What Is (Not) a Brand?
#5 Seth Godin

Published by Michal Sobel 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 set of expectations, memories, stories and relationships that, taken together, account for a consumer’s decision to choose one product or service over another. If the consumer (whether it’s a business, a buyer, a voter or a donor) doesn’t pay a premium, make a selection or spread the word, then no brand value exists for that consumer.

— Source: Seth Godin (2009)

The Facts

Argument #1: Unreproducible

This is an attempt to describe a recipe how to cook a brand. Take four ingredients, put them together and you have a brand. Easy, right? But when you actually start cooking, everything breaks apart. Suddenly you have no idea what those four ingredients really are. And it gets worse. How much of each ingredient do you need to put inside? What is the cooking process? Eventually, it is clear that this is no real recipe at all.

Argument #2: Cook Book Myth

Describing a brand as the set of any number (4, 7 or 269) of already clearly defined terms is a very popular trick in branding. It does not matter whether they use real material terms (like products, persons, logos etc.) or abstract intangible terms (like expectations, memories, stories etc.) By putting some parts together you may build a car—but this approach definitely does not work for a brand.


This is not a definition of a brand. There are no cook books for brands, even though many will try to sell you that idea.

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.