In fall of 2012, Melody Lee got a call from Bob Ferguson, who was then General Motors' head lobbyist. Ferguson had just been offered the chance to become the global head of Cadillac and wanted Lee, a trusted former colleague, to join him.
"Bob started the conversation by asking me, 'Would you ever buy a Cadillac?'" says Lee, who was driving an Audi A4 at the time. "When I told him that the brand wouldn't make my top five, he said, 'I need your help to change that.'"
Since then, Lee, a Texas native and daughter of Taiwanese immigrants, has been helping Cadillac recast its image among the many luxury buyers who have the same perception of the brand that she once did.
Lee has used strategic partnerships and media plays to put Cadillac in "unexpected places" that those influencers inhabit, beyond the automotive buff books that have been singing the praises of Cadillac's vehicles for years now.
For example, Architectural Digest recently published a piece about Cadillac's ELR plug-in hybrid coupe. The Wall Street Journal recently ran a full-page story featuring the fashion choices of several Cadillac designers and other employees.
Cadillac also partnered with brands that enjoy the sort of cachet with influential buyers that Cadillac covets. Last year, it displayed a redesigned 2015 Escalade SUV in one of Saks Fifth Avenue's iconic holiday windows at its flagship store in New York.
"At a time when perhaps our brand equity isn't where we want it to be, why not draft off of the stronger brand strength that some of our partners have?" Lee says.
Since her arrival, she has fought for a 50 percent boost in Cadillac's spending on luxury lifestyle media and strategic partnerships.
Lee has spent much of her career helping large companies hone their messages, often holed up in war rooms in the midst of crises or major merger and acquisition deals.
She advised the International Olympic Committee ahead of the 2008 Summer Games in Beijing, when heat was building on China's human rights record. She also was part of a team in 2009 that advised Live Nation and TicketMaster Entertainment on their controversial merger.