Best Firms For MBA Marketing Students

Procter & Gamble headquarters in Cincinnati, Ohio

Procter & Gamble headquarters in Cincinnati, Ohio


The remainder of Whitler’s ranking includes many of the world’s most recognizable brands. Rounding out the top five are Coca-Cola, General Mills, Amazon, Apple, and Starbucks. Other notables in the top 20 include Nike, KraftHeinz, Jonson & Johnson, and Facebook.  As you might expect, CPG dominates the list — but not necessarily because of name recognition. Instead, Whitler notes that they often provide “training, experience, leadership development, challenge, learning, opportunity, and growth.” In a nutshell: their success is the result of a time-tested formula for developing leaders internally.

The experience gap may be one reason why technology firms lag behind their CPG cohorts in the survey. However, adds Ed Tazzia, Principal of Sycamore and Company, the issue may go even deeper. “For companies like IBM, HP, etc., their historic focus has been on direct selling,” Tazzia observes in Forbes.  “They have depended on their agencies for broader messaging.  They have hired some CPG marketers but the management is still focused on a different model from what I can see.  They are getting better, but still sit behind consumer-focused companies that are dependent on getting the brand promise right and then delivering with product, service and messaging.”

Kimberly Whitler

Kimberly Whitler

Even more, adds DeYoung in a previous Forbes column, tech companies are still ambivalent about the role that marketers should play. “In the best firms,” she explains, “marketers are in the driver’s seat in terms of developing the direction for innovation. This is a big difference. The former tends to prepare marketers to be communicators while the latter prepares marketers for the C-suite. It is still unclear what type of role tech firms want marketers to play—leaders of strategy or followers of strategy.”


Based on the open-ended responses, Whitler and DeYoung came away with seven attributes of the best companies for MBA marketing students. Some, such as consistently recruiting top talent and offering best-in- class training were common sense. However, others are certain to stir some soul searching in many c-suites. One involved viewing marketers beyond their role and bringing them into the larger fold.

“Marketers at these firms are trained to be strategic, P&L leaders who “own” brand results,” Whitler shares.” As one executive recruiter suggested, to reach the C-level, you must have P&L management experience. Not all firms believe marketing should be such a central function and therefore don’t provide marketers with enterprise-wide training and preparation. The top 15 firms, in contrast, generally value marketers and train them to be enterprise-wide, P&L leaders who are accountable for total business results—not responsible for just a cost center.”

At the same time, firms must look inside their operation, taking a page from their branding handbook to inspire a culture that mimics the expectations they set with their customers.

“The best firms have created a purpose-driven and values-based culture,” Whitler concludes. “Executive recruiters acknowledged that marketers at these firms have been exposed to brands built on values and purpose. P&G’s mission is to provide products and services of superior quality that improve the lives of the world’s consumers. J&J’s credo is to put the needs and well-being of the people they serve first. Starbucks’ mission is to inspire and nurture the human spirit—one person, one cup, and one neighborhood at a time. And Coca Cola’s mission is to refresh the world in mind, body, and spirit. These companies all put the consumer at the center of the firm, have very lofty, aspirational mission statements, and have created cultures that stand the test of time.”

best marketing companies for MBAs


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