Kai D. Wright

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Leading Expert on Building Culturally Fluent, Change-Resilient Organizations; Global Advisor on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Practices; Global Media Executive and Creator, Blacklist 100; Lecturer, Columbia University; Author, “Follow the Feeling” (2019)

Biography

“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.” – Kai D. Wright

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, Wright teaches managers at all levels how to internally facilitate sensitive conversations around race, from the C-suite to the front lines.

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.

“Cultural fluency is becoming increasingly important as the United States and the world become majority-minority,” says Wright. “My methods and results support research that shows diverse leadership and teams achieve better business results across the board.”

As an accomplished media executive and educator, Wright 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.

“I’ve been afforded the time and space to dream big. Many Black people aren’t as lucky to have that or able to take the career risks I’ve been able to take in pursuit of my dreams. That creates a heavy burden of duty,” says Wright. “Like most Black people who have experienced racism since childhood, I’ve become an expert at spotting when it’s both active and passive and I have a trove of stories. But rather than discussing those wounds, this moment in history is about what I/we can and must do to create lasting change.”

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 about topics like race by using systems-based thinking and communication principles including values, rhetoric, and framing. As a doer, Wright identifies gaps and fills them, helping organizations move from mission to movement. In step with that effort, he co-authored a new playbook on justice and brand accountability which was published in July 2020.

In his book, “Follow the Feeling: Brand Building in a Noisy World” (Wiley, August 2019), Wright highlights how successful brand building depends on value creation rather than business efficiencies. He cleverly uses behavioral science principles to highlight shortcuts of brand building based on lessons from fast-growing brands, from Aldi to Peloton. 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.

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.

Wright’s 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.

# # #

Kai D. Wright is a Forbes 30 Under 30 alum and was recently named to the Thinkers50 Radar Class of 2020. He has also been recognized as a major thought leader by AdAge, Forbes, Inc, Adweek and the Advertising Research Foundation. As a leading voice for the racial justice movement following the murder of George Floyd, Wright curated and published the blacklist100 to highlight change agents and major talent in the Black community and was invited to serve on the AdAge U.S. Diversity Council as well as WPP’s Task Force on Race. Prior to his current roles as an author, strategy advisor and lecturer, Wright served as a vice president on the management team at Atom Factory (venture capital fund and music management for Meghan Trainor, Miguel, Charlie Puth) and REVOLT TV & Media (cable television channel founded by Sean Diddy Combs). Wright earned his Master’s degree in strategic communication from Columbia University and his Bachelor’s degree in economics from The University of Chicago.

Kai D. Wright is available to advise your organization via virtual and in-person consulting meetings, interactive workshops and customized keynotes through the exclusive representation of Stern Speakers, a division of Stern Strategy Group®.

Videos

Books & Research

Justice & Brand Accountability

(Ogilvy, July 2020)

Follow the Feeling: Brand Building in a Noisy World

(Wiley, August 2019)

Media

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Kai Wright's LinkedIn Blog

Grow Your Business in 2021 By Leveraging Diverse Thinking

January 6, 2021

Top Strategies for Shifting Corporate Culture in 2021 (Audio)

January 4, 2021

5 Tactics to Foster a More Inclusive Internal Workplace

December 15, 2020

Eight Takeaways for the BLM Era

October 13, 2020

WATCH: Ad Age Town Hall on Racism (Audio)

August 19, 2020

blacklist100's Kai Wright on the State of Ad Industry Diversity Advances

August 18, 2020

Is Your Organization Culturally Fluent? Your Long-term Success Depends on It

August 14, 2020

Watch Now: Newhouse School, Howard University and UVA Deans, Plus blacklist100 Founder Kai Wright Join Media Education Summit (Audio)

August 13, 2020

Blacklist100 Brings Together the Best and Brightest of Black America

July 9, 2020

Kai D. Wright – An Open Letter on Race and Black List 100 (Audio)

July 2020

Bozoma Saint John, Maverick Carter, Whitney-Gayle Benta And Angelica Ross Announced Among The Inaugural Blacklist100— Black Thought Leaders Creating Positive Change

July 2, 2020

6 Black Thought Leaders to Help You Talk About Race - And What to Do Next

June 25, 2020

A Celebration of Blackness on Juneteenth: A Reflection on How to Move "the Culture" Forward

June 19, 2020

Marketing Exec Kai D. Wright Says in Open Letter He's Faced Racism 'At Every Turn' of His Career ($)

June 15, 2020

An Open Letter on Race

June 14, 2020

Protests & Getting Off the Sidelines (Video)

June 9, 2020

Got Feelings? Why It's Time to Rethink Brand Positioning

December 18, 2019

How to Make Consumers Care About the Environment

November 29, 2019

Inclusivity, Gen Z Overriding Themes at ANA Conference

October 3, 2019

How Brands Can Shape Positive Customer Feelings

August 23, 2019

6 Books You Need to Read This Summer

July 8, 2019

A-Z Name

Wright, Kai D.

Biography

“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.” – Kai D. Wright

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, Wright teaches managers at all levels how to internally facilitate sensitive conversations around race, from the C-suite to the front lines.

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.

“Cultural fluency is becoming increasingly important as the United States and the world become majority-minority,” says Wright. “My methods and results support research that shows diverse leadership and teams achieve better business results across the board.”

As an accomplished media executive and educator, Wright 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.

“I’ve been afforded the time and space to dream big. Many Black people aren’t as lucky to have that or able to take the career risks I’ve been able to take in pursuit of my dreams. That creates a heavy burden of duty,” says Wright. “Like most Black people who have experienced racism since childhood, I’ve become an expert at spotting when it’s both active and passive and I have a trove of stories. But rather than discussing those wounds, this moment in history is about what I/we can and must do to create lasting change.”

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 about topics like race by using systems-based thinking and communication principles including values, rhetoric, and framing. As a doer, Wright identifies gaps and fills them, helping organizations move from mission to movement. In step with that effort, he co-authored a new playbook on justice and brand accountability which was published in July 2020.

In his book, “Follow the Feeling: Brand Building in a Noisy World” (Wiley, August 2019), Wright highlights how successful brand building depends on value creation rather than business efficiencies. He cleverly uses behavioral science principles to highlight shortcuts of brand building based on lessons from fast-growing brands, from Aldi to Peloton. 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.

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.

Wright’s 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.

# # #

Kai D. Wright is a Forbes 30 Under 30 alum and was recently named to the Thinkers50 Radar Class of 2020. He has also been recognized as a major thought leader by AdAge, Forbes, Inc, Adweek and the Advertising Research Foundation. As a leading voice for the racial justice movement following the murder of George Floyd, Wright curated and published the blacklist100 to highlight change agents and major talent in the Black community and was invited to serve on the AdAge U.S. Diversity Council as well as WPP’s Task Force on Race. Prior to his current roles as an author, strategy advisor and lecturer, Wright served as a vice president on the management team at Atom Factory (venture capital fund and music management for Meghan Trainor, Miguel, Charlie Puth) and REVOLT TV & Media (cable television channel founded by Sean Diddy Combs). Wright earned his Master’s degree in strategic communication from Columbia University and his Bachelor’s degree in economics from The University of Chicago.

Kai D. Wright is available to advise your organization via virtual and in-person consulting meetings, interactive workshops and customized keynotes through the exclusive representation of Stern Speakers, a division of Stern Strategy Group®.

Speech Topics

For a more in-depth understanding of these topics, book an interactive workshop or confidential advisory meeting with Kai D. Wright

Fulfilling the Promise of Inclusion: How to Design and Implement Community-based Marketing Campaigns

The next big marketing shift and business growth accelerator isn’t digital, social media, or eCommerce – it’s nailing the ability to fluidly build multicultural communities around your brand and company. As a leading voice for diversity, equity, inclusion and racial justice, global media consultant and Columbia University lecturer Kai D. Wright helps business leaders build action plans to drive their commitment to diversity. Combining insights from national research conducted in 2020 about what employees and consumers want from brands, Wright provides a framework for measuring a company’s performance, with an emphasis on spotlighting companies, like Starbucks, who are getting it right. In this presentation – which can be converted into a full-day or half-day workshop – Wright teaches participants what it takes to fulfill the promise of inclusion in ways that create lasting change – from hiring practices and brand messages to giving people in every community a voice. Using practical approaches and lessons from curating communities such as blacklist100 – which highlights extraordinary Black talent across sectors – Wright helps organizations build community-based, multicultural marketing campaigns that serve diverse audiences, broaden their brand’s reach and ensure representation in communities that have traditionally been ignored or underserved.

The Courage to Pivot: Creating a Business Playbook for a Post COVID-19 Reality

Traditionally, businesses operate under a known set of conditions: predictable variables in a business model, steady supply/demand expectations and the ability to use historical data as a proxy for future performance. However, the excessive business disruption caused by COVID-19 is challenging our business models and altering previously predictable consumer behaviors and habits. Tapping into his extensive research into 1,500 fast-growing companies as well as his years of experience managing communications campaigns for Fortune 100 firms and advising C-suite executives, Kai D. Wright has taken a dizzying array of options for business growth and boiled them down to five key pivots that executives, entrepreneurs or employees can use to create value and operational efficiency. During this dynamic discussion about the “from” and “to” shifts necessary to fortify and grow a business in a world full of noise, Wright shows participants how these five bold yet necessary pivots – how you manage, plan, connect, navigate and communicate – set a business up for success. Participants will walk away with the tools they need to bravely pivot and help others do the same, from building a brand to supporting a cause.

Follow the Feeling: Brand Building in a Noisy World

In his book “Follow the Feeling,” strategy advisor Kai D. Wright answers a critical question plaguing entrepreneurs, brand strategists, marketers and leaders: how do you grow your brand in a noisy digital world? Starting with behavioral economic principles and ending with a new systems-based approach to brand building, Wright presents readers with one metric that trumps the hundreds of data points entangling brand value: feelings. Analyzing 1,500 fast-growing brands from Aldi to Peloton, the Columbia University lecturer reveals five branding secrets and shortcuts to unlocking feelings and building a consistent and positive feeling into brand touchpoints that matter most. In this session, Wright shows, through case studies, research and quick-start tips, how to evolve your branding to capture attention and win hearts and minds by focusing on five aspects: lexicon triggers, audio cues, visual stimuli, experience drivers and cultural connections (LAVEC). Wright’s revolutionary, proprietary and simple LAVEC framework can be applied by organizations and people as diverse as those he has advised, from Bank of America to Diddy. This crash course in brand building is a must-attend for any organization looking for growth pathways. Wright also offers tailored virtual and in-person keynote presentations and workshops based on the book to senior leaders and marketing strategists, helping them tailor the five-part method and associated strategy frameworks to their bespoke business opportunities.

Media

Array

Books & Research

Array

Workshops

Facilitating Difficult Conversations Around Race and Diversity Within Organizations

Companies large and small have issued public statements about their commitment to anti-racism, diversity and Black Lives Matter in response to the protests that followed the death of George Floyd. Cell phone footage of that and other racially motivated crimes against Black citizens have awakened people across the world to the blatant biases that people of color contend with every day, often in the shadows or in silence. But what comes next? Since most boards and C-suites lack Black voices, many leaders are not fully equipped to have tough conversations around race and inequality within their organizations – especially at the speed required to keep up with fast-moving cultural changes. Such key decision makers have been consulting with global media executive and Columbia University educator Kai D. Wright, who is increasingly lending his voice to the racial justice movement and sharing viewpoints and plans for lasting change with leaders across industries. During this enlightening interactive workshop, Wright outlines specific tools for sparking and sustaining such sensitive conversations within an organization, discusses the roles brands play in social justice and teaches participants how to approach culture ethically for brand accountability. He can also facilitate these conversations during confidential advisory meetings with leaders who want to encourage and sustain an atmosphere of open-minded dialogue throughout their organization – from the boardroom to the front lines – with the common goal of creating lasting, inclusive change.

Recommendations

“Kai Wright’s insights into building a brand in the current media environment were thought-provoking and inspiring. He gets you to think deeply about how your brand has the potential to resonate at a more meaningful, emotional level.”

—Dave Dryden, AVP for Marketing and Brand Strategy, Clemson University

“Kai is a brilliant storyteller, advisor and historian of all things brand related. He’s able to weave together successes and failures across brands and industries, diagnose them against his framework and offer a new standard of inspiration forward.”

– Nicole M. Alexander, SVP of Innovation, Ipsos

“Kai analyzes and draws actionable conclusions from a dizzying array of data on people and behavior, to deliver a convincing, persuasive suite of principles and practices any marketer should embrace.”

– Jason Chebib, Vice President, Consumer Planning, Diageo

“Follow the Feeling brings to the reader an excellent guide on the role of emotion & neuroscience in brand building, translating principles into a path to grow your brand.”

– Manuel Garcia-Garcia, PhD, Adjunct Professor of Consumer Neuroscience at NYU and Global Lead of Neuroscience at Ipsos

“Kai was a terrific addition to True University. His session on the power of persuasion was well received by attendees who specifically commented on his engaging teaching style, his command of content, and his choice of interactive exercises which really brought the material to life. We would welcome the chance to work with him again.”

– Christiaan Vorkink, Vice President, True Ventures (investors in Peloton, Fitbit, Ring, Blue Bottle Coffee, MakerBot)

“Thank you, Kai! It was really a pleasure to work with you. You not only rocked in the stage, but was an incredibly proactive and flexible speaker – and that made a huge difference. We are super grateful. We had amazing feedback from clients and awesome scores given at the end. Hope to meet you again soon!”

– Gustavo Pacheco, Head of Growth, Google

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