The New York Observer tries to figure out what Kate Schelter does for a living and never really comes up with an answer.
Here's how she describes it: "'Let’s face it, a brand is no longer signage and packaging,' Ms. Schelter said. 'Brands are living, walking, talking personalities and entities....I was always interested in fashion, but not, like, making clothes. Now I can see it would be called marketing, branding.'"
At first all her "branding" talk reminded me, for some reason, of Chance Gardiner's political advice. But that's not quite right. Or fair. It's probably closer to Rob Walker's observation that "'the brand,' as an idea, has entered the rarified sphere of metaphors that everyone understands, and can be applied to anything." But that's not quite right either because Kate Schelter is applying the word "brand" to everything and the result is that no one understands anything.
So. My takeaway is that if I ran a smallish agency, I'd probably want to find a way to talk about branding without using the word "branding." Unless I didn't know what I was talking about. Then I'd be sure to use it a lot.