The Top CMOs of 2015, as Chosen by an Algorithm

ExecRank Gives First Place to Netflix CMO Kelly Bennett

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Who were the best CMOs and marketing executives of 2015? The algorithm says Kelly Bennett of Netflix.

Kelly Bennett is CMO of Netflix.
Kelly Bennett is CMO of Netflix. Credit: Courtesy Netflix

That algorithm comes from ExecRank, which helps match board members or advisors with companies seeking their guidance. Today, it released the list, which is based on 24 categories, including the marketers' tenure in their roles, business results, how many boards they sit on, and how rapidly their companies have adopted technology.

Mr. Bennett, besides building a growing threat to ad-supported entertainment, helped grow Netflix revenue 23% to nearly $6.8 billion last year, elbowing out last year's winner, Apple's Philip Schiller, who came in second this year. Chris Cox of Facebook, home of the EdgeRank algorithm, came in No. 8 via ExecRank (vs. No. 33 for Google's Lorraine Twohill).

Algorithmic Ranking of 2015's Top CMOs
Stephen Quinn retired from his post as CMO of Walmart U.S. Jan. 31 of this year. Beth Comstock was promoted to vice chair-business innovations in August.
1 Netflix Kelly Bennett
2 Apple Philip Schiller
3 T-Mobile US Andrew Sherrard
4 NIKE John Slusher
5 Cisco Systems Karen Walker
6 ARRIS Group Ronald M. Coppock
7 Wal-Mart Stores Stephen Quinn
8 Facebook Chris Cox
9 General Electric Company Beth Comstock
10 The Coca-Cola Company Marcos de Quinto
Source: ExecRank

Despite announcing his retirement in December, Walmart U.S. CMO Stephen Quinn came in No. 7 this year, down from second on the 2014 list. He topped Jeff Jones of Target, ranked No. 53. Beth Comstock of General Electric made it to No. 9 this year, though she was promoted to vice chair-innovation in August.

Year-to-year comparisons aren't entirely apples to apples, because the algorithm gets tweaked each year, said ExecRank Chairman-CEO Jonathan Aspatore.

Certainly the list may engender debate, particularly among those who were left off or ranked lower (for example, Procter & Gamble Co. Global Brand Officer Marc Pritchard is No. 21, but almost none of his direct competitors are listed at all).

"To get on the list it's a lot about what we call executive branding and getting your name out there," said Mr. Aspatore, "whether it is through publishing thought leadership, speaking engagements, board seats, or simply showing that your company did a great job of growing the top line last year."

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