This is a living, breathing project designed to fuel our relentless pursuit to build better brands, and it needs a new breed of thinkers like you in order to truly impact the world.
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.
We’re a bunch of creative generalists who believe a whole brand is designed for growth. It perfects an arsenal of strategies and creative ideas across a spectrum of actions and opportunities — outperforming competitors and building market value and a stronger brand culture as a result.
The Whole Brand Spectrum is your playground and tool for evolution: opportunity spotting, internal integration, collaboration, alignment, communication and growth. Whole brand thinking requires a simple shift in thinking: in today’s market, a brand is the sum of every experience a consumer has with a company or organization. It’s everything. And it’s vital for solving complicated problems that result when the parts that make up a business aren’t working as one. When a business works as a unified whole, it evolves into something much greater than the sum of its parts: A whole brand.
This site contains the most recent proof of our hypothesis: the results of our second Whole Brand Study of 140 brands in 20 categories. And it introduces a model to measure 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.
Becoming a whole brand is no easy feat: Most brands live in a space between fragmented and whole. Our study delves into the performance measurements of such brands — product, brand culture, experience, design and communication. We’ve made correlations to complete the following definition that determines which brands are truly “whole.”
We examined brand performance in five different brand dimensions, things that every brand controls when they enter the marketplace. Consider them independent variables.
Product ActionsOverall product and service value.
Customer Service ActionsLevel of customer support and service that a brand provides.
Customer Experience ActionsMemorability and uniqueness of customer experience.
Design and Access ActionsEasy to recognize and find and overall simplicity of usage.
Communications and ActivationVisibility and impact of marketing communications.
These measures resulted in a Whole Brand Index (WBI) score for each brand, 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 the most “whole brands,” that, in our judgment, matched our overall criteria for a whole brand.
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 included in this study. Check back regularly for updated analyses.
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.
A WBI in the Top 20% Means Outstanding Business Results
Slightly more than 20% of brands in our study achieved a Whole Brand Index score above 80. What’s the biggest payoff for a brand reaching that level? On average, a brand with a score above 80 is 2.5X more likely to be the preferred brand in its category than brands with a score below 80. But the advantage extends to all five of the other business metrics we tracked and is never less than 27% greater.
The Whole Brand Index measures “whole brand” depth and breadth. The better a brand does in all areas of performance, the higher the score.
The Market Performance Average measures what a brand accomplishes — its business results — as well as how consumers use and perceive brands in the marketplace.
The Purpose Strength Score measures whether people believe a brand stands for a higher purpose, for existing to do more than making money.
While we found strong relationships among these three areas, only 12 of the 140 brands we studied rose to the top. These “Three-Star Brands” are a blend of new and old, of reliable icons and unexpected rising stars, of category giants and disruptive upstarts.
Three standards qualify these elite brands:
They are a picture not only of where our brand economy has been, but where it’s going.
Here’s the list:
To learn more about the Three-Star Brands, download a copy of our 2021 State of the Whole Brand Report, which includes detailed information on the study itself.
Select an area of the whole brand spectrum below to see how whole brand behaviors add up to profit, performance and impact.
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.
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.
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.
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 WBIs 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.
A: Contact us. We can measure your brand’s performance on the Whole Brand Index.
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.
A: Several different options for you:
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.