Cultural change can happen quickly. While some organizations are good at responding to sudden changes, others may be less adaptive and miss new opportunities.
According to global media executive, author and Columbia University lecturer Kai D. Wright, culturally fluent brands – those that understand and embrace diverse audiences – are much better at leveraging change when promoting products, services and messages, engaging audiences, establishing policies and practices, and managing related investments.
With expertise at the intersection of branding, communication, diversity and inclusion, and digital and consumer behavior, Wright helps companies actively incorporate cultural fluency into their internal and external messages and programs. In the process, he shows leaders where and how to implement diversity and inclusion policies not only to serve society, but to help them expand their brand reach, build customer and employee loyalty, and increase their bottom lines.
In addition to designing bespoke education programs that offer deep learning opportunities, Wright teaches managers at all levels how to internally facilitate sensitive conversations around race, from the C-suite to the front lines.
“As we stand at an inflection point in the arc of history, we are experiencing another great awakening. All at once, institutions, companies, leaders, employees and citizens collectively recognize an urgent need for change. Now comes the hard work of depoliticizing conversations about race at work, applying systems-based thinking and committing to move from empathetic and active listening to swift and meaningful action.”
Realizing he was in a position of influence, Wright – who authored the book “Follow the Feeling: Brand Building in a Noisy World” in 2019 –felt compelled to lend his voice to the racial justice movement that followed the murder of George Floyd and too many other Black citizens.
In his open letter about race, he called on leaders to get on board. Many answered the call, including his own CEO at WPP where he initiated and now serves on its task force on race. Soon after, Wright successfully curated and launched blacklist100 – which includes an e-book and site developed in three weeks – to highlight extraordinary Black talent and thought leaders who speak at conferences and advise organizations across the world. He was also invited to serve on the newly created AdAge U.S. Diversity Council.
In light of the current socio-political climate, Wright is being called on more frequently to advise brand managers and CEOs on how they can actively respond to calls for social justice by better serving their audiences and employees. In addition to managing broader advertising campaigns for companies including Bank of America, HP, McDonald’s, Bacardi, Ford, Walgreens, Merck and L’Oréal, Wright serves as an advisor to Fortune 500 companies and frequently speaks at major conferences.
Wright’s primary goal is for individuals to move from “empathetic and active listening to swift and meaningful action.” Recently, he developed training materials and modules on how employees can have difficult conversations at work by using systems-based thinking and communication principles including values, rhetoric, and framing. In step with that effort, he co-authored a new playbook on justice and brand accountability which was published in July 2020.
Many of the lessons and frameworks Wright shares in “Follow the Feeling” can be directly applied to his DEI work, especially the need for companies to listen to and serve a wide range of audiences that include everyone, not just a narrow segment of the population. His engaging keynotes offer audiences an exciting opportunity to hear from a thought leader who not only has his finger on the pulse of what audiences want, but how they feel.
For more thoughts from Kai D. Wright, click on the links below. You can also follow him on LinkedIn for daily insights.
- A Reflection on How to Move “The Culture” Forward
- How to Make Consumers Care About the Environment
- How Brands Can Shape Positive Customer Feelings
- Got Feelings? Why It’s Time to Rethink Brand Positioning
In “Follow the Feeling,” Kai D. Wright highlights how successful brand building depends on value creation rather than business efficiencies. His powerful, standing room only SXSW 2019 presentation outlines the five principles behind LAVEC, his proprietary framework for building a powerful brand that capitalizes on human responses to lexicon, audio cues, visual stimuli, experience and culture. The book was recognized by GoodReads as a “must-have resource for anyone from C-Suite executives to aspiring entrepreneurs seeking to unleash the full potential of their brand” and named to the 2019 Porchlight Business Book Awards Longlist (top five) in the marketing and sales division.