Kwame Taylor-Hayford has an impressive mission for Kin, the creative consultancy he founded in 2019 with former coworker Sophie Ozoux. Together, the industry veterans are committed to “unleashing business and culture as forces for good.” According to Taylor-Hayford, one of Marcom Weekly’s Powerful Black Leaders in Marketing and Media, this is an ideal time for companies and brands to step into the gap left by government and nonprofits with limited resources. They can help create the transformative change sorely needed in the world– and he wants to help them do it right.
Taylor-Hayford knows a thing or two about how purpose-driven businesses can thrive. His former employer, Chobani, is one of the first companies that come to mind when people think of successful, purpose-driven brands. “Going to work at Chobani was a turning point in my life,” he says. “It was so clear how that business was purpose born. Hamdi Ulukaya’s passion for addressing issues of refugees, his passion for making high-quality food but also building a company culture where humanity is celebrated… All those things came together and created a very successful business and to me, that was a case study in how creativity, the idea of doing good in the world, and making a profit can very much work in tandem. That was the beginning of the idea for Kin.”
In addition to Kin, Taylor-Hayford is also one of the co-founders of Saturday Morning, a nonprofit organization that works to bring awareness to and shift perceptions on racial bias, injustice, immigration, education, and the environment. The team at Saturday Morning are the minds behind acclaimed projects such as Procter & Gamble’s take on unconscious bias “The Look,” Spotify’s “Black History is Happening Now,” and “Peace Briefs,” a line of underwear printed with messages intended to humanize the interaction between people and police. “Peace Briefs,” won a Silver Lion at Cannes in 2018.
It makes sense that Taylor-Hayford would launch not one but two companies based ultimately on a desire to help people and drive change through creativity. His dad had a distinguished career in civil service, first as Ghana’s ambassador to the UK and then South Africa, and later as an advisor to Kofi Annan, former Secretary-General of the United Nations. His mother, an architect, ran her own successful business for more than 15 years. The close-knit family of seven—Taylor-Hayford is the second of five children—lived in Ghana, Egypt, South Africa, and the UK before ultimately moving back to the NYC-area. “Basically every three years we would move countries,” says Taylor-Hayford. “We got to live in these very unique and different contexts which was such an amazing way to grow up. It fueled my curiosity and my creativity. And it gives you such an appreciation for people.” Taylor pours that appreciation for culture and people into the work he and his team do at Kin, on behalf of brands like Netflix, LVMH, Anheuser-Busch, The Nature Conservancy, and more.
An inductee into the Advertising Hall of Achievement in 2019, Taylor-Hayford almost didn’t enter the creative field. His major at SUNY Geneseo was initially computer science. Ultimately, he decided to major in business and minor in computer information systems because he didn’t want to spend the rest of his life in front of a computer (something he laughs about now when considering how much time he does spend online). After a brief stint in finance, Taylor-Hayford decided to try his hand at advertising, an industry he knew little about and had no contacts in. He cold-called numerous agencies in NYC and ended up landing an unpaid internship that soon led to a job offer at Y&R/VML. He then moved to Los Angeles for an opportunity at Media Arts Lab, joined Saatchi & Saatchi’s team in L.A. before transferring to the firm’s NYC office, and eventually in 2016 began work at Chobani.
“To me, it was very fortuitous, I definitely knew I wanted to do something creative but I had no idea creative business existed in advertising. I grew up in a very traditional African household where things like being a doctor and a lawyer are what’s normally celebrated. I think more people and families need to know that you don’t just have to be the person onscreen. There’s a whole business behind the screen that helps empower it and you can make a very successful living being a part of that industry.”
The ad genius behind P&G’s “The Look” also opened up about events following the murder of George Floyd, including the role of brands in social justice. He believes that whatever a brand chooses to invest in and champion shapes the world.
“Brands are such a big part of our everyday life, ” Taylor-Hayford tells Marcom Weekly. “Brands are a lot of the places where people work and spend 7-8 hours of their day and the cultures that exist at those companies, the roles and the opportunities that are presented at those companies, and the impact that these companies have on the world—I mean, they matter. So I feel if all we do is get even the top 500 brands to adopt better principles, better ways of working, to adopt more progressive representations of people of color in their communication, to me that has such an incredible ability to shift perception.”
Following last summer’s protests, news reports of diversity theater have increased but some brands are making notable improvements according to Taylor-Hayford.
“I think Reddit and their cofounder Alexis and his action, his very concrete tangible meaningful action to step down from his board and appoint a person of color, the board of the company he founded was really bold and exactly the kind of gesture that we need,” he says.
It was the gesture beyond words that struck Taylor-Hayford. He says that Black people need to be invited to participate and to shape the economy and economic future of the country. For Reddit’s cofounder to allow a Black person that opportunity will hopefully change the nature of the company and its culture from the top down.
Another example that impressed the Kin cofounder is Ben and Jerry’s condemning white supremacy and calling on systemic change to address inequities, and asking for the U.S. Department of Justice to reopen an investigation on the impact of slavery. “To me that is the kind of bold action and gesture that makes sense for a brand of their scale and to be honest very in keeping with the brand’s personality which I think is also important,” he adds.
Outstanding questions loom and there’s more work to be done internally within companies. For the purpose-driven marketer, brands that want to go beyond talk and sustain their equity initiatives must take things further.
“Think about how you are not just hiring people of color but how are you retaining them, how are you promoting them, how are you ensuring that they are fully included in your culture at the company,” Taylor-Hayford continues. “How are you ensuring that they are rising through the ranks and getting to roles in leadership where they can create more of a context for people who are considered ‘other’ to thrive? To me, that is the hard work that needs to happen.”
Marissa is a correspondent covering features of entrepreneurs, newsmakers, executives and creatives.