This is a list of suggested further reading I made for my post-graduate lecture series at the London College of Communication. Sorry, but I don’t have the time to add links to amazon today…
Semiotics, cultural theory and media studies
Barthes, Roland. Mythologies. New York: Vintage, 1993.
Barthes’ short passages are prototypical examples of a semiotic critique of culture. The distance between what he does and practical marketing may seem big, but hopefully our course demonstrated this is not the case.
Hall, Sean. This Means This, This Means That: A User’s Guide to Semiotics. London: Laurence King Publishers, 2007.
A lucid visual introduction to semiotics. Compromised of extremely concise essays, each opening with a question using signs and images, followed by a debate of possible answers introducing key semiotic concepts.
McLuhan, Marshal. Understanding Media. New York: Routledge, 2005.
It’s worth travelling beyond the more common text of “the medium is the message” to get better acquainted with McLuhan’s seminal work. He explores the ways we reinvent ourselves through our technologies and make them our extensions, mainly discussing media related technologies and their sociological and psychological implications. Marketing, being a communication based practice, makes these dense, abstract, ideas surprisingly relevant, if not useful.
Marketing & Branding, theory and practice
Armstrong, Gary, and Philip Kotler. Principles of Marketing (13th Edition). Alexandria, VA: Prentice Hall, 2009.
A “canonical”, clear, introduction to old school marketing, the more communication oriented episodes introduce some traditional concepts we’ve touched upon. Bear in mind the critical information provided in the course about situations where these traditional methods break down.
Baker, Michael, and Susan Hart. The Marketing Book, Sixth Edition. St. Louis: Butterworth-Heinemann, 2007.
This book is also great to hit burglars with, as a door stop or as a tool for stunning cattle, in case you’re interested in exploring this more traditional form of branding. This tome is the official manual of the British Marketing Institute. A clear and through survey of up to date marketing theory and methodologies with advanced students and practitioners in mind. Stephen Brown’s slim chapter about postmodern marketing is highly recommended.
Boyett, Jimmie T., and Joseph H. Boyett. The Guru Guide to Marketing: A Concise Guide to the Best Ideas from Today’s Top Marketers. New York, NY: Wiley, 2002.
The best (and occasionally the worse) ideas, trends and hits from marketing best-sellers of the 90’s and early naughties. The authors introduce the kernel of many guru theories and discuss them critically. Slightly superficial, yet a good introduction to the misty lands of commercialised marketing theory.
Kapferer, Jean-Noel. The New Strategic Brand Management: Creating and Sustaining Brand Equity Long Term (New Strategic Brand Management: Creating & Sustaining Brand Equity). London: Kogan Page, 2008.
If you read just one branding manual, read Kapferer. A meticulous survey of brand management from the conceptual to the minute. Solid theory combined with illuminating case studies and, thankfully, almost no propaganda.
Gibson, William. Pattern Recognition. New York: Berkley, 2005.
Sophisticated thriller led by a charming heroine, who happens to be an American brand consultant arriving in London on a secret visual identity project. More insights into marketing then most guru books and much more fun.
Gladwell, Malcolm. Blink. boston: Little Brown, 2005.
This readable best-seller explores, among other things, how difficult is it to get useful insights into the minds of audiences and what makes them tick.
Klein, Naomi. No Logo. New York, NY: Picador, 2000.
This much debated tome looks at the dark side of the connection between marketing communications, globalisation and branding. The cases she brings and the fact she misses many of the real villains of the global corporate world while focusing on mass-market, “in the limelight”, brands, is evidence to the power of brands as cultural constructs.