Branding is the exercise of summarizing an organization’s culture to attract a particular type of employee, collaborator or funder.
Like it or not, branding and self-promotion are an integral part of science. Our training might focus primarily on how to do science, but that isn’t enough; we also need to promote ourselves and our findings in order to persuade others to fund and collaborate on our research, and to highlight the value of our discoveries so we can broaden their reach.
It’s always been this way. The financial support of scientific discovery was historically provided by wealthy patrons who typically backed an individual or a handful of scientists who had to market themselves to get attention (The financial cost of doing science). These days, the role of individual patron has been assumed by diverse government, philanthropic, and private sources of grant funding, and it’s our peers who we have to impress, via the peer review process.