Welcome to the Whole Brand Project — an ongoing study, resource and celebration of how whole brands win in the modern marketplace, created by Barkley.

Ambition


“Whole brand thinking is not just for the marketing department—it’s a mindset that leads everyone in an organization to believe they are keepers of the brand. It’s everyone’s responsibility to apply creativity across the whole brand spectrum, use it as a workshop, playground, and starting point to make the brand as valuable as possible. May the most whole brands win.”

Tim Galles
Chief Idea Officer
Barkley

We’re on a mission to build a world with more whole brands.

This is a living, breathing project — the result of our relentless pursuit of building better brands from the inside out.

We started the project because we believe there are two kinds of brands in the world: fragmented brands that see their brand as merely an outward-facing expression of their organization, primarily driven by a marketing department and whole brands that see everything they do, inside and out, as the brand, viewing the job of “brand” as everyone’s responsibility in the organization.

Simply put, a whole brand is designed for growth, perfecting an arsenal of strategies and ideas across the Whole Brand Bpectrum — outperforming competitors and building market value and superiority as a result.

This site contains proof of our hypothesis: the results of our first Whole Brand Study of 125 publicly traded brands and introduces both the model and measurement of the power and performance of such brands. The result? An ongoing initiative to build the kind of brands people, consumers, employees, communities and the world value. We welcome your participation.

This is the most vital time in history to be in the brand-building business. While most brands — what we call fragmented brands — are trying to find their footing, the evolving Whole Brand Spectrum is one of the greatest opportunities for creative businesses to add value to the world. This requires a new mindset for how business leaders consider their brand — as the sum of every experience a consumer has with a company or organization.

Whole brand thinking solves for the complicated problems that result when the parts that make up a business aren’t working as one. It is a powerful tool for opportunity spotting, internal integration, collaboration, alignment, communication and growth. When a business works as a unified whole, it evolves into something much greater than the sum of its parts: A whole brand.

Elements


Whole brands grow faster and win more customers than their fragmented competitors.

Becoming a whole brand is no easy feat: Most brands live in a space between fragmented and whole. While our study delves into the performance measurements of such brands — product, brand culture, experience, design and communication — we have made correlations to complete this definition and determine which brands are truly “whole.” The result? Four attributes of a whole brand based on how modern consumers view and experience them.

  1. # The four elements of
    a whole brand:
  2. 1 A whole brand is an organization that treats everything it does as the brand.
  3. 2 A core, long idea guides, inspires and connects every action a whole brand takes, across the spectrum of marketing ideas to business ideas. We call this the red thread.
  4. 3 A whole brand is full of purpose and action, and it matches what it says and does internally with what it says and does externally.
  5. 4 A whole brand measures success holistically by balancing profit and performance across the Whole Brand Spectrum with its impact on people, communities and the planet.

Proof

Athletic Wear
Whole Brand Index: 85
0
100
Brand's Market Performance: 85
-200
500

These scores are highly correlated and together rate the strength of brand impact determinants and total mark effectiveness.


Whole brands spread their strength across a defined set of actions, grow faster and win more customers than the competition.

Methodology:

We began by surveying more than 4,000 consumers regarding their views of 125 brands in 16 categories. A proprietary performance framework scored brand effectiveness across these five whole brand metrics:

  1. Product ActionsOverall product value and product differentiation.

  2. Customer Service ActionsLevel of customer service and workforce knowledge and skill.

  3. Customer Experience ActionsMemorability of experience and most satisfying experience.

  4. Design and Access ActionsEasy to recognize and find and overall simplicity of usage.

  5. Communications and AdvertisingVisibility and relevance of advertising.

The study resulted in the Whole Brand Index (WBI), which highlights the performance difference between whole and fragmented brands.

We then determined the correlation between the WBI and a brand’s market performance and created a group of 25 brands we deemed “whole brands” that in our judgement matched our overall criteria for a whole brand.

The Key Finding:

Brands that ranked in the top 20% on the Whole Brand Index dominated brands in the lower 80% across five key metrics — all calculated directly in our study and mapped to our Whole Brand Spectrum.

Nike
Home Depot
Blue Cross Blue Shield
Amazon
Netflix
IKEA
Southwest Airlines
Planet Fitness
Lowe's
Old Navy

NOTE: All data was gathered from consumer surveys and available market performance. Correlations between our five core metrics were made to values of internal brand culture, purpose and the red thread, which were not a part of this study.


Whole Brands vs.
Fragmented Brands
2x
Whole Brands are recommended nearly twice as often
3x
Whole Brands triple fragmented brands in "bought most often"
2x
Whole Brands double fragmented brands in market penetration
5x
Whole Brands are rated five times more likely as a "brand on the rise"
11x
Whole Brands are eleven times more likely to command a premium price
Whole Brands
Fragmented Brands
Whole Brands
Fragmented Brands

This data reflects 2020 survey and market performance. Check back regularly for updated analyses.

Examples


As the world changes, whole brands do too.

We’re always on the lookout for what’s next –– check back regularly for the state of whole brands and whole brand thinkers.

  1. How a niche-brand surpasses a global giant
  2. Brand culture is key to being a powerful whole brand. Check out where your brand stands and why it matters.
  3. How a giant holds onto its lead
  4. Whole brands know the power of creativity to solve any problem. This thinking is vital to thriving in uncertain times — like now.
  5. How a deceptive strategy transformed the airline business
  6. Culture inspires innovation across the entire brand spectrum — these brands do it best.
  7. The enduring power of product value
  8. Take a listen to this weekly tour of some of the most inspiring whole brands from around the world.

Q+A


Questions about methodology, philosophy or future projects? Let’s talk.

Q: What is whole brand thinking?

A: Whole brand thinking is not just for the marketing department. It is a mindset that leads everyone in an organization to believe they are keepers of the brand. It’s everyone’s responsibility to apply creativity across the whole brand spectrum, use it as a workshop and playground, and the starting point to make the brand as valuable as possible.

Whole brand thinking solves for the complicated problems that result when the parts that make up an organization aren’t working as one. Having a whole brand isn’t just about alignment, it drives efficiency inside an organization and profitability outside the organization. It is a powerful tool for opportunity spotting, internal integration, collaboration, alignment, communication and growth. When an organization works as a unified whole, it evolves into something much greater than the sum of its parts: A whole brand.

Q: What is the difference between a whole brand and a fragmented brand?

A: From marketing ideas to business ideas, a whole brand is one that sees its brand as every action it takes, from the inside out. Its fragmented opposite sees the brand mostly as an outward-facing expression of the organization, driven by the marketing department, rather than a system of connected ideas. Fragmented brands see “brand” as something that can be dialed up or down, invested in or not, as an asset and a noun rather than an action and a verb.

While the Whole Brand Index measures the brands listed in our study along a scale of 1-100, no brand will ever reach either end of the scale.

Q: How did you determine what to measure when creating your whole brand index?

A: The Whole Brand Index (WBI) is based on all the ways a brand competes, the only thing that matters in measuring the source of brand growth. The WBI is made up of five core determinants: the product the brand sells, the skill and attentiveness of its workforce, the experience provided to customers, the design system that pulls those customers in and makes the brand readily available (both physically and mentally), and all the various communications channels and modes that help the brand tell its story.

Anything the brand does to win a consumer's choice can be cataloged under one of those five things. Recognizing this, that's how we built the model.

NOTE: In the addition to the five core determinants used as our main criteria, a whole brand will score high on having a core idea (a red thread driven by purpose) and a strong internal culture. These foundational elements are built on passion, advocacy and a shared and motivating understanding of the goals and objectives of the brand, as well as a measurable positive impact on people, communities and the planet.

Q: How did you determine the market/financial impact of a whole brand?

A: We did this in two ways: The first was measurements in the survey we conducted, thus covering all brands we studied. The second was to look at widely accepted measures of brand performance, available for publicly traded brands.

For the first set of measurements, we looked at five things: overall purchase/usage in the last year, percentage of time a brand is bought most often by a consumer, net percentage of consumers willing to pay full price for a brand even if a competitor is on sale, percentage of consumers who have actively recommended a brand to others in the last six months, and net percentage of consumers who see a brand as on the rise or on the decline.

The first three have direct financial impact; the last two are perceptions of brand performance. We add these numbers together to obtain a Total Performance Score (TPS).

We ran a mathematical correlation between the WBI and TPS to test the strength of the relationship between the two. Overall, the correlation is 0.84. Anything above 0.50 is considered a high correlation.

For the publicly traded brands, we looked at 5-year CAGR, price-to-book ratio 9 (a proxy for brand value), price-to-earnings ratio (trailing 12 months, known as P/E TTM, and return on assets. We then averaged these numbers, and compared the averages based on the WBI's of the brands — comparing the top half of WBIs to the bottom half.

This is not a strict mathematical correlation but a direct comparison of performance.

Q: How do I discover my brand’s score on the WBI?

A: Contact us. We can measure your brand’s performance on the Whole Brand Index.

Q: What is the first step to consider when building a whole brand?

A: At the core of every whole brand is a long idea — what we call a red thread — that guides, inspires and connects every action it takes, across the spectrum of marketing ideas to business ideas. If your brand doesn’t have a red thread, be ready and looking for that idea. Ideally it is born and inspired by your brand’s purpose. Then comes the work of the socialization and adoption of that idea, from your consumers to your workforce — the work of the whole brand.

Q: How do I get involved?

A: Several different options for you:

1. Download a copy of the report here.

2. Read an excerpt of Scratch: How to build a potent modern brand from the inside out, our how-to guide that details the process for how to practice whole brand thinking within your organization — or order it from Amazon.

3. Send us examples of whole brands and their actions across the spectrum.

4. Check back regularly to see how the project is evolving. More proof, examples and ideas on how you can make your brand a whole brand are on their way.

Resources


From the hard data and report to guides on how to build a whole brand from the inside out, here’s more on next steps.

  1. This study explores how whole brands dominate the market, and gives marketing leaders and their C-suite counterparts proof of the impact of whole brand thinking—and how a collective, systematic approach to brand building can change the trajectory and future of brands.
  2. We believe in the power of whole brands so much, we wrote a book about how to build one. Part workbook, part prediction for the future, Scratch is a how-to guide for companies and organizations wanting to earn whole brand status.
  3. From interviews with CEOs of some of the most purpose-driven brands to a step-by-step workshop on finding your own brand’s reason for existing beyond profit, this book explores the power of purpose to connect with modern consumers — building brand loyalty in the process.
Athletic Wear
Whole Brand Index: 85
0
100
Brand's Market Performance: 85
-200
500

These scores are highly correlated and together rate the strength of brand impact determinants and total mark effectiveness.

Download White Paper