The Road Less Traveled

Being fearless can take people down unexpected paths.

As a young man, Eunkyu Lee, currently a marketing professor at Syracuse University’s Martin J. Whitman School of Management, thought he knew where his path would lead — to a job working in a firm on Wall Street. Having received his bachelor’s degree in business from Seoul National University in South Korea and pursuing an MBA at Duke University, he felt confident about his preparation and optimistic about the interview in progress with a major Wall Street firm. However, after taking a marketing course during his graduate studies, Lee fell in love with the subject and knew he was destined for a different career path.

“I was young, so I wasn’t scared,” said Professor Lee. “I took the time to talk to professors and found out that there was a very healthy demand for marketing professors that could lead to a truly rewarding and stimulating career.”

Professor Lee was also excited to find that many of the quantitative and analytical skills used in finance could be combined with strategic thinking and consumer behavior insights for cutting-edge research and practice in marketing. Drastically changing direction with no hesitation, Professor Lee went on to receive his Ph.D. in marketing from Duke University — a decision that has made a world difference in his life.

Professor Lee’s first job as a marketing professor was at Seattle University, where he taught for four years. Afterward, he taught marketing at the University of British Columbia, in Vancouver, Canada, where he found an opportunity to conduct research on movie marketing.

“Vancouver is a hub for the movie industry,” said Professor Lee. “My research focused specifically on movie distribution systems and how box office revenue should be split between large distributors and the local movie theaters for enhanced efficiency and profitability.”

After working in Vancouver, Professor Lee came to teach at the Whitman School in 2000. He first became interested in Syracuse in 1999, when he attended the Marketing Science Conference hosted by Syracuse University.

“Coming to Syracuse has worked out great for me professionally,” said Professor Lee.

At Whitman, Professor Lee continues extensive research on brand-positioning strategies, distribution channel management and competitive marketing strategy. One example is his research on store brands.

“Store brand business has grown tremendously, and retailers are a lot more sophisticated nowadays,” explained Professor Lee. “National brands feel more threatened, and their margins are getting slimmer. How to best manage brands in this new environment is a serious question for both retailers and national brand manufacturers.”

He is as enthusiastic about marketing these days as when he first committed himself to a career in it.

“Marketing keeps changing all the time,” said Professor Lee, while pointing at the digital marketing data explosion and growth of marketing analytics as major trends in the field these days.

“Marketers can see every footprint of the consumer,” he said. “They [marketers] can trace the consumers’ habits and behaviors to understand their current characteristics, predict future behavior, and develop highly targeted marketing strategies.”

Currently, Professor Lee teaches brand management classes on both the undergraduate and graduate level. He also teaches a Ph.D. seminar focused on distribution channel management. Every few years, he takes a group of MBA students to South Korea to teach a course on global innovation management that includes visits to major global companies such as Samsung and LG.

Professor Lee urges students who are considering going into marketing to choose it for the right reason.

“Marketing is so broad. Have a good reason for choosing it as a major and career path,” said Professor Lee. “If you enjoy using all parts of your brain — analytical, creative, strategic, and interpersonal —marketing is a great field for you—dynamic and never boring.”


Kristin Mascolo