For almost three decades Melanie Stack has presided over, and grown, some of the world’s best loved brands including Barbie, Radox, Monopoly and Weight Watchers. In 2013 she was appointed European head of US based household products maker Yankee Candle. Nigel Wright caught up with her to talk about her latest challenge and the role she is playing in helping the business transition into a global organisation.
It’s just over two years since you joined Yankee Candle. What was it about the role and the organisation that attracted you to the opportunity?
I’ve always worked for heritage brands and brands that I’m passionate about and can relate to as a consumer. Yankee Candle definitely fits that mould. I was excited by the fact that Yankee Candle is a hugely successful brand with significant potential to grow further. It already has excellent penetration in the US market and there are still a great deal of opportunities for expansion in Europe and beyond. Furthermore, when I met the Yankee Candle management team I was really impressed by their alignment around, and demonstrable passion, for the brand. The other aspect of my attraction was due to the phenomenal reputation Yankee Candle’s owner, Jarden Corporation, has for its inspirational leadership and its success at growing brands, as well as the opportunities for professional development that exist within the wider Jarden group.
Most of your career has been focused on reigniting brands and successfully turning around businesses – examples include Matey (Sara Lee), Barbie (Mattel) and more recently Weight Watchers. Yankee Candle, however, is already enjoying huge growth. What, therefore, is the key challenge for you at Yankee Candle?
The key challenge is around transitioning the business into a truly international organisation. This requires a need to develop deep understanding of the cultural nuances of the various markets that Yankee Candle is targeting, as well as looking for ways to constantly innovate and reinvent the components of the brand. My experiences within the toy and personal care industries, as well as at Weight Watchers, are directly applicable here. So, the dynamics around marketing ‘seasonality’ and constant product innovation are very similar to the toy and personal care industries and are elements that were successfully leveraged to grow brands such as Radox, Matey, Fisher Price, Barbie, Hot Wheels and Monopoly. At Weight Watchers, it was very revealing to discover the subtle differences in eating habits as well as ‘psyches’ regarding weight loss, around the world. Understanding these differences as well as the similarities, and building them into the brand and the products was essential to growing Weight Watchers’ international business. I think the same cultural differences exist when it comes to peoples’ homes and Yankee Candle will need to be cognisant of this when developing fragrances, and the types of emotions it wants to convey through fragrance, when entering new markets.