Richard Qian | The Innovator 25 North America 2021

Richard Qian

Brand Leader 


Hoboken, NJ

Hometown: Brookfield, WI   

“I'm concerned about how the declining trust in media and specifically social media will impact brands and organizations trying to communicate and build connections to consumers."

Richard Qian approached branding Sanofi's allergy medicine Xyzal with a singular goal: to understand what made Xyzal unique in the sea of sameness and lead with that. With that, he pioneered an expansive digital evolution for Xyzal and  launched a 360-degree campaign called Goodnight Allergies. But as Covid-19 dominated the media, he pivoted the program around the authentic storytelling abilities of 10 influencer partners to raise awareness among allergy sufferers. The impact? Allergies grew sales for the brand by 40% and Xyzal was called out as a top growth driver in four consecutive earnings calls for Sanofi — and the brand gained permanent distribution at Costco for the first time.

How would you describe the communications/PR industry's level of innovation compared to other marketing disciplines?
About the same as other marketing disciplines. The pandemic has accelerated innovation in certain consumer facing areas more than others.

Do you think the global pandemic has made the industry more innovative? If you would like, please elaborate on your response.
More innovative. The pandemic has changed consumer behaviors and forced activations to adapt. Events have gone virtual, platforms have expanded, more thoughts are placed on the various transitions we are going through as a part of the pandemic.

Where is the PR industry's greatest opportunity for innovation? 
Expanding the scope/meaning of public relations. With growing distrust of media among Americans, the opportunity is for PR to rebuild trust through transparent and inclusive conversations.

What professional accomplishment are you most proud of? 
It was an incredible experience launching the new Xyzal Goodnight Allergies campaign on the back of new category breaking positioning of taking allergy medicine at night. The campaign is grounded on consumer insight that allergy is the number two sleep issue among sufferers and pollen is at its worst in the morning. It's amazing to see the influencer and earned media community embrace this new paradigm, which led to consumer behavior shift and conversations in social, positive reviews, and record sales.

We're at a pivotal moment on the future of the office and how we work. How would like to see 'office/work culture' evolve?
I would like to see the design of our future ways of working to continue focusing on team culture, collaboration, and performance, in light of different physical arrangements and evolving personal priorities from team members. This likely will be some form of a hybrid model that account for diversity, inclusion, and equity and employee mental health.

How can the PR industry make real progress in diversity, inclusion and equity?
While a lot of the focus on diversity, inclusion, and equity has been on hiring and teams and more needs to be done, there is also opportunities in representing these issues in activations as different communities may face the same problem differently (e.g. Covid) or face different problems (e.g. diversity in sports).

What makes you most excited or proud to be part of the PR industry? 
The PR industry is fast paced, ever changing, and inspirational. It is at the intersection between culture and organizations that is impacting how we live. I'm particularly excited about how the Covid pandemic has led to more interest in self-care and the public's interest to be more knowledgeable about their healthcare.

What are your fears/concerns for our industry? 
I'm concerned about how the declining trust in media and specifically social media will impact brands and organizations trying to communicate and build connections to consumers. Integrity, authenticity, and creativity are ingredients that could collectively build more trust among those who are communicating to the public.

What inspires you? This could be a person, place, activity, etc.
I'm inspired by traveling and being immersed in difference cultures around the world. I have lived and worked in 6 cities and been to over 25 countries across all continents. Through these experiences I have gained different perspectives and ability to empathize with people from different backgrounds.

What are you thinking about most these days? 
This pandemic has made me think more about how to empower consumers with simple, accurate, and trustworthy communication about very complex topics like healthcare and behavior change. As a brand lead in consumer healthcare seeing consumers more engaged with health content, there are a lot of lessons to be learned around breakthrough communication that resonate across multiple communities.

What is your idea of happiness?
I subscribe to the idea of flow, the feeling of complete engagement from activities that are challenging but requiring competence, introduced by the legendary psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. For me, I find Sanofi's purpose to serve healthier, fuller lives through consumerizing healthcare intellectually stimulating and impactful, and I'm grateful to be able to integrate my passion and my career.