Marketing books are not gospel.

Conventional marketing books

Here is a simple exercise everyone can try out. Google “top 10 books for marketers”. In a separate tab on your browser, Google for the best books the best marketers you know read.

Chances are, these two lists look entirely different. They both have excellent books in them. But the list the best marketers read is diverse. It contains a wide range of topics, like philosophy, art, music, cinema, geopolitics, self-healing, technology, religion, etc.

Why is there is a vast difference in the composition of these lists? It has to do with the search term. And in many ways, how the marketing discipline is taught in business schools. Usually conducted as a linear discipline, the case study method creates a homogeneity of learning that stays with marketers long after receiving their MBA diplomas.

So much that many of them cant clearly articulate the role of marketing in the business. It is to build and sustain a unique and powerful brand. Period.

Marketers fundamentally build brands. That’s how marketing adds to the bottom line of the business. Brands are where the company gets its sales and its premiums over the competition.

But more importantly, brands are human constructs. Human beings have always given human values, emotions, and feelings to inanimate objects and non-human beings.

Think about it. After a long trip, we come back home and say hello to our homes. We give pets names. We speak to our cars, apologize to them when we may have dented it accidentally. We say goodbye to things that have been with us for a long time.

We give birth to abstract ideas like nations states, philosophies to live by a meaning, a human persona. And all brands have this human persona. That a marketer is trying to discover, craft, and nudge through various actions.

So if marketing is fundamentally a human discipline, it can’t be pigeonholed only into the study of marketing books. Good marketers need to broaden their reading width rather than just focus on the reading depth available in marketing books alone.

If they want to build great brands.

Navin Narayanan is a partner at Centre of Gravity. He leads HumanWorks, the school of Centre of Gravity where we teach the philosophy and method of Human-Centered Thinking and its allied skills.

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