In marketing, the whole product concept is an adaptation of the total product concept developed by Ted Levitt, a professor at Harvard Business School. In his book entitled “The Marketing Imagination” Levitt drew attention to the fact that consumers purchase more than the core product itself. Rather, they purchase the core product combined with complimentary attributes, the majority of which are intangible.
The total product was Levitt’s vision of how intangible elements could be added to a physical product, transforming it into an offering that was often more valuable than the physical attributes alone.
Following the insights provided by Ted Levitt, Regis McKenna renamed the total product concept, calling it the "whole product" which he defined as a generic or core product, augmented by everything that is needed for the customer to have a compelling reason to buy.
The total product concept was also refined by Tom Peters. In a 1986 publication entitled "The Eye of the Beholder", Peters proposed an extension to Levitt’s total product concept that described the way products move through the technology-adoption process, whereby intangibles assume more importance over time.