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Formulas and Recipes

Johnny Molson

Das podcast below

ab+3bh = The surface area of a triangular prism.  That’s a formula.

Spread pizza sauce evenly over dough, top with two handfuls of shredded mozzarella, add seasoning to taste.   That’s a recipe.

Formulas and recipes are similar, but not identical. 

Formulas are fixed.  C6H12O6  is the molecular formula for glucose.  Swap out oxygen and replace it with helium, and you don’t get glucose.  I don’t know what you get, but it’s probably pretty goofed up.

Recipes are somewhat fixed, but not rigid.  Chili in Cincinnati versus chili in San Antonio are noticeably different, but still chili.

Question:  Is marketing a formula or recipe?

Formulas do exist in marketing:  Quantitative research, KPIs, customer acquisition costs, pricing strategies, etc.

But there are also malleable recipes:  Customer experience, value perception, elegant logo design, and positive public relations.

You can pull levers and flip switches…but ultimately, your “brand” only exists in the mind of the customer.

So which is it?  A formula? Or a recipe?


It’s science and art.  It’s math and Monet.  You can see it, but only if you squint.

I don’t know if it’s more of one or the other.  But I do know this:  If marketing were a formula, you’d already be using it.  Plug numbers in one end results come out the other end.

While recipes have rules, a good cook can perform magic with a little extra nutmeg, and swapping out pears for apples.

You just have to ask yourself: “Do I need a chef…? Or a scientist…?”

Johnny Molson

p.s.: You need both

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