Saturday, July 31, 2010

The Global CMO Interview: Trevor Edwards, Nike

'Ideas Rule. Ideas Are in Charge'

By Jeremy Mullman

Published: June 14, 2010

CHICAGO ( -- As Nike's top marketer, Trevor Edwards, VP-global brand and category management, has helped the world's leading footwear and apparel company grow its market-share lead by becoming possibly the world's most accomplished digital marketer.

Under Mr. Edwards' watch, with a global marketing budget of $2.35 billion (which includes advertising, promotions and endorsement contracts), Nike has grown an already impressive record for innovation with new products such as the iPod-integrated Nike Plus and the online shoe-customizing NikeID. And it has set ROI-obsessed marketing industry tongues wagging as it repeatedly finds ways to create compelling content viewed online by millions without so much as a TV spot fueling it.

Nike executives say there's no formula for their hit-making, but rather, in each case, the company starts with a story to tell consumers and then decides which media or technological tools will be best suited for it.

For instance, at this summer's FIFA World Cup, which Mr. Edwards notes will be watched by half the world's population, Nike executives say they are particularly excited -- ironically, given their digital leanings -- about an epic TV spot called "Write the Future," from Wieden & Kennedy, which Mr. Edwards said was one of the best the company has ever done.

Ad Age: You have had tremendous success with big, global ideas, but we've also seen you connect with very successful local insights, such as the "Huevos" soccer campaign in Mexico. What's your strategy for finding those local insights?

Mr. Edwards: We have teams of passionate people all around the globe. And they love sports, and they love the sports they participate in. We have a process in our organization where we share ideas across the world. When we did the last World Cup, one of the things we did do was follow the rise of social networks. But we didn't think of it as social networks, we viewed it as a phenomenon of people on these social sites connecting with each other. And that started out [with local sites] in Brazil and in Korea. And we saw that and said, "Well, that's a pretty cool idea."

Ad Age: At the same time, though, so much of what you do is global, particularly a lot of the viral video stuff. And different markets have different sensibilities, so the recent Tiger Woods ad, for instance, might not be well received everywhere. How do you deal with the lack of control?

Mr. Edwards: "Control" is an impossible word. I don't think it's something we can control. What's interesting is that, as much as we've had tremendous successes with videos, we've also had quite a few things that just didn't work. You just don't hear about them, and that's part of the reality of what we do. But, yes, there are things we do that are sometimes polarizing. Yes, we knew it would be provocative. But we felt the athlete's voice had been lost in the conversation. And having him, his voice, out there was important for him, and it was for us.

Ad Age: You work with so many agencies. How do you manage a global agency roster?

Mr. Edwards: Loosely. (Laughs) Look, ideas rule. Ideas are in charge. And they come from people who work inside Nike and from people who work outside Nike. The way that we work isn't the classic "we brief you and you do this." We like to keep the process very open so the best of the ideas can come out. And if you sat in on a meeting with an AKQA team, an R/GA team, a Wieden & Kennedy team and a Nike team, you would have no idea who was whom. We see ourselves as all on the same team trying to get the best ideas for the consumer. And the work we're doing around the World Cup is representative of that.

Ad Age: You also approach ROI a lot differently than, say, Procter & Gamble or some of the big, global consumer-products companies. You're a bit more relaxed about it. Why?

Mr. Edwards: If you seek to innovate and you're constantly trying to measure the price of innovation, you are going to struggle. When you're innovating, you're often breaking new ground, so you can't measure that sense of what's yet to come. Our model focuses really on getting the best message to that consumer in the most holistic way. And, within that, we're going to take some things that we know work. And we're going to take some things that we're still trying out. But we don't sit there and try to measure all the different pieces. We try and see how the whole thing works, and what we learn from it. We really pride ourselves on innovating. Consumers expect brands to be smart and creative and fun. And if you try to measure it all the way, you might never get there.

Ad Age: What's the thing that you, as a global marketer, spend the most time worrying about?

Mr. Edwards: Making sure we're staying ahead of where we think the consumer is going. Are we making sure our teams are enabled to do creative in the best way they possibly can? At Nike, the value of what the marketing organization brings to the company is embedded in everything. We spend much of our time thinking about how the landscape is changing and how we have to change our brand in the context of that landscape.

The Global CMO Interview: Keith Weed, Unilever

'The More Global You Are, the More Digital You Become'

By Jack Neff

Published: June 14, 2010

BATAVIA, Ohio ( -- Simon Clift is a hard act to follow as Unilever's chief marketing officer. But Keith Weed, who set out to do that in April, is doing it with some added power.

Like Mr. Clift, he reports to CEO Paul Polman. But Mr. Weed's position comes with an appointment to Unilever's executive board alongside top regional and category bosses and formally expanded duties over the whole range of the company's communications and sustainability efforts.

Mr. Weed wants Unilever, second only to Procter & Gamble Co. in global ad spending and largest outside the U.S. with total spending of $7.4 billion last year, to be seen as a marketer with as much skill as clout. Being named the Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival's Marketer of the Year this month helps. But to that end he also took the company's business-unit leaders on a trip to Silicon Valley in May; will look outside the company to bring in talent in such areas as mobile; and is pushing Unilever agencies to broaden their capabilities.

Ad Age: How would you characterize your global go-to-market strategy?

Mr. Weed: We have two very distinct focuses in our business. One we call brand development and the other we call brand building. Brand development is in charge of the brand positioning, the brand advertising and indeed the innovation packaging [around the world]. There are more similarities between the Axe consumer in Wisconsin, Mumbai, Rio and Shanghai than there is between the Axe consumer in Wisconsin and [his] mom, the sister and uncle. On the other side we have brand building. The brand builders are very much in a country so they are engaging with consumers and, importantly, retailers and ensuring we are very active in any local media. When both come together, that's marketing.

Brand builders [create] the local buzz and the excellence in execution. The brand developers enable us to leverage our scale and innovation in R&D and brand innovation in terms of equity in advertising.

You can imagine that [this model initially created] some tensions, and of course it did. Those tensions have worked through the system, and, in fact, my appointment as executive across marketing is actually a declaration that this approach is here to stay and providing competitive advantage.

Ad Age: What's your biggest challenge?

Mr. Weed: Digitalization and globalization feed on each other. The more global you are, the more digital you become, or the more digital you are, the more global you become. [Consumers see] between 2,000 to 10,000 commercial messages a day. We're brilliant at filtering it out. My role is to break through.

Ad Age: Are you also trying to broaden the global scope of where you get talent?

Mr. Weed: We're pretty good at that already. We're an Anglo-Dutch company, and until I arrived on the executive board, there weren't any English guys. Have you seen many American companies that have no Americans?

Ad Age: Where are you finding your largest marketing opportunities globally and how are you leveraging those?

Mr. Weed: To me, opportunities imply white spaces. Wouldn't you think that after being around quite a few years that we would have launched a few of our big products everywhere? [But] we just launched Lipton in Spain and Domestos in Italy. We still have spaces even in the developed world for launching our existing range. Beyond filling in the white spaces our biggest opportunity is filling out the price segmentation.

Ad Age: What's the rationale behind your global agency partnerships and infrastructures?

Mr. Weed: Having people who infinitely understand our brands and can work with us to build assets that we can then leverage is a right way of working. There is another dynamic, and that is we want to work with the best wherever they may be. We now have a roster of digital agencies.

I would love to be able to go to Ogilvy or Lowe and have them give me all my communication needs. In fact, when, recently, one of our roster agencies lost a digital pitch and they came to me complaining, I said, "Why are you complaining? I'm mad with you. It's much harder for me to have to work with a digital agency and you. Why didn't you win the pitch?"

[Unilever agencies] are investing hugely in digital, and I'm absolutely convinced they will get there because, as I've said to all of them, we're going to fish where the fish are.

Ad Age: Should agencies feel threatened by what Unilever has done in consumer co-creation or crowdsourcing creative?

Mr. Weed: I don't think they should see it as a threat, because to me this is about engaging with people, [so] you need to be a little bit playful and give people opportunities. The only way people might get a little bit confused is we have some of our smaller brands like Peperami in the U.K. actually moved much more in this area. I always reserve the right to have pilots here and there around the world. If I'm experimenting or piloting, it doesn't necessarily mean that I am going to apply it everywhere. But it does mean that I'm going to learn, and I prefer to learn on a small brand or in a small country.