Free Books of the Week: Core Marketing Texts

In the Hutong

Counting Books

1606 hrs.

If you have an historic point-of-view on your chosen occupation or profession, chances are pretty good that you can point to one book – or several books – that laid out the need for and underlying assumptions of your craft.

For the marketing and communications professions, two of these texts are available for your perusal at no charge. Both were written during a period in which the behavioral sciences – including psychoanalytic theory – were just beginning to have an influence on the way companies communicated.

The first is Propaganda, the most important work of Edward L. Bernays, a man usually grouped with Harold Burson as one of the creators of the public relations craft. Bernays, a nephew of psychoanalysis pioneer Sigmund Freud, did much to incorporate his uncle’s theories into a means of influencing public opinion. Bernays was unabashed in his advocacy of the manipulation of publication as a means of governing in a democracy.

Before his ideas could get much public airing, however, they were adopted in significant part by the National Socialists in Germany, and as a result the word “propaganda” leaves a sour taste on the Western tongue.

Bernays’ ideas remain provocative, however, and they are worth a review in a day when the marketing craft seems to be going more quantitative and less human.

The other book on the Hutong Free Shelf this week is Claude C. Hopkins’ book Scientific Advertising. As wary as I am of overly-quantitative approaches to what is fundamentally a qualitative craft, Hopkins reminds us that we cannot leave it all up to our guts. Hopkins’ work was fundamental in the formation of some of the giants of the advertising business, including David Ogilvy.

If you work in or with the marketing side of your business, these two short books should be on your reading pile.


About David Wolf

An adviser to corporations and organizations on strategy, communications, and public affairs, David Wolf has been working and living in Beijing since 1995, and now divides his time between China and California. He also serves as a policy and industry analyst focused on innovative and creative industries, a futurist, and an amateur historian.
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