What Is (Not) a Brand?
#4 Al Ries

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 singular idea or concept that you own inside the mind of a prospect.

— Source: Positioning, the Battle for Your Mind by Al ries (2000)

The Facts

Argument #1: Defining By Undefined Terms

Describing a brand as an idea or concept is just an old marketing trick how to cover one hole, which you try to hide, with a bigger one. In general, we know what an idea or concept could mean. But as ambiguous as both terms are, we still have no idea what a brand should be. Adding another extra and again ambiguous adjective, a singular, doesn’t make a difference.

Argument #2: Just Positioning Pitch

In this part: “... you own inside the mind...”, we can see author’s real intention to manipulate our mind. Just remember how Ries and Trout used to define positioning: “...it is not what you do to a product—is what you do to the mind of the prospect.” It seems that everything related to brands is just about messing with our minds.


This is not a definition of a brand. This is positioning pitch pretending to be something more valuable and attractive—a brand, because everybody wants brands, not positioning. It’s a perfect solution—killing two birds with one stone.

In reality, nobody can own anything in anyone’s mind. But marketers, they still dream on...

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.