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Marketing Inspiration, by the Book

Settling in a comfy chair with a good book; it’s not only a great way to relax, it’s an enjoyable way to recharge, learn, and get inspired. We asked the Direct Marketing News 2015 40 Under 40 winners to share a favorite book that’s made a difference in their career, inspired them, or simply entertained them most, as well as what they’ve gotten from it. Here, they’re recommended reading.

Personal success strategies

Dan Barcus, Executive Director of Acquisition Marketing, Comcast

What Got You Here Won’t Get You There: How Successful People Become Even More Successful, by Marshall Goldsmith and Mark Reiter. It’s a great study on personality reflection, understanding your blind spots, and what it takes to move up.

Kirsten Bjork-Jones, Director, Global Marketing Communications, Edmund Optics

Play Like a Man, Win Like a Woman by Gail Evans. My boss gave me this book when I earned my MBA. The most valuable aspect of the book is the practical words of advice to women on success—my favorite being: Don’t accept responsibility without authority.

Adam Bravo, Executive Director of Loyalty Marketing, MGM Resorts International

Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln. It’s a case study on how to interact with your peers and competitors, embracing and then leveraging their strengths.

Courtney Caldwell, Founder, The Write One

Super Rich by Russell Simmons. This was the first book to introduce me to meditation, a now-daily practice that helps me to erase the noise and stay focused in my leadership. Simmons taught me how to slow down to speed up. What’s currently on my nightstand, though, is my husband’s manuscript for his book, Mentored by Failure. So far I’ve learned that the best way to beat a path to success is to fail fast.

Judge Graham, President, Sq1

Mastering the Rockefeller Habits, by Verne Harnish. It helped me take managing exponential growth and [put it] into bite-size chunks. It also helped me create habits and behaviors that have been successful for our organization.

Chad Hallert, Strategy Director, Noble Studios

The book I really like this year so far is called Essentialism, by Greg McKeown. The idea is that a lot of us who are successful and are overachievers over-volunteer and over-commit. This book talks about saying no to more things. Instead of saying yes to everything and trying to be the hero all the time, it’s about only saying yes to those things that have the highest impact [on] your organization or what you’re focused on. For me, especially, I tend to overcommit. So, it’s been kind of a paradigm shift for me to go in more with a no upfront and let that person convince me that it’s a yes and that it’s something that needs to be focused on…. It reminds me to do the right work.

Amrit Kirpalani, Founder and CEO, NectarOM

Good to Great [by] Jim Collins, in terms of being aware of strategy, being aware of your own strengths and weaknesses, and what you want to focus on. The second one that comes very close is Seven Habits [of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey], much more from a personal perspective, where you keep your regular compass aligned to what really matters.

Jamie LaRose, VP, Digital Marketing, Home Lending, Wells Fargo

The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich by Timothy Ferriss. Reading it has been kind of a slap in the face in the way we traditionally think about work. He’s saying you can have good work life balance. It’s been enlightening.

Adam Padilla, President and Chief Creative Officer, Brandfire

 For Immediate Release by Ronn Torossian. It taught me to be bold and aware of how you’re coming across to others, and to make sure you control that message.


Business builders

Brad Bedoe, Director, Lead Generation Marketing, Fleetmatics

Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die by Chip Heath and Dan Heath. It’s all about ideas that stick. So, it can be an advertising idea or just a concept. But it’s about the elements that make something sticky, which are simplicity, unexpectedness, and concrete, credible, and emotional stories.

Jennifer Capistran, Senior Director, Merkle Analytics, Merkle Inc.
I’m currently reading The Signal and the Noise by Nate Silver that I got as gift from a fellow analytical marketer. It explores the nature of prediction, including what makes a prediction good or bad and why we’re sometimes overconfident in predictions due to saliency biases. It is proving to be good reminder of the imperfections in forecasting, the way redundancy and real-world testing can lead to improvements and the overarching fact that biases can be inherent and that awareness of them is essential. Managing a team of analysts and statisticians solving mathematical problems is part of my everyday responsibilities, so reading about real-world applications and reminders of pitfalls is time well spent for me. The storytelling approach that Silver uses helps to bring the subject matter into the realm of leisure reading.

Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, CEO, Chairman, and Owner, Hawthorne Direct

Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX and the Quest for a Fantastic Future, by Ashlee Vance. I definitely have huge respect for Elon and his vision not only for the world, but also for technology and beyond. I can relate to that in a lot of ways. I’m always looking for what we can do currently for our customers, but [also] how we as a company can contribute to the betterment of the world.

Greg Mazen, Director of Creative Services, Boy Scouts of America

The Speed of Trust: The One Thing That Changes Everything by Stephen M.R. Covey. The book talks about how you can’t have success without trust. The word itself embodies almost everything you can strive for that will help you succeed. There’s not a single relationship that can go on, or work without trust.

Betsy Miller Daitch, Senior Marketing Manager, Investment Management, S&P Capital

I’m an avid reader. I’m currently reading Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap…And Others Don’t by Jim Collins. It’s an older business book [that] talks about how organizations can go from good to being really exceptional. He compares organizations that have made the leap to those that haven’t in the same peer group. Having an exceptional leader is one of the requirements for making the leap.

Dhanusha Sivajee, EVP of Marketing, XO Group Inc.

Right now, I’m actually rereading one of my favorite business books: Made to Stick [by Chip Heath and Dan Heath]. It keeps me grounded whenever I’m trying to create or sell-in a new idea.

Cecile Thirion, Marketing Director, Government and Transportation, Xerox Transportation

The Virgin Way by Richard Branson. It contains some very common sense advice about how to make a difference in a company; about giving the best in what you are doing; delegating; the importance of spending time with family; communication; and collaboration.

Charlotte Tsou, SVP, Regional Head of Analytics and CRM, HSBC
How Google Works [by Eric Schmidt & Jonathan Rosenberg], because it discusses the use of analytics.

Marketing mainstays

Kyle Christensen, VP, Marketing, Invoca
Two great books are essential reading for any marketer: Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind by Al Ries and Jack Trout, and Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die by Chip Heath and Dan Heath.

Yasmeen Coning, VP, Head of Marketing, Genesis Media LLC
The Dynamics of Persuasion by Richard Perloff. It takes a deep dive into the connection between the mind and the ways messages influence people. I’ve realized that as marketers we cannot change a person’s mind or attitude. However, we are the stewards of information.

Coltrane Curtis, Founder and Managing Partner, Team Epiphany
Positioning by Al Ries and Jack Trout. I carry that book with my dad’s notes in it everywhere I go. It taught me that life is about how you position yourself and how your community positions you.

Jerry Jao, CEO and Founder, Retention Science
I’m going to talk about Geoffrey Moore’s Crossing the Chasm. This one in particular is really important for marketers because it’s about…having the talent to sell a product and get it across the chasm. It helps us understand how to be relevant and how to sell and market products.

Joel Moore, Director, Strategic Leadership, Force 3

Zombie Loyalists: Using Great Service to Create Rabid Fans by Peter Shankman. I actually saw the author speak. This book allowed me to understand marketing myopia, which means not pushing product and services to customers, but understanding the business challenges they’re facing—understanding how you solve problems for customers, and once you do that you gain their loyalty. The book hones in on making the customer successful.

Jessica Nable, Vice President, Strategic Communications, Epsilon

Igniting Customer Connections: Fire Up Your Company’s Growth By Multiplying Customer Experience and Engagement, by Andrew Frawley. I got to work with Andrew on the book. He talks about the fact that ROI is an antiquated approach to measuring performance. You have to look at how you’re engaging customers, and the experiences you’re creating for them. You have to look over a much longer period of time than a specific campaign to really see how you’re moving the needle.


Leadership logic

Rachel Carpenter, Global Marketing and Sales Leader, Mercer

I’m currently reading Total Leadership by Stewart Friedman. As a first-time mother, I have a heightened interest in how my personal and professional lives are intertwined. The basic idea is that you can find “four-way wins” by integrating your work, home, community, and self, and, ultimately, perform better in all aspects rather than make trade-offs.

Ben Roberts, VP of Marketing Operations, Acumen Brands

How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie. I think it’s helped me understand motivations underlying people’s decision-making process and what inspires and motivates them both from a customer and a colleague standpoint.

Pedro L. Rodriguez, Director of Integrated Marketing, People en Español

How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie. It’s about managing people. They’re practical lessons he tells that drive back to being a good human; but if you’re really smart, he’s telling you that the focus should be about what you can deliver for this other person, friend, or business standpoint—and I really think that goes a long way.

Justin Yoshimura, SVP, Loyalty Services Group, Merkle Inc.

The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz.

Tania Yuki, Founder and CEO, Shareablee

The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz. It’s a true insider’s story in what it takes to break through and survive as a founder and CEO. It was helpful to hear the stories of how another founder overcame seemingly insurmountable odds and it inspired me to keep going.

Spiritual growth

Bhumika Dadbhawala, Senior Director of Business Development and Partnerships, Drawbridge
I recently finished reading the book The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari by Robin Sharma. One of the lessons in the book talks about cultivating your mind. So, the quality of your life is determined by the quality of your thoughts—[i.e.,] there are no mistakes, there are only lessons that we end up learning from life. It’s important to see setbacks as opportunities for more personal expansion and growth. I’m trying to apply this to my day-to-day life by deleting the victim-speak from my language. No more, “I can’t,” or “it’s not possible,” or “it’s really hard.” More of “I will,” or “this is great,” and “what opportunity does this present to me as an individual or us as an organization?”

Aaron Ginn, Growth Product Manager, Everlane

It would be the Bible by far…. It teaches you the value of humanity, the value of people, and the importance of them to the greater creation. It gives you a reason and hope for existence. Without that, what’s the importance and meaning of starting a business, treating people well, or trying to build a great culture in a company? Without meaning, people don’t live…. People join a brand and get involved with a company or download an app because it provides meaning to them; it provides purpose.

Donald Patrick Lim, Chief Digital Officer, ABS-CBN Corp.

My favorite is still The Richest Man in Babylon by George S. Clason. The principles found in a book written a century ago still hold true to this day. I’ve learned how I can better approach my job, and how I manage my finances, my friends and peers, and myself because of that book.

Fun and informative

Elizabeth Holub, Marketing Manager; Interim Manager, Performance Promotion, Carl Fischer Music & Theodore Presser Company

I’m currently reading The Best American Non-Required Reading Series. [A group of high school students] sit down each year and find short stories, cartoons, articles, anything that’s been published in America in the [previous] year, and they put it together in an anthology. It’s a great series because you get fiction, nonfiction, art, all in one book; it’s kind of a snapshot of that year—2012 focused on the Occupy Wall Street movement; 2013 has really interesting stuff about Cuba. It’s interesting to…look back and see where the consciousness was and how it’s changed.

Alia Kemet, U.S. Media Director, IKEA

 I’m reading How to Fly a Horse: The Secret History of Creation, Invention, and Discovery. It’s by Kevin Ashton. This one is about innovation, where does creativity come from, and how to foster innovation, which is really big for me. I have a team of seven that reports to me. One of the things I’ve gotten from [this book] is that it really dispels the myth that only certain people are creative or special. I love that because I have seen that spark go off in someone.

One thing it says is, “The only bad draft is the one we cannot write.” There’s a lot of fear sometimes with folks, where they may have an idea but they don’t want to share it. There are a lot of killers of innovation in business. I was hoping this book would inspire me to continue to always be looking for what’s next, and it has.

Jessica Nielsen, VP, Communications and Marketing, Information Systems and Global Solutions Division, Lockheed Martin

I’m reading Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee. I’m only on chapter two, but I have a feeling it will give me a life lesson.

Amanda Todorovich, Director of Content Marketing, Cleveland Clinic

 I’m currently reading A Whack on the Side of the Head by Roger von Oech because I lead an amazing creative team that delivers on thousands of projects a year and I’m always looking for ways to keep them inspired and engaged. This book comes with “Whack Pack” cards that we’ve incorporated into our weekly staff meetings. It’s important to me to bring fun into our work.


Fun and frivolous

Patricia Korth-McDonnell, Partner and Managing Director, West Coast, Huge 

I read a lot of garbage sci-fi because I can’t deal with work-related books when I’m done with work. I read Don’t Make Me Think ages ago.

Natasha Raja, VP of Marketing and Customer Service, Dice Holdings

Two novels: Leaving Berlin by Joseph Kanon and All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr.

Not a book, but still inspiring

Danielle Avalone, VP, Account Services, Lanmark360 Inc.
Harvard Business Review. It’s been a great guideline on how to be a better manager, helping me to make sure that I get my job done, and also supporting my team.

Cristina Bozas, Creative Chief Officer, Pólvora Advertising

Rather than books, I lean on other types of resources that are fast and current. Some of the ones I read are DMN,Ad Age, Creativity Daily, eMarketer, IAB Informer, SlideShare, and HubSpot.

Donald J. Gallant, Director of Analytics, Marketsmith Inc.

I’m not a huge book reader…. I always like to keep track of online articles; I like to keep myself aware of everything that’s going on in terms of recent trends [and] what’s upcoming, but that’s really the extent of my reading.


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