Best Firms For MBA Marketing Students



There are two kinds of marketing jobs. In one, you churn out last minute campaigns to goose the quarterly numbers with price cuts and giveaways. You may hold a marketing title —and operate with a plan and budget too. In essence, you’re really just the sales team’s in-house agency. Compare that to the second kind of marketing role. Here, your strategic mission is integrated with functions like finance, sales, and operations. You’re held accountable for profit-and-loss — and you’re an integral and driving force throughout the company. In other words, you have a seat at the table, along with an opportunity to gain the tools to become a leader beyond marketing.

Obviously, MBA students are looking for the latter job. However, many companies lack the structure and culture to accommodate it. Which firms are better than others for grooming leaders coming out of the marketing function? That was a question recently answered by Kimberly Whitler, an assistant professor at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Management. In a recent column in Forbes, Whitler, who spent two decades in marketing leadership roles at firms like Procter & Gamble and PetSmart, released the results of her survey on the “Best Companies for MBA Marketing Students.”


Not surprisingly, Procter & Gamble topped the list. Long a destination for MBA students looking to break into consumer product marketing, P&G houses many of the world’s best-known everyday brands: Tide, Old Spice, Gillette, Crest, and Charmin. However, Whitler’s study, which she co-authored with DHR International partner Christine DeYoung, clicks off several reasons why P&G and other leading firms excel in developing leaders out of the MBA marketing pool.

Christine DeYoung

Christine DeYoung

“The companies that continually breed and turn out top marketing talent have a few things in common,” DeYoung argues in Forbes. “1) They invest in their people heavily; training, exposure, and cross-functionally; 2) they invest heavily in Strategic Marketing because they believe in its power to drive results; and 3) “Marketers” are synonymous with general managers versus marketing communication experts. The top marketing companies teach and expect their brand marketers to holistically drive the P&L, which ultimately is what creates more capable, enterprise-wide leaders.”

Finishing second in the Whitler and DeYoung study was PepsiCo, recently ranked by TransparentMBA as having the most satisfied MBA employees. It was followed by Unilever, Google and American Express. Robbert Rietbroek, the CEO and SVP of PepsiCo Australia and New Zealand, has collectively spent over 17 years at PepsiCo, P&G, and Unilever —including a 15 year stint at P&G where he rose from being an assistant brand manager in laundry to the global brand franchise director in oral care. As a result, he can identify some common threads between the top three firms in the survey. For him, the biggest differentiators are the commitment and investment devoted to the marketing function at these organizations.

“These exceptional companies are organized around brand management teams, with brand managers who operate as general managers of their brand franchises, and work across functions to bring their strategy, innovation, and brand building programs to life,” Rietbroek explains in Forbes. “Brand teams receive a lot of training, as well as daily coaching. Given the competitiveness of the markets these teams operate in, they form excellent training grounds for strategy and plan development, as well as in-market execution. This provides the right set of experiences to develop leadership, strategic thinking, multifunctional collaboration, agility and personal accountability.”


According to Whitler, the marketing survey was completed by executive recruiters “who represent 19 different firms (including boutique, mid-sized, and large recruiting firms) and have placed over 2,600 C-level marketing leaders over the course of their careers.” That said, it doesn’t cite the number of people who responded, let alone response rates, making the survey more of a discussion starter than a last word.

Whitler further notes that the respondents, which consisted of U.S. based executive recruiters were “asked (unaided) to: 1) identify and rank the top companies for developing C-level marketers, 2) to rank industries in terms of their ability to develop C-level marketers, and 3) to identify and rank the best companies for MBA graduates aspiring to reach the C-level in marketing. The executive recruiters were also asked to identify the attributes associated with the best companies and to explain their ranking (i.e., why the #1 ranked company was chosen as the best, etc.).”

Although the methodology employed by Whitler and DeYoung, is a little cloudy, executive recruiters do provide an intriguing vantage point to evaluate employers. Notably, they have insight into which organizations ‘walk the talk’ in terms of growing their staff. Even more, they have former clients in place who, over time, can validate whether various firms fit with the ambitions, capabilities, and expectations of their current crop of marketers.

Go to next page to see the top 20 firms. 

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