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On conscious consumerism, sustainability and ideas worth advertising.

On conscious consumerism, sustainability and ideas worth advertising.

The Big Rethink according to Tim Galles, Director of the Whole Brand Project

As Barkley’s chief idea officer, Tim Galles has spent his career practicing creativity on brands — grabbing inspiration from everywhere and reading more books on the topic than he can remember. And he’s frustrated with two things: the lack of understanding that a brand is everything a company does, and how so many people severely limit the role creativity plays outside of traditional creative spheres like marketing and advertising.

Today, he’s on a mission to build a world with more whole brands — the kind that think about everything they do as a creative opportunity. More than logos and advertising, a brand is the sum of every action it takes, he says, a singular idea that inspired him to create The Whole Brand Project, a platform to gather and inspire like-minded thinkers to reimagine the role brands can and should play in the world by adding something good to it — not merely creating more interruptions and noise. 

His thesis? Whole brands thrive across a spectrum of ideas — from business decisions to marketing ideas — creating stories that are shared, that give someone a reason to work for you, or inspire a consumer to choose you — or forget you.

The sooner a brand adapts to this way of thinking, the more powerful it will be.

As part of our series on State of The Whole Brand, The Big Rethink, research that proves his thesis that whole brands dominate the market, we asked him to share his latest ideas on conscious consumerism, a dream idea, and what the world needs most.

When you think about how many fragmented brands are out there, what keeps you up at night? 

Galles: Brands that live by the traditional paradigms of marketing keep me up because they keep the old idea of capitalism going and fuel unregulated consumerism. Ultimately, they are purely motivated by sales and revenue and don’t make decisions based on the right things. They still think marketing and “shiny objects” can solve for bad products, uninspired culture and poor experiences. 

The good news: the tide is turning and people, employees and consumers alike, are making different, more holistic choices. Whole brands accelerate a better form of capitalism and innovation and create more conscious consumers and employees.

Tell us about the Whole Brand Project. What does success look like for such an organization?

Galles: Success is accelerating the rise of whole brands in order to create more beautiful and thoughtful businesses and organizations. Community will be a big piece of the success for the project, creating a network of like-minded thinkers. The idea is too big and too important to live in one place.

Brands that practice whole brand thinking will see many positive implications. They will have happier employees and more satisfied customers. They will have more sustained innovation for products and services, as well as their culture, organization and sustainability efforts at large.

They will be more valuable to consumers and command a premium price, while developing a loyal following.

Culture, innovation, talent recruiting and tenure, revenue and long-term success will come more easily to whole brands. When everyone knows and agrees on a brand’s beliefs, creating smart behaviors becomes much easier. 

We measure whole brand success by the combination of profit, performance across the system and impact on people, communities and the planet. Whole brands end up realizing that kind of success in spades. They are the brands that will find themselves on the right side of history — because they are nurturing the future. That is what excites and drives me the most.

How do consumers benefit from a world with more whole brands?

Galles: Whole brands are more valuable to consumers because so much is attached to the purchase, beyond the functional aspect of the product or service. Whether explicit or implicit, people feel better because they have a more valuable alibi — the reason why they bought that product. They also have a better internal story that results in pride, confidence and/or satisfaction, and a better external story — think sharing and advocacy. 

On a pragmatic level, whole brands provide better products and services in craft, quality and, ultimately, in manufacturing and distribution. They are transparent, giving consumers the knowledge they need to make positive choices and change.

Consumers also value knowing the important ingredients behind the brand: the hiring practices, manufacturing processes, partnerships, etc.

They also get a more coherent brand and a better experience, because the brand makes sense at every touchpoint — and the brand makes sense to consumers on their terms, not the brand's terms

Whole brands also allow consumers to participate in many ways, whether it is clear and accessible feedback loops, co-creation or easier ways to use the brand, engaging with all of the brand's owned properties, from websites, apps and social channels to retail locations.

Some will say people don’t pay attention to or care about the “about us” section of a brand’s website. That’s not true for modern consumers and employees who want to know the story because, ultimately, that becomes a part of their story.

How does sustainability play into how a whole brand operates in the world?

Galles: First of all, a brand can't be whole if it doesn’t measure success with a lens of sustainability, its impact on people, communities and the planet. Sustainability becomes a driver of purpose and has implications on the whole brand through products and services, design and experience and culture. It becomes a lens for every action, working closely with a brand’s purpose and the core idea that drives everything — what we call the Red Thread — to guide and inspire all brand actions. I like to think of it as less of a barrier or filter and more of an idea machine or innovation engine. Smart brands, whole brands, know that a powerful sustainability strategy is mandatory; fragmented brands think of sustainability as a bolt-on or a marketing and PR ploy. 

If you starred in your own TV spot, what would you be advertising?

Galles: I love the phrase “ideas worth advertising,” so it would definitely be an idea worthy of people’s time. 

I think the ultimate idea is a social network or buying platform just for whole brands as a way to guarantee people are making the most holistic buying decisions they can. The platform does the work for you, so that you know each decision you make is as good as it can be. I'd like to start rewarding the brands that do it differently and make it easier for people to make decisions, much like Whole Foods does for food and other products. I would create a clearing house for brands people could trust, a badging or accreditation system, without doing all of the research.

How are you generating momentum around The Whole Brand Project?

I like to think about it like a great DJ or music producer: We have to create and inspire curators of whole brands and share them with the world so more people buy them, work for them and share their stories. We have to behave like whole brand DJs, scouring the earth to find whole brands in order to share their "songs," their ways, their processes and rituals. We have to make mix tapes of the best actions and stories and turn up the volume, so others can be inspired by them as forces for good. The world is too messy and fragmented. Good is out there, we just need to wrap our arms around it and let others in. 


We're on a mission to build a world with more whole brands, those ​​that spread their strength across a defined set of actions, grow faster, win more customers and have stronger cultures than the competition — those that act as a force for good.

The world needs us all to rethink how we’re doing business. That starts with here. Inspired? Join us at The Whole Brand Project, where we’re rallying innovative thinkers from all industries to join us.


Brand: A (R)evolution by Tim Galles

Five ways to win: A model for building a whole brand by David Gutting

The Big Rethink according to Happify’s Gareth Kay

The Big Rethink according to Oatly's Heidi Hackemer

The Big Rethink according to Beautiful Business' Alan Moore

The Big Rethink according to University of Toronto Rotman School of Management's Angèle Beausoleil, PhD

The Big Rethink according to Whole Brand Index creator David Gutting

The Big Rethink: State of the Whole Brand 2021

An Open Letter to Whole Brand Thinkers by Tim Galles, The Muse by Clio

The Whole Brand Project: Join the movement

WARC  | The whole brand: Ending the divide between brand marketing and performance marketing

Barkley US

Dec 15, 2021

filed under:
Whole Brands


Brand Culture, COVID-19, Marketing, Millennial, Modern Consumer, Purpose, Travel, Whole Brands
Whole Brands
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