Most Influential People

As much as Americans like to gripe about marketing, what marketers do affects their everyday lives. You could say products and services greatly influence how they view their existence; which brings us to the subject of this story — the most influential marketers of 2016.

To formulate this rundown, Target Marketing looked everywhere from the New York Times Business Best Sellers to the Inc. 5,000 lists. That research brings you the marketers we believe affected Americans the most in 2016.


Few parts of human life are more personal than what we do in our spare time. Reading books definitely falls into that category. So seeing which marketers Americans care about on their off time shows how much influence they actually have.

In 2016, many marketers mattered to Americans.

Though most of the tomes topping the New York Times Business Best Sellers revealed secrets about how consumers could become business magnates or more effective professionals themselves, some top-sellers centered on marketing and marketers.

Elon Musk, by Ashlee Vance“Elon Musk” — the unapproved biography about the CEO of rocket company SpaceX, electric car manufacturer Tesla Motors and solar power installation company SolarCity — is a rags-to-riches story. The review of the book in the Times says the book — released in May 2015 and spent three months on the 2016 best-sellers list — explains Musk’s Silicon Valley business perspective.

Daymond John, The Power of Being BrokeNext up is another rags-to-riches story. But Daymond John, star of ABC’s “Shark Tank” and founder of hip-hop brand FUBU (For Us By Us), tells readers to stay hungry. His book “The Power of Broke” occupied the New York Times Business Best Sellers list for two months and illustrated his business philosophy. (John also influences marketers. The September 2015 cover story in Target Marketing, “Daymond John — The Shark on Marketing” — is another example of him sharing his business philosophy.)

“#GIRLBOSS” also spent two months on the list, with “a sassy and irreverent look into how [Sophia] Amoruso organically grew her business.” The founder and owner of Nasty Gal, “the fastest-growing online retailer in the country,” according to her author site, tells young women how they can succeed in careers and entrepreneurship.

Entrepreneur, designer and TV star Kristin Cavallari shares her story and many recipes in “Balancing in Heels: My Journey to Health, Happiness and Making It All Work.” In April, a month after the book hit shelves, it rose to No. 6 on the best-seller list.

Gary Vaynerchuk's #ASKGARYVEEFrequent marketing conference speaker Gary Vaynerchuk’s “#AskGaryVee” was a spot above Cavallari at No. 5, also in April. In wording that would probably not make the boisterous speaker blush, the description of his book says: “A marketing and business genius, Gary had the foresight to go beyond traditional methods and use social media tools such as Twitter, Facebook and YouTube to reach an untapped audience that continues to grow.”

But the most popular marketer on the list was humble; possibly even reluctant to be considered a role model.

That marketer was Phil Knight of Nike. The co-founder and chairman emeritus of the Beaverton, Ore.-based brand released memoir “Shoe Dog” on April 26, and hadn’t left the New York Times Business Best Sellers list as of presstime.

The “shy, pale, rail-thin kid” from Oregon borrowed $50 from his father to start up a shoe company in 1963 and is now head of an organization with $30 billion in annual sales.

The billionaire recalls his “crazy idea” to start Nike resulted from a paper he wrote for a class at Stanford University.

“It was one of my final classes,” reads the book, “a seminar on entrepreneurship. I’d written a research paper about shoes, and the paper had evolved from a run-of-the-mill assignment to an all-out obsession.

Heather Fletcher is senior content editor with Target Marketing.