There is an interesting series of recent articles on branding, starting with the New Yorker piece "Twilight of the Brands" and a response on LinkedIn titled "What if This Was The Dawn of Brand Experience?". The first article basically argues that branding is losing its importance because buyers have so much direct access to information. The historic outgrowth in branding was in response to a lack of transparency by companies and their substitution of branding for access to information. The second article basically argues that in a deluge of information branding is more important than ever. I would argue that both articles miss the point about branding.
Branding is the values that a product or service represents. Values can be tangible (e.g low calorie) or aspirational (e.g. life long learning). These values dictate every interaction with a customer, supplier, shareholder or employer. Whether one is drafting a user manual, developing customer service process or designing packaging, all of these decisions are guided by the values of the brand. Such an approach creates a compelling consistency which strengthens the brand and reinforces the values and emotional engagement of the customer for the product or service.
Note: Wondering how "low calorie" would affect a user manual design, for example, might lead one to think about whether the customer would even want a paper manual. Low calorie suggests something clean and light, which may mean a digital manual.