Word association is an interesting game. Basically, I say a word and you the first thing which pops into your mind:
Well, that's how you hope this might go. For many outside the Perl community, you might hear "dead" instead of "rocks". By allowing the blogosphere to define the Perl brand, we've put ourselves on the defensive, reacting to what others say rather than taking the brand management into our own hands. In short, "branding" Perl would be to identify a concept with Perl in the public's mind. I would like the average person to think "ubiquitous and cost-effective" when they think of Perl, but that might not be the right approach.
As part of our marketing efforts, one marketer pointed out that we're not just looking at marketing Perl or the community, we're trying to market a concept. Without a clear understanding of the brand we're representing, marketing efforts can be unfocused. A particular individual who's asked not to be named did some research and came back with a branding proposal from a PR firm which specializes in creating a brand image. We pretty much shot down the proposal. Aside from spelling and grammatical errors (!), it spent a lot of time explaining how the branding would be defined in terms of how the Perl community thinks it should be defined.
I did not find a single item in the proposal which related to connecting the brand to what consumers want. If we rushed off to brand Perl as the "data munger's dream" but everyone wants "dependable and fast", we've pushed ourselves into a niche. What's worse, we might be perceived as useless for anything outside of our brand association.
In short, if you want to hire anyone to do branding, make sure they can connect what you can deliver with what people want.
Back to the drawing board for us.
1. It's worth noting that a brand doesn't pigeonhole you if done correctly. Many general purpose programming languages (Java, for example) have done a great job at branding without people thinking they're one-trick ponies.