Melody Lee, Senior Vice President, Global Brand & Product Marketing

Looking at her resume, you’d never suspect that Melody Lee’s career in marketing was fortuitous. Having held marketing posts at prestige brands including Cadillac, Shiseido and now Herman Miller & Knoll Brands, suffice to say that she's mastered the art of magnetic storytelling, creating worlds that enthrall loyal consumers. We spoke with Melody about her PR roots (and temporary return via Camron), the common marketing thread across the industries she’s worked in, plus the publications that inspire her personal design prowess.

How did you get your start in marketing?

Accidentally, to be honest. I’d spent about a decade in corporate and crisis communications, and had General Motors as a client. My main client then became president of Cadillac (a GM brand), and at that point, asked me to come in and lead brand marketing. I remember telling him, “but I have no business being a marketer!” to which he replied, “everyone should always be learning.” It was a very quick and wild ride up the learning curve, and I’m still ascending it in many ways. But I had several willing teachers and colleagues who brought me along and showed me the way, for which I am very grateful.

Tell us a little about your career before joining Herman Miller & Knoll brands.

My career really began when I took an internship that turned into nearly ten years at Hill+Knowlton Strategies. That experience in turn led me to Cadillac, where for six years, I oversaw brand marketing and led a business innovation unit called BOOK by Cadillac. Prestige beauty then came calling and I joined Shiseido, working in global brand development for the Laura Mercier brand. During the pandemic, I took a leap—and returned to my PR past—to run global operations and the North American team for Camron PR. That opportunity opened the door to my current role leading brand and product marketing for Herman Miller and Knoll—the two storied and flagship brands within the MillerKnoll collective of 16 brands.

What does your current role as SVP of global brand and product marketing entail?

More than anything, my and my team’s job is to be stewards of a rich legacy of design. We do this through both brand marketing—building connections with our consumers through emotion and experience—as well as product marketing, which is focused on where to play and how to win. Our goal is both build brand equity and drive sales and market share, with brand elevating product, and product paying off for the brand.

You’re well-versed in many verticals, having worked across luxury design, beauty and auto. Are there any unique considerations you take when marketing design, versus other industries? Any overarching commonalities?

The common thread from Cadillac to Laura Mercier to Herman Miller and Knoll is the premium consumer. Ensuring that the consumer not only covets the product, but desires to be a part of the brand’s world, is the red thread through all my experiences. In that sense, design is not so different from automotive or beauty. The differences emerge with product development cycles, speed to market, distribution models and how innovation is defined, to name just a few. Those differences then of course drive a different approach to developing and marketing plan. But that’s the fun part! Similarly, I’ve always sought a brand with a heritage, in that I believe that strongest path to building affinity for a brand is always in its story.

Are there any trends or strategies you think will be key to marketing success in 2023?

Call me old-fashioned, but I believe brand marketers need to be aware of, but not be driven by, trends. The brands with enduring legacies and market constancy aren’t there because they were a TikTok first-mover or minted the first NFT in their space. They’re there because they are acutely aware of their heritage, and the elements of it that need to be told over and over again. The TikTok campaign or the NFT are just the outlet for expression of that story, but at the end of the day, our job as marketers is one of stewardship of a story—and there are many ways to tell it.

How would you describe your home design aesthetic?

A perennial fight against clutter. Between my two boys, aged 11 and 9, a dog and a Brooklyn apartment, it’s truly perennial. My husband’s and my taste has always veered toward clean lines and minimalism, but it’s honestly a losing battle. But if you consider clutter colorful, then I really like color.

Where do you get your design inspiration from (designers, publications, influencers, brands, etc.)?

When I first started at Camron, a colleague who was well steeped in design recommended that I read Alice Rawsthorn’s “Hello World: Where Design Meets Life.” It really helped narrow the definition of design to be that of conceiving and implementing change in a particular way. And even with that sharpened definition, it broadened my understanding of what design is and can do. More recently, I read Maira Kalman’s “Women Holding Things,” which was poignant, touching, enraging and just beautifully rendered, both visually and through her prose. On a more regular basis, I love the Quartz Weekly Obsession, Surface’s Design Dispatch and the newsletters Sociology of Business and Lean Luxe.

Can you give us a sneak peek of any exciting projects at Herman Miller and Knoll brands this year?

2023 marks big anniversaries for both the Herman Miller and Knoll brands, and we’re taking the opportunity to use those anniversaries as a communications platform on which we elevate stories across the brand, our products and our experiences. Sounds vague, I know, but you’ll have to stay tuned and watch our spaces for more!


Contact The PR Net