Dave your post is right on target. There are many different definitions of the verb “branding” or “to brand” so let me be clear:
* Definition #1 is “creating an image” – more often than not through engaging the audience
* Definition #2 is “creating a name, symbol, sign…” – literally the word or the logo
The product world uses branding approach #1 at the corporate level to build loyalty to the organization and #2 to create the illusion of value through a supposedly “new” product.
The federal government is stuck in Definition #2 and badly stuck at that. There is a constant push to create new logos, names, etc. that signify action or attention. Quality is judged by the quantity of logos you have. Terrible, wasteful, only splinters the image of the Agency and does not achieve the desired result except in the mind of Agency executives, mostly.
The discipline of systematic naming along the lines of Definition #2 is “brand architecture”. Lots written on that. Branding Strategy Insider has an article here, but I can try to answer any specific questions someone might have as well.