Whole Brand Thinking™ on Products + Services.

barkley sowb expert products header

What trends, themes, surprises, or disruptions have you seen in Product + Service in the last 12 months?

Amid global instability, economic uncertainty, and social anxiety, consumers look to brands’ products and services to play a key role in solving real human problems. We’ve seen an influx of innovations that solve BOTH consumer needs and cultural necessities. This results in a new wave of popular product and service innovations that take on more responsibility and play a larger role in consumers’ lives. From On Running combining shoe performance with a circular product system to LUSH Cosmetics for infusing inclusivity and sustainability into its product lines and AirBnB doubling down on its .org service connecting people in crisis to hosts’ homes, the most impactful brands are going beyond the usual innovation brief to solve big problems. 

How do they do it? They identify and act on their core purpose, deeply understand their audience and its priorities beyond their category, and aren’t afraid to change their models to make better experiences. 

What does it mean for aspiring whole brands?

Unsurprisingly, the brands that’ve best articulated and acted on their core purpose and found ways to influence culture (not just their category) are the more Whole Brands. But this maturity isn’t exclusive to the most mature brands…from our analysis, many of the most impactful innovations come from relatively young brands built to be Whole. So how do aspiring Whole Brands make their product and service innovation mean more? 

We point to three traits: 

  1. They look for optimizations and innovations within their full product lifecycle, from supply chain to end-of-life disposal 

  2. They explore innovations that address the issues their consumers care most about 

  3. They aren’t afraid to challenge category conventions or cultural norms

What does this mean for whole brand thinkers regarding Products and services? 

  • See innovation as solving multiple challenges in the form of a hero product or service. The product or service isn’t just a better solution; it’s a catalyst for change. 

  • Approach innovation by identifying consumer needs and fully exploring gaps, needs, and opportunities for reinvention across 5 key areas: Consumer, Culture, Market, Brand, and Experience. 

  • Widen your aperture to allow your innovation starting point wider than the competition.  

  • Look at innovation as a lever for greater impact, not just increased market share. The two often go together and are more engaging propositions for consumers to pay more.

Want more Whole Brand Thinking™ delivered right to your inbox each month? Sign up for the Whole Brand Briefing email newsletter here.


Up next: