He'll get to talking about innovation, yes, but first, Trevor Edwards needs to make one thing clear: "I have one of the best jobs in the world," he said of his post as VP-global brand and category management for one of the most revered marketing organizations: Nike. "We get a chance to stay connected to young consumers. That's what helps me stay energized every day."
Mr. Edwards, 44, leads brand management for the Beaverton, Ore.-based sports-equipment-and-apparel behemoth, a company with revenue of $15 billion and an overall demand-creation budget -- for advertising, promotions and endorsement contracts -- of $1.7 billion in fiscal year 2006.
"They always have, year in and year out, classic advertising with these ads that people talk about," said Kevin Keller, E.B. Osborn Professor of Marketing at Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth. "They also have these campaigns that focus on the product and the benefits, and then they're doing lots of cool things virally and everything else," he said. "They've just built a hell of a brand."
And Mr. Edwards? "He's a 21st-century marketer," Mr. Keller said. "He gets the whole culture and internet and community and word of mouth, but also brand value and product performance. He's very holistic in how he approaches and talks about marketing."
His commitment to protecting Nike's brand integrity is steadfast, but Mr. Edwards is not afraid to leverage marketing innovation that keeps the brand relevant to its core consumers-a mandate of any "leader brand," Mr. Keller said.
Mr. Edwards points to product-customization service Nike iD and Nike+ as representative of Nike innovation, which involves finding new ways to connect with consumers. "The question we ask ourselves is: How can we help consumers do what they want to do just that much better?" Nike+, a collaboration between Nike and Apple, enables Nike footwear to connect to an iPod through a wireless Nike + iPod sport kit; runners can track distance and calories burned.
"In the case of Nike+, it was one of those things where you had two brands, Nike and Apple together, and that in itself for me was pretty powerful. Both have a passion for bringing simple, intuitive brands to consumers."
At Nike, the key, he said, is not merely innovating for innovation's sake. "We think a lot about the need to bring something new to the marketplace, but we don't think about it as just being new; we think about: How is this better than the last thing we brought to the marketplace? It doesn't happen overnight. Some things we do -- for example, the Air Max 360. That took us some time to put together; it took us about 30 years."
Another initiative in which he's played a central role is Nike's soccer strategy. A $40 million soccer brand in 1994, Nike has developed into a $1.5 billion soccer trademark globally.
Mr. Edwards joined Nike in 1992 after spending seven years at Colgate-Palmolive, and he brings to his post a globetrotter's perspective. Born in London, he moved to Jamaica when he was 14. From there, he went to New York to attend Baruch College. He has since lived in such varied locales as Amsterdam, Brussels and Miami. "I'm kind of a nomad, if you will," he said, a fate that has given him "a chance to meet so many different people."
And, yes, Mr. Edwards is and said he always has been a sports enthusiast. Growing up he tried his hand at basketball, soccer, cricket, skateboarding and gymnastics.
And now, as a father of twin 3-and-a-half-year-old boys, he's inspired by their curiosity about the world, "how they see things through fresh eyes" -- a curiosity he seeks to instill in his team.
"That's often where the best ideas come from -- seeing things differently."