Inspired by James Webb Young's "A technique for producing ideas" and a blog post by Neil Perkin, I set out to identify which books were perceived by modern day marketers as true "Timeless Marketing Classics".
Timeless Marketing Classics: Books that have survived the test of time; haven't aged, and are just as relevant today, if not even more so, than when they were first written.Image: Weeping Willow (Flickr)
Dale Carnegie's "How to win friends and influence people" has always been relevant in the workplace, and in a digital world where Twitter followers and Google Page Rank contribute to determining influence, its value is definitely retained. On many occasions I've found that James Webb Young's 50 year old masterpiece can more often than not provide the catalyst for an idea. Other titles such as Eating the Big Fish, The Cluetrain Manifesto, and Truth Lies & Advertising were all written over 10 years ago and their core insights are still influential and relevant a decade later.
Back in April, I knocked on the door of several authors, bloggers and planners, (namely Seth Godin, Jon Steel, Chris Anderson, Russell Davies, Adam Richardson, Helge Tenno, Neil Perkin, Eaon Pritchard and Charles Frith), and asked them, 3 simple questions:
- What you consider to be a Timeless Marketing Classic
- Why was it relevant then?
- Why is it relevant now?
Their responses were varied, interesting and in many ways surprising. Jon Steel, a man who has written two outstanding marketing books, explained his preference to gain inspiration elsewhere - "I prefer to spend my time reading novels, quality newspapers and good magazines like the New Yorker. I've learned more about planning from that than I ever would have done reading most of the books written by advertising people", a view shared by Charles Frith. Although Jon did go on to name Ogilvy on Advertising and The Book of Gossage as the only books he would ever recommend.
Overall the project threw up a hugely varied selection of titles, only books by Seth Godin, Clay Shirky and Jon Steel received more than one nomination and it was hard to identify any real trends. I was surprised to see Clay Shirky's "Here Comes Everybody" named as a timeless, after all the book is only a couple of years old - surely that's akin to naming The Dark Knight as one of the greatest films ever made? Russell Davies had a couple of interesting selections in Britain by Mass Observation and Dorothy Sayers (Murder must Advertise), whilst Seth Godin's selections were all totally unknown to me.
Six months on and I still don't feel that I've identified a solid group of "Timeless Marketing Classics".
So in the pursuit of identifying a definite list, I've decided to throw the question back out to a wider audience, and to also encourage an open source response - so please feel welcome to blog, tweet or comment with your own suggestions to enhance or add to the list.
Hopefully in a months time I'll be able to reveal a fairly conclusive list.... or at the very worst a Christmas present list for that planner in your life!