What Is (Not) a Brand?
#3 Philip Kotler

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 a name, term, sign, symbol, or design or a combination of them, intended to identify the goods and services of one seller or group of sellers and to differentiate them from those of the competitor.

— Source: Marketing Management book by Philip Kotler (1967)

The Facts

Argument #1: A Definition of Nothing

This is not a definition, it’s a description. It’s an attempt to inoculate other words, that are already defined, with the term a brand. Grouping five specific words with clear meanings to describe a brand? Strictly speaking, we learn nothing new here and sticking a label “This is a brand.” on it does not change anything.

Argument #2: A Logical Proof

In this part: “A brand is...”, there is an enumeration of five terms but with no mathematical rule how to get a result. Let’s assume, A=name, B=term, C=sign, D=symbol and E=design. Is a brand just A? Or is it A+B? Or A+B+C+D+E? Or anything else? We don’t know. And why just those five terms? How are these terms specific or unique to a brand? Why not any other terms? We don’t know.


This is not a definition of a brand. It’s just of a group of five randomly selected terms with no evidence to support that this is a brand. In conclusion, this statement breaks down instantly when tested by elementary logic.

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.