What Is (Not) a Brand?
#1 Interbrand

Published by Jan Knap, M.D. on September 15, 2020.

In Under the Nanoscope: What Is (Not) a Brand? series, we select one definition of a brand from a well respected source and examine it under our nanoscope.

The Statement

A brand is the sum of all expressions by which an entity (person, organization, company, business unit, city, nation, etc.) intends to be recognized.

— Source: Interbrand (2019)

The Facts

Argument #1: Not a Definition

This is not a definition as authors claim. It’s just a description of what authors believe a brand could be. In fact, there is no evidence about any predictive value or outcome related to their definition.

Argument #2: Mathematical ‘Smoke Screen’

In the first part: “...the sum of all expressions...”, authors use the mathematical function, the sum, as bait while defining summands as ambiguously as expressions. Nobody knows what they mean by the term expressions. What would you say if I change it as: “...the sum of all numbers...”? Automatically you would argue: “What numbers? Do you mean all natural numbers or real numbers? What do you mean by ‘all’ numbers? ‘All’ numbers within a finite subset or infinitely ‘all’?" Well, now you see where this can go.

Without precisely defining the term ‘an expression’ we cannot determine ‘all expressions’. As a result, it’s impossible to continue using this "definition" to find out what a brand is.

Argument #3: Etc.?

In the next part: “...by which an entity...” authors describe an entity as “person, organisation, company, business unit, city, nation, etc.”. Just adding etc. does not mean that we can predict what should be next. In fact, we cannot. Without defining the term ‘an entity’ precisely—and not by listing just seven (why seven and not three) random examples—nobody can use this.


This is not a definition of a brand—in fact, it is a description. Nobody can use it because there are no criteria how to determine what ‘an expression’ or ‘an entity’ are. If we cannot determine what A and B is (A=an expression, B=an entity), then A=0 and B=0. Sum of any number of 0’s is also 0. Thus, it’s impossible to say what a brand is.

Under the Nanoscope Series
What Is (Not) a Brand?

We focus on finding answers to the deepest questions in branding to separate beliefs from fact by science.