Essential books for junior planners

​The most common question I get from Junior Planners goes something like this:

“What books can I read to advance my strategic thinking?”

Now, I have my default answer. The two or three books that most influenced me and my thought process. But recently I got thinking, what are the foundational books that every planner should read?

So I took to Twitter and put the question to the wider Planning community:

Within a day or two I had received recommendations on a total of 21 books.

However, over a third of the suggestions were for just three books.

This post introduces those three texts as a junior planner’s essential reading list. If you want the full run down, see the thread following the original tweet.

So without further ado, here’s our top three.

The Anatomy of Humbug, by Paul Feldwick

How does advertising work? Does it have to attract conscious attention in order to transmit a ‘Unique Selling Proposition’? Or does it insinuate emotional associations into the subconscious mind? Or is it just about being famous… or maybe something else? In Paul Feldwick’s radical new view, all theories of how advertising works have their uses — and all are dangerous if they are taken too literally as the truth. The Anatomy of Humbug deftly and entertainingly picks apart the historical roots of our common — and often contradictory — beliefs about advertising, in order to create space for a more flexible, creative and effective approach to this fascinating and complex field of human communication. Drawing on insights ranging from the nineteenth-century showman P.T. Barnum to the twentieth-century communications theorist Paul Watzlawick, as well as influential admen such as Bernbach, Reeves and Ogilvy, Feldwick argues that the advertising industry will only be able to deal with increasingly rapid change in the media landscape if it both understands its past and is able to criticise its most entrenched habits of thought.

Thank you to the following strategists for recommending The Anatomy of Humbug:

How brands grow, by Byron Sharp

This book provides evidence-based answers to the key questions asked by marketers every day. Tackling issues such as how brands grow, how advertising really works, what price promotions really do and how loyalty programs really affect loyalty, How Brands Grow presents decades of research in a style that is written for marketing professionals to grow their brands. It is the first book to present these laws in context and to explore their meaning and application.

The most distinctive element to this book is that the laws presented are tried and tested; they have been found to hold over varied conditions, time and countries. This is contra to most marketing texts and indeed, much information provides evidence that much modern marketing theory is far from soundly based.

Thank you to the following strategists for recommending How Brands Grow:

Truth, lies and advertising, by Jon Steel

Account planning exists for the sole purpose of creating advertising that truly connects with consumers. While many in the industry are still dissecting consumer behavior, extrapolating demographic trends, developing complex behavioral models, and measuring Pavlovian salivary responses, Steel advocates an approach to consumer research that is based on simplicity, common sense, and creativity — an approach that gains access to consumers′ hearts and minds, develops ongoing relationships with them, and, most important, embraces them as partners in the process of developing and advertising.

A witty, erudite raconteur and teacher, Steel describes how successful account planners work in partnership with clients, consumer, and agency creatives. He criticizes research practices that, far from creating relationships, drive a wedge between agencies and the people they aim to persuade; he suggests new ways of approaching research to cut through the BS and get people to show their true selves; and he shows how the right research, when translated into a motivating and inspiring brief, can be the catalyst for great creative ideas. He draws upon his own experiences and those of colleagues in the United States and abroad to illustrate those points, and includes examples of some of the most successful campaigns in recent years, including Polaroid, Norwegian Cruise Line, Porsche, Isuzu, “got milk?” and others.

The message of this book is that well–thought–out account planning results in better, more effective marketing and advertising for both agencies and clients. And also makes an evening in front of the television easier to bear for the population at large.

Thank you to the following strategists for recommending Truth, Lies and Advertising: