Full disclosure: this page makes use of Amazon affiliate links. If you use those links to purchase their respective products, Breaking the Wheel will make a small commission (that comes out of Amazon’s pockets, not yours). In short, purchasing these weighty tomes of knowledge helps support the blog at no cost to you. I am only putting up products that I believe in and that I think can benefit you.
Strategic Marketing Management, 8th Edition, Alexander Chernev
The Kellogg School of Management is one of, if not the premier business school for marketing. Strategic Marketing Management is the textbook used in the core marketing management class. It’s dry as the desert and has all of the charisma and flair of a stereo system’s user manual. But it’s comprehensive, covering the entire spectrum of marketing activities, from analyzing the strategic and tactical environments, market segmentation, channel distribution and advertising. The lack of flavor also results in brevity – it’s contains a ton of information in a relatively low page count.
If you think your marketing department sucks (and I get the sense that a lot of developers do), this book will show you what it should be doing and, by extension, how to keep its members honest.
Word of Mouth Marketing: How Smart Companies Get People Talking, Andy Sernovitz
Pound for pound, word-of-mouth marketing is the most valuable form of marketing there is. Why? Because it’s the only form of marketing you cannot buy. You can buy ads. You can buy press releases. But you can’t buy positive word-of-mouth. You can only earn it. Sure, you can try astroturfing, but you’ll get busted. The internet hive mind is just too adroit at sniffing that stuff out.
And to that end, Sernovitz’s book is a breath of fresh air. It’s all about earning that goodwill with your fans. It’s a guide to building that positive word-of-mouth the right way: earning it by being good to your customers.
Advertising Strategy, Brian Sternthal & Derek D. Rucker
A guide to using advertising effectively. It’s not a how-to manual on directing advertisements (that’s best left to advertising firms and departments). Its a framework for the using advertisements strategically to target the people you want to target and communicate what you want to communicate while differentiating yourself from the competition. It also provides a useful framework for appraising the advertisements you get from ad departments and ensuring that they actually match the desired strategy.
Much like Strategic Marketing Management above, even if you never directly handle advertisements for your game, this book is a useful tome for keeping the people that do honest.
Content Chemistry: An Illustrated Handbook for Content Marketing, Andy Crestodina
One of the greatest gifts the internet bestowed on small business owners is content marketing – the practice of using SEO driven content to pull visitors to your site. And in that field, Andy Crestodina is the god-damned Arch Warlock. If you want to learn his secrets, look no further.
The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing: Violate Them at Your Own Risk!, by Al Ries and Jack Trout
If you engage in any form of product design or have any responsibility for creating awareness for games, you need to read this book. And it’s short enough that you can finish is in an afternoon. Two expert marketers describe 22 marketing concepts that must be headed at all costs if you want your game to be successful. The laws aren’t quite as immutable as the title suggests (many are over-ridden by other laws). But as long as you don’t have a pedantic streak, this book provides an intuitive and actionable guide to marketing. It’s anecdotal, not data-driven, which is a pet peeve of mine. It also was written at the dawn of the current internet age, so it’s examples are a little log in the tooth. But if you struggle with marketing, start here.
The Lean Startup: How Today’s Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses, Eric Ries
I maintain that entrepreneurship is really just a very specialized form of marketing (and, likewise, effective marketing is entrepreneurial at its heart). And for all that The Lean Startup is focused on, well, startups, it’s focus on rapid iteration and learning about the market using objective data is sound advice for marketers of any stripe or industry.
Crossing the Chasm, 3rd Edition: Marketing and Selling Disruptive Products to Mainstream Customers (Collins Business Essentials), Geoffrey Moore
Crossing The Chasm should be required reading for any product developer in any industry. And while it may be focused on business-to-business sales, you can learn a lot from Moore’s approach to building a market for your game, especially if it’s a completely new IP or genre.
It’s not without some trepidation that I put this book on this list. Brainfluence is one of those books that can absolutely be used for evil. And, despite Dooley’s protests to the contrary, there are concepts in this book that can only be applied to someone else’s detriment.
But, like it or not, we are all rats nests of biases and subconscious perceptual routines. And knowing how these routines work is useful information for marketers and product designers. When applied ethically, they can help customers feel better about their purchases. Or help you get better deals with in negotiations.
So read it, but keep the golden rule in mind as well. If you wouldn’t want a brainfluence tactic used on you, think twice before using it on someone else.