Branding is an association. An association ...to what you ask? It is the association between a product or service name and its perceived value. The more value and the stronger the association between the name and the value the better it is for a brand.
In other words if a brand (product name or service name) conveys a message of high quality, numerous and or unique customer benefits as compared to its competition then it is said to be a strong brand.
For instance, FedEx and Xerox. For many years these two great companies dominated their respective industries. FedEx was the premier overnight delivery company and all others fell short on capabilities and benefits to its customers. In fact the FedEx brand got so strong that overnight delivery service was dubbed "FedEx it!". Xerox was the big cheese with copiers. Their market leadership resulted from a high quality product. Like FedEx, new terminology was created by a strong brand. People requiring to make a 'photocopy' created the phrase "Xerox it!".
The brand is the mental link that consumers draw between what the product or service does and something it does not do. The link when viewed positively an the value to the owner of the brand is called BRAND EQUITY. If you have brand equity, you have a competitive advantage. But remember that you are being targeted by your competitors.
If you don't have any brand equity, then you are missing a key strategic element and are putting your product or service (and company) at risk and at a competitive disadvantage.