Highlighting the top 20 marketers in Chicago from across tech, advertising, design, food and much more.
Chicago is a city full of talented people and characters. To be known as an influencer in this city means that you’ve probably accomplished a couple of things or two in your career.
In this post for the Chicago Activation, we wanted to feature the best Chicago has to offer in terms of marketing, advertising and design. Some are off the beaten path and others are widely recognized, but all of the marketers on the list have made a claim in this city whether you like it or not.
To determine the top 20 list, we took recommendations from local Chicago agencies, looked at recent award-winners in marketing and design, took into consideration marketers who had a couple successes under their belts and also individuals who transitioned into a higher position. So without further ado, here are your top marketers in Chicago.
Nicholas Kinports is the Executive Vice President of Strategy at NOTICE, a Chicago social content agency. Before his time at NOTICE, Nicholas was the Founder of an award-winning digital agency (lonleybrand). He later guided the agency through acquisition in 2013. Nicholas is an influential voice in advertising and marketing communities, being published in publications like Bloomberg and AdAge.
Nicholas was nominated by a local Chicago agency as one of their most admired Chicago marketing influencers.
Maria Katris is the CEO of Built In, a network of online communities that have become the most powerful recruitment tool for tech companies and startups in six major tech markets. She has over 16 years of marketing experience, serving as the Executive Director of TiE Midwest.
Pete Hassen is the currently serving in his first year as Vice President of Marketing for the Chicago Blackhawks, where he manages and develops the team’s overall fan and brand development. He previously spent the last 12 seasons as the Senior Executive Director of Marketing, where he saw the Blackhawks become one of the most popular teams not only in the city of Chicago (a renowned sports town) but nationally as well. During his tenure, the Blackhawks won three Stanley Cup Titles in 2010, 2013 and 2015, and also established themselves as one of the elite franchises in all of sports both on the field and organizationally.
Pete was nominated by a local Chicago agency as one of their most admired Chicago marketing influencers.
Justyn Howard is the CEO of Sprout Social, a software startup that is helping more than 10,000 companies around the world manage their social media channels effectively. A self-taught entrepreneur without a college degree, Justyn is running one of Chicago’s top startups and raised around $61 million in funding.
Justyn was featured on Crain’s 40 under 40 list in 2014 at the age of 35.
Craig Hensel is the Senior Content Manager and distinguished photographer from Havas Worldwide. Working with brands like Jeep, Kayak, Reynolds Kitchens and more, Craig was a recent bronze winner and finalist for #HavasPeepShow – a Breast Cancer Awareness installation inside Havas.
The former Pastor turned professional advertising photographer was nominated by a local Chicago agency as one of their most admired Chicago marketing influencers.
Christopher Jobson is the Creator of Colossal – a Webby-nominated blog about art, design and visual culture. First started as a personal blog, Colossal has a become one of the go-to destination for art and design. The blog has amassed a huge following – getting around 2.5 million views a month, 145K followers on Twitter, and over 800K likes on Facebook.
Christopher was nominated by a local Chicago agency as one of their most admired Chicago marketing influencers.
(Craig Ulliott Photo)
Katy Lynch, the former Founder and President of SocialKaty – Chicago’s largest social media marketing agency, guided the company through a four year period of success before being acquired by Manifest Digital. The merger resulted in creating one of the largest social and content marketing teams in the U.S. After selling her agency, Katy went on to became the CEO of Techweek, the nation’s leading technology conference and festival.
Katy has been highlighted in a number a publications, being named “Top 50 Tech Influencer” by Crain’s Chicago and placed on Thrillist’s “Top 50 Twitter Feeds To Follow.”
Nick Cromydas is the Founder of New Coast Ventures, a early-stage venture capital fund and innovation agency. Nick has been assisting companies and entrepreneurs grow, innovate and build their ideas.
Nick was acknowledged as was of Forbes 30 Under 30 in Marketing and Advertising in 2016, and he was also nominated by a local Chicago agency as one of their most admired Chicago marketing influencers.
Kim Knoll is the Founding Partner and Designer at Knoed Creative, a branding and design studio in Chicago. She is also the Organizer and Host for CreativeMornings Chicago. A designer by trade, Kim’s work has been featured in magazines and has won a multitude of awards from top publications and organizations.
Kim was nominated by a local Chicago agency as one of their most admired Chicago marketing influencers.
Jayna Cooke is the Founder and CEO of EVENTup – America’s largest online marketplace for event spaces. Before her time as an entrepreneur, Jayna was the VP of Business Development for Groupon. She helped the company launch various national and local sales strategies, being personally responsible for generating 25% of the entire company’s revenue in 2009. Jayna successfully closed the two largest deals to date with national retailers Gap and Nordstrom during her time with Groupon.
Jayna has been profiled in The Huffington Post and was named one of the “50 influential people in Chicago tech you should follow on Twitter: 2016” by Built in Chicago.
Stella Garber is the VP of Marketing at Trello, where she became Trello’s first marketing hire. She was brought in to establish a team and develop the company’s marketing strategy. Trello grew from four million to 17 million users under Stella’s leadership.
Stella was named one of the “50 Influential People in Chicago Tech You Should Follow on Twitter: 2016” by Built in Chicago.
Amy Nicole Schwartz is the Design Director for game studio, Cards Against Humanity. Amy was the winner of Command X at the 2015 AIGA National Design Conference, the 2016 Emerging Designer Award by AIGA Chicago, and 2016 Finalist for Young Designer of the Year by the Net Awards to name a few awards.
She was nominated by a local Chicago agency as one of their most admired Chicago marketing influencers.
Tom Alexander is the Chief Operating Officer at 1871 – a hub for technology and entrepreneurship in Chicago. As COO, Tom is in charge of operational challenges, business development and expansion opportunities. He previously served as Deputy Communications Director for the Office of Chicago under Mayor Rahm Emanuel and as Senior Communications Officer for the University of Chicago.
Tom was named one of the “50 Influential People in Chicago Tech You Should Follow on Twitter: 2016” by Built in Chicago.
(Brent Lewis Photo)
Amanda Lannert is the CEO of Jellyvision, a software company that helps people through big life decisions like selecting a health insurance plan or saving for retirement. She previously served as President of the company since its founding in 2001. She became CEO of Jellyvision in 2011 and under her leadership, Jellyvision doubled its revenue three out of the last four years. According to the Chicago Tribune, the company was one of the “top 10 best places to work in Chicago” and was handed the title of “Best Software Company” by the Moxies.
Amanda also has an impressive list of awards. In 2016, she was named “Top Woman in Tech” by the Built In Chicago Moxie Awards, and both in 2014 and 2015, she was named “CEO of the Year.”
Rebecca Messina is the SVP and Global CMO of Beam Suntory, the world’s third largest premium spirits company. She previously worked for Coca-Cola, where she had an illustrious 22-year career as the Senior VP of Marketing and Innovation for Emerging Brands and also VP of Global Marketing. Rebecca played an integral part in helping Coca-Cola transition into a more data-driven, digitally enabled world.
(Sasha Maslov Photo)
Morgan Flatley, the CMO of Gatorade, is noted for raising the creative bar for the popular Sports Drink brand after her appointment in 2014. She has spent over 10 years at PepsiCo, working her way up from marketing manager at Pepsi to her position today as CMO.
Morgan took home top honors at Adweek’s 2015 Brand Genius Awards.
Melissa Harris is the Executive in Residence at the University of Chicago, where she advises startups on campus on all aspects of marketing, communications and design. Previously, she was the VP of Marketing at Origin Investments, a real estate investment firm, where she oversaw the company’s online investing platform. Melissa’s credentials do not end here. She had a 15-year journalism career as a Pulitzer Prize-nominated business columnist at the Chicago Tribune.
Melissa was named one of the “50 Influential People in Chicago Tech You Should Follow on Twitter: 2016” by Built in Chicago.
Jim Jacoby is the Co-Founder of American Design and Master-Craft Initiative – a foundation of vertically integrated companies that help individuals and organizations apply the tenets of master-craftsmanship to unlock core truths and driving motivations. Before ADMCi, Jim built and sold one of the most successful privately-owned creative agencies in the country. He has been a leader in the experience design field for nearly two decades.
Jim was nominated by a local Chicago agency as one of their most admired Chicago marketing influencers.
Nick Kokonas, along with Chef Grant Achatz, are the Co-Owners and Founders of Alinea – a Michelin 3-star restaurant in Chicago. Alinea was also been named three times, Best Restaurant in North America. And in 2016, was recognized as 15th on the World’s 50 Best Restaurants 2016 list. Nick is also the Co-Owner of Next (named best new restaurant in America) and The Aviary (named best bar in America).
Nick was nominated by a local Chicago agency as one of their most admired Chicago marketing influencers. Also, a handful of Chicago agencies named Alinea’s as the best restaurant in Chicago.
And…the #1 spot goes to…Scott Wilson, the Founder and CEO of MNML – a Chicago product development and brand agency. Scott has been a recipient of a number a great awards and honors. He was named TIME Magazine’s Top 100 Designer and one of Fast Company’s Most Influential Designers. Scott was also the Global Creative Director for Nike, where he was at forefront of product design space.
Scott was nominated by two local Chicago agency as one of their most admired Chicago marketing influencers.
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