In today’s competitive business world, brand building has become an essential aspect of a company’s success. In this context, The Whole Brand Project, initiated by Tim Galles, the Project Director and Chief Idea Officer at Barkley, and his team, is a valuable and insightful study of brands that operate as a unified whole, which they term “whole brands.”
The study defines whole brands as organizations demonstrating a holistic approach to brand building. These brands focus on five specific actions essential to their success, including product value, workforce performance, customer experience, design system visibility, and effectiveness of communications and advertising.
The Whole Brand Project analyzed more than 13,000 consumers and over 150 brands in 30+ categories, and the results were clear: whole brands produce greater profits, performance, and impact than fragmented brands. Specifically, whole brands, on average, produce a price-to-earnings ratio 2.5 times greater than the 80% of brands below them (among publicly traded brands). They see a 6x greater 5-year compound annual growth rate (CAGR), command a premium price and brand loyalty, enjoy double the market penetration, and are the preferred brand in their category 2.5 more often.
Galles and his team argue that building whole brands requires an entirely different mindset. Whole brands see everything they do as part of their brand, inside and out, including every experience they create. As such, whole-brand thinking is systems thinking, which requires looking at the interconnections between all the ways a brand touches someone, not just a linear flow of messages via campaigns or platforms.
Galles’ work resonates with Denise Lee Yohn, who is also a brand-building expert and author of the book “What Great Brands Do.” In her research, Yohn emphasizes that great brands define their brand as what they do and how they do it, and they sweat the small stuff because everything communicates. In addition, great brands commit and stay committed by being crystal clear about their purpose and values, locking them in, and executing them relentlessly.
The strongest brands are the most consistent brands. They have a focused sense of purpose, as the Barkley team concludes. This suggests that whole brands have significantly lower variation and volatility across the five dimensions they investigate, indicating greater discipline.
Moreover, whole brands start brand-building not with communications but with culture. They develop a brand-led culture that promotes whole-brand thinking and actions. By aligning and integrating organizational culture with the brand, companies can create advantages in workforce engagement and productivity, customer experience, and trust with all stakeholders.
In conclusion, The Whole Brand Project is a call to action for companies to adopt a whole-brand approach to brand-building. By embracing the principles of whole-brand thinking, companies can reap the rewards of a more profitable, impactful, and successful brand. A holistic approach to brand building that considers every aspect of the brand experience, from the product to the workforce, can create a powerful brand-led culture, resulting in a brand that is greater than the sum of its parts. Therefore, brands are not dying, but they can be more valuable than ever before because brand plus culture equals results.
Here are a few resources on creating a whole-brand by starting with developing culture:
- “What Great Brands Do: The Seven Brand-Building Principles That Separate the Best from the Rest” by Denise Lee Yohn – This book delves into the strategies used by the world’s most successful brands to create a brand-led culture that drives their success.
- “Building a Whole-Brand Culture: How Whole Foods Market and Southwest Airlines Define Their Brands from the Inside Out” by Denise Lee Yohn – This Harvard Business Review article outlines how two well-known brands built a culture that supports their brand identity.
- “The Whole Brand: The Evolution of Branding” by Thomas Gad – In this book, Thomas Gad argues that the future of branding is about building a culture that supports the brand, and not just relying on advertising and marketing.
- “Culture is the Key to Successful Branding” by Forbes – This article discusses how building a brand-led culture can lead to increased brand loyalty, higher employee engagement, and better customer experiences.
- “Creating a Culture of Brand Advocates” by Harvard Business Review – This article outlines the importance of creating a brand culture that is embraced by employees, leading to better customer experiences and increased brand loyalty.
These resources provide valuable insights into the importance of developing a brand-led culture to create a successful whole-brand. They offer practical tips and strategies for building a culture that supports the brand, resulting in better employee engagement, customer experiences, and overall business success.