I'd like to offer my definitions of a few, imo related, commonly (mis)used terms:
* customer experience: any interaction, via any channel, between a customer and the organisation.
* brand: the totality of customers' experiences and perceptions of an organisation or it's product/service.
* branding: the expression of the underlaying truth or value of an organisation or it's product/service.
Yes, I know that 'brand' is also a name, trade/service marked or not given by a company/organisation to itself and it's products and services.
As you can see from my definitions above, from a marketing perspective, brand and branding are inseparable from customer experience and public perception. Example:
I may have a product and so a brand, 'NeoWidget', but, name aside, the NeoWidget brand is defined by what customers experience and the broader public perceive, true or not; i.e. Edsel, BetaMax, New Coke. Somehow the companies' branding cum marketing in each instance could not overcome the public's branding cum experience/perception.
Taxi companies and 'transportation network/ride services companies' provide quite similar services but continuing/increasing poor customer experiences of the former allow the latter to thrive. The public branding/perception of Uber in the past year has certainly affected it's brand.
What an organisation can do is determine what they want the public experience/perception of a brand to be and then provide a validating customer experience at every level of the organisation and in all that the organisation does. They have, in cliché, to walk the walk. Unfortunately, many/most organisations do not, instead they talk one way while their walk goes another. Sometimes they can get away with it, at least for a time; however sooner or later the customer/public notices and the results can be business shattering.
So when I read all the marketing hype about branding, i.e. they miss the value of branding, they see marketing as a cost centre..., it is an immediate red flag that snake oil is being spread either deliberately or through ignorance. One can market a narrative about an organisation, product, service and that narrative can support the brand, however it is the public, customer and not, that brands a brand. So, before one goes brand(ing) marketing crazy one should be confident that it does what it says on the box and that there are no disconnects and dissonances.
Especially online it is customer (visitor) experience that sets one site/organisation apart from another. When Rand Fishkin talks of 10x content (10 times better than the best current search result) he is speaking to brand, the totality of customers' experiences and perceptions. However, if load time is abysmal, navigation a shambles, layout is cluttered or lost in a sea of ads, etc. such content investment may well be for not. A site, as any business, is a holistic undertaking that can lose customers at any part not equally as good. Your brand is the sum what your visitors experience and tell others after your marketing ropes them in.
So... are you simply after the first time only time visitor or are you after return visits and recommendations? Your brand decides. If you even have one.