What Is (Not) a Brand?
#7 Marty Neumeier

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 not what you say it is. It’s what THEY say it is.

— Source: The Brand Gap book by Marty Neumeier (2003)

Argument #1: Words > Actions?

This description of a brand is based on a very popular opinion that “your customer is always right” or “ask people what they want and then give it to them”.

Let’s assume that this opinion is correct: your brand is whatever people say it is. What does it even mean for you? How should you proceed with it? What if you don’t like it or you don’t agree with it? What if they say exactly the opposite of what your company needs in order to survive? What if they are wrong? How can you prove it? How can you measure it?

No entrepreneur would risk his money based purely on what people say—especially when people say so many different things. There is no evidence that wisdom of the crowd can bring to life iconic brands like Apple, Nike or Tesla. Empirical evidence shows otherwise—a shining example was Steve Jobs in Apple.

Argument #2: Ignoring Psychology Fundamentals

From the psychological perspective there is a more pressing issue: what people think, say and do are often very different things. However, this paradox is here totally ignored. What people say is just expressing their opinions. People don’t know what a brand is—including people in branding. That’s all.


This is not a definition of a brand. This is just a personal opinion about what a brand could be. There is no evidence to prove this statement. In fact, there is nothing to prove.

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.