Thierry Wellhoff | The Innovator 25 EMEA 2017

Innovator 25 EMEA - Thierry WellhoffThe Innovator 25:

Thierry Wellhoff



“Be interested in everything about everything, especially if you think it has nothing to do with what you were doing”

Top French independent Wellcom owes much of its success to the restless entrepeneurial spirit of its CEO Thierry Welhoff. In 2015, for example, the firm joined forces with La Maison Link, expanding its expertise into the  lifestyle and consumer arena. Last year, meanwhile, it upped investment in measurement and analytics, via the creation of a new KPI tool, after Wellhoff earlier oversaw the creation of a measurement framework that is advanced as anything in the world. Wellhoff has also penned several books and branding, corporate values and reputation management, helping him attain a position of authority in France’s communications landscape.

How do you define innovation?
Innovation implies challenging the basics and the evidence. It is a mental framework in which you refuse to take for granted traditional patterns. But innovation is only relevant if it brings additional sense and purpose. It is crucial in the relationship between companies/brands with their publics, and this is even more true nowadays. 

Most innovative PR/comms campaign you’ve seen in the last 12 months?
The Fearless Girl campaign from investment company State Street Global Advisors. This campaign was designed to support a newly created fund to invest in companies with more women in leadership.  With this happening and the buzz it generated, the company said more on their gender diversity commitment and on the fund it had created than it could have said in a media conference or an advertising campaign. It actually got more positive engagement than a more traditional campaign would have generated. They got worldwide attention for their new fund while their communication was not centered on it.

What brands and/or agencies are most innovative when it comes to marketing/PR?
The most innovative brands are the brands that have understood that they will gain in traction and preference when they speak more about the universe of the brand than solely speaking about its products.  Adidas is definitely one of them. The brand has set up, in its key markets, newsrooms that gather communications and influence experts. Their mission: Creating impactful and unique content not promoting their products but telling stories in line with the brands universe. With this real-time relevance content strategy, they are one of the most connected and live brands on the different platforms. 

Describe a moment in your career that you would consider ‘innovative.’
Actually I remember 3 moments I would consider like truly innovative. (1) The corporate values research in 15 countries (worldwide) the agency intended for the first time in 2006. This survey enables us to claim a real expertise in this field. We were pioneer on this subject, there was no similar work conducted at this time. (2) The conception of the Origami System:  a new generation brand platform construction method that makes it possible upstream to perform the diagnosis and analysis of the strengths and weaknesses and downstream, to orchestrate the harmonious communication of the images and opinions portrayed by companies. We won a SABRE Award for this in 2013.  (3) And the recently initiated concept entitled ‘In Senslation’: a strategic program aimed to give more sense to the relation between brands and their publics.  

In what area of marketing/PR do you see the most innovation?
Social media & online marketing.

How would you describe the communications/PR industry’s level of innovation?
About the same as other disciplines.

Where do you see the greatest opportunity for marketing & PR to become more innovative?
Planning & analytics.

Who most influences how innovative a brand’s marketing/PR is?
Communications/PR agency.

Who is your mentor and why?
Romain Gary: ‘Life has no meaning it's up to you to give it one.’

How do you find inspiration?
By opening eyes and ears. Innovation starts with listening others.

What is your advice for people seeking to bring new ideas, ways of doing things to their organizations?
Be interested in everything about everything, especially if you think there it has nothing to do with that you were doing.

In your opinion, what’s the most innovative place in the world?
There are many innovative places all around the world. If I were to name only two I would say Berlin and Tel Aviv. Berlin has managed to become one of the most fast=moving cities in Europe in the last 20 years while it has to bridge together two cultures, two ways of living, two economies to build a new capital city: this unification sparked energy, creation and innovation. Tel Aviv is also a fascinating place for innovation, and should be a model (for us French people) on how constraints can be turned into growth and innovation opportunities.

What’s your favourite time of day and why?
Morning, because I will make my dreams come true.