (Prentice-Hall, 1970). Another plain-speaking, common-sense guide that stresses salesmanship over creativity, and results over awards. The author was an originator of the Book of the Month Club.
Best part: The oversize format allows full-size reproductions (large enough for the copy to be legible) of classic direct response ads (e.g., “They Thought I Was Crazy to Ship Live Maine Lobsters as Far as 1,800 Miles from the Ocean”). Availability: Out of print and difficult to find.
3. “The Robert Collier Letter Book” by Robert Collier. While Schwab and Sackheim concentrate on space ads, Collier focuses on the art of writing sales letters, of which he is a master. You learn how to write persuasive sales letters in a friendly, natural style.
Best part: Some of the letters may seem dated, but Collier’s timeless principles still apply. Availability: Out of print and difficult to get.
4. “Reality in Advertising” by Rosser Reeves (Alfred A. Knopf, 1961). Reeves introduces the now-famous concept of USP (Unique Selling Proposition).
Best part: The idea that every successful ad must offer a benefit, the benefit must differentiate your product from the competition, and the benefit must motivate buyers to purchase your product instead of others. Availability: Out of print and difficult to get.
5. “Breakthrough Advertising” by Eugene Schwartz. A copywriting guide by one of the greatest direct response copywriters of the 20th century.
Best part: The notion that advertising does not create desires; rather, it focuses existing desires onto your product. Availability: Out of print and difficult to get.
6. “Tested Advertising Methods, Fifth Edition” by John Caples, revised by Fred Hahn (Prentice-Hall, 1997). An updated version of Caples’ classic book on the principles of persuasion as proven through A/B split tests.
Best part: The A/B split headline tests with the results (e.g., for an air conditioner, “How to have a cool, quiet bedroom – even on hot nights” pulled 2 1/2 times the response of “Get rid of that humidity with a new room cooler that also dries the air”. Availability: In print. Available in bookstores and online.
7. “Confessions of an Advertising Man” by David Ogilvy (Atheneum). Charming autobiography of the legendary ad man, packed with useful advice on how to create effective advertising.
Best part: Chapter 6 on “How to Write Potent Copy.” Availability: Out of print and difficult to get.
8. “Scientific Advertising” by Claude Hopkins (Bell Publishing, 1920). A book on the philosophy that advertising’s purpose is to sell, not entertain or win creative awards – and how to apply this philosophy to create winning ads.
Best part: His observation that “specifics sell; superlatives roll off the human understanding like water off a duck’s back.” Availability: This book is in the public domain and is available as a free downloadable e-book on several Web sites. including www.marketingresource.com/html/reports/r-scientificadvertising.html. You also can buy it as a paperback at Amazon.com.
9. “Method Marketing” by Denny Hatch (Bonus Books, 1999). A book on putting yourself in the customer’s shoes. Packed with modern direct response success stories, including Bill Bonner of Agora Publishing and Martin Edelston of Boardroom.
Best part: The introduction of the concept of method marketing, which states: “You cannot write copy without getting inside the head of the person to whom you are communicating and becoming that person.” Availability: In print and available at Amazon.com; also on Denny’s Web site, www.methodmarketing.com.
10. “Advertising Secrets of the Written Word” by Joseph Sugarman (DelStar, 1998). How to write successful advertising copy by a modern master of the space ad.
Best part: The 24 psychological triggers that get people to buy. Availability: In print and available at Amazon.com.
Have I left any out? Yes, many. But this list is a good start. Here’s to happy – and profitable – reading.