Co-Founder | Kin
by Mara Serdans
What's your side hustle?
Yes. It's called SATURDAY MORNING, a not-for-profit that raises awareness and shifts perceptions on racial bias and injustice.
Are you more of a hunter or a gatherer?
When launching or building a company or initiative, it's important to play both roles.
What's the last song you listened to?
Jay-Z & Kanye, "The Joy"
What inspires you?
People. Music. Art. Food.
What's your favorite board game?
What is your mantra? It's only impossible until someone does it.
In-N-Out or Shake Shack?
KWAME TAYLOR-HAYFORD ON THE POWER OF MEDIA
It’s undeniable that we’re currently at a point where history has its eye on us. It will require a shift where Black Lives Matter becomes a state of mind, not just a movement. And it will take people like Kwame Taylor-Hayford, who can inspire and excite people to lead the path towards tangible equality and inclusion.
Kwame has become a trail-blazer in many ways, rising through the ranks of several leading advertising agencies including Saatchi & Saatchi (LA & NY), Anomaly and Sid Lee. He has worked for illustrious brands such as Apple, Nike, Facebook, Spotify, Uniqlo, Stella Artois, Captain Morgan, Toyota American Express, Proctor & Gamble, among others.
And he most recently held the role of Managing Director, Brand Development at Chobani. There he was responsible for designing, building and leading a cutting-edge in-house creative discipline that generated demand and grew the brand through advertising, digital innovation, creative partnerships and experiential. His team was named 2019 In-House Agency of the Year by Advertising Age and, citing the creative work on the brand, Fast Company included Chobani on its Most Innovative Companies list three years in a row.
One of Kwame’s greatest endeavors is SATURDAY MORNING, a non-profit that he founded with Geoff Edwards, Keith Cartwright, Jayanta Jenkins and their partner lead, Deja Cox four years ago. SATURDAY MORNING began with an open letter and call-to-action in response to the never-ending wave of oppression and police brutality in the Black community. Since then its goal has been to shift these perceptions on racial bias and injustice.
In light of the recent protests related to the killing of George Floyd, SATURDAY MORNING issued a second open letter to urge for change and write a new path in history.
“It’s interesting to step back and think about what’s happened over the past few weeks. Because for a lot of people of color, for a lot of Black men specifically, it’s a little bit of the same story. Black men being needlessly harmed or killed by the police is nothing new…events that are a lot like what happened to George Floyd that inspired the founding of SATURDAY MORNING four years ago.”
Perhaps what is so unique about George Floyd is the vivid and unavoidable film but also the lack of concern for life and humanity. Since the public has been on lockdown, people have fewer distractions and are paying attention. But it’s something SATURDAY MORNING has been paying attention to for a long time.
Over the past four years Kwame and his team have launched several notable projects to combat racial bias. Each project is bespoke and the team assembles experts in design, copy, production and execution to augment their skillset. “As long as you have smart strategic thinking and brilliant creative ideas you should be able to flex to support any ask that comes in the door.”
One of SATURDAY MORNING’S most recent projects titled The Look, is a film and website that came about through a tight partnership with P&G. “They were one of the first companies that reached out and were really supportive of what we’re trying to do at SATURDAY MORNING. And they continue to be a champion. Not just of us as an organization but of the issue of bias. It’s something they care deeply about and want to move the needle on. That’s how we found the opportunity to work together and create The Look.”
The film and website give the viewer an experience of what it’s like to be a black man in America. Part of the ambition with this project was to make everyone who sees it more self-aware, thoughtful and empathetic. Their goal was to create a dialogue and get people to understand their unconscious bias and take steps to deal with it.
“To me, those projects are really important because they shine the light on the racism and bias that doesn’t make the news. Let’s be honest. When someone dies, when someone is violently injured, when someone is egregiously mistreated, that makes the news and we hear about it. But a lot of what we capture and show in The Look is the everyday bias that happens and that goes unnoticed or unrecognized by most people.”
Talkaboutbias.com and the downloadable Conversation Guide includes tools to help educate people for a constructive conversation with friends, colleagues and family members. It provides more detail on the film and historical context that inspired it, some of which never made it to our skewed history books. It even discusses why the brand chose to capture specific scenes like the one in the diner.
“We reflect on the lunch counter sit-ins in the Sixties and contrast them to what happened at Starbucks in 2018. A lot of time has passed but some things haven't changed.”
The team is excited to continue its relationship with P&G to further amplify this project and its mission.
“We will continue to be focused on this issue until it’s not necessary anymore. I’m certainly hopeful that it happens within my lifetime. I think it’s going to take about that long for an issue that is so ingrained in the fabric of the country to be addressed. But I’m hopeful that it will be addressed.”
As if SATURDAY MORNING wasn’t enough, Kwame is also co-founder of Kin - a Brooklyn and LA-based agency that dubs itself a new breed of creative company using kinship to unleash business and cultures as forces for good in our world.
Earlier this Spring, Kin launched their first project for Mailchimp titled, “Support the Shorts” in response to SXSW canceling their festival. Short filmmakers rely on this marquee event to network, build an audience, and create opportunities to make more films. Because of the lockdown, countless makers were left with no chance to share their hard work so Mailchimp and Kin stepped in. Kin launched a streaming platform (built by Code & Theory) so that makers could share their films with everyone online. Not only was it a good way to support these filmmakers and the short film community overall, but it unleashed a flood of new content for folks who had exhausted their Netflix queues.
“They’re an incredible tech company and great corporate citizen. They support communities, underdogs and small-world changers and through their day-to-day work are moving the needle on poverty, arts education and more.” In the past six years, MailChimp has supported many organizations and they’re continuing to build and advance efforts that support their brand ethos.
“I think you’ll see a lot of brands following this approach…taking actions that reinforce their values, providing meaningful support to communities. Corporations have incredible resources, reach and scale. It makes sense they can tackle some of the challenges that we’re all facing.”
It’s undeniable that advertising agencies will also need to become a steward of change. We see agencies helping brands deliver messages about their values and now we need to become that force of change within our walls. Advertising is a homogenous business with a lot of nepotism; you often have to know people to get in, stay in, and advance. And because of that it’s been easy for it to become the same type of person.
“I have almost always in my career been one of very few if not the only black person in the room. And I would argue that’s probably the experience of many POC or Blacks in the advertising industry.”
To continue moving the needle, agencies will need to take more action, be inclusive and get a more diverse group of people excited about working in creative business. As SATURDAY MORNING’S open letter states:
“These are the struggles that we have to face to make sure that this moment is not just another moment. In order for us to find true equality there has to be sacrifice and not just sympathy. Otherwise this moment will fade away like so many before it, and we’ll find ourselves here again asking why we are still here.”
This change also needs to reflect the vendors we hire. There’s very little diversity in the top ranks and it’s a cycle that perpetuates itself. The industry needs to take on more black directors, photographers, retouchers and the like. Until then, we are going to be starved.
“It’s important to not be afraid to try something that many people have failed at or something that is seen as difficult or impossible to achieve. Oftentimes people aren’t ready for the trailblazer but they are for all the people who come afterwards. Someone to make the way. Part of that is not being afraid to be first.”
I think we already found that person, and his name is Kwame Taylor-Hayford.