This paper explores the growth of corporate branding in higher education (HE) and its use by academic and professional managers as a mechanism for not only enhancing institutional reputation but also for facilitating internal culture change. It uses Bourdieu's framework of field, capital and habitus to analyse case studies of branding in two English business schools from the perspectives of academics, management and professional staff and students. The findings reveal a number of tensions and inconsistencies between the experiences of these groups that highlight the contested nature of branding in HE. In an era of rankings, metrics and student fees, it is suggested that branding has become an important means through which HE leaders and managers (re)negotiate the perceived value of different forms of capital and their relative positions within the field. Whilst branding operates at a largely ideological level it has a material effect on the allocation of power and resources within institutions. This is an important development in a sector that has typically privileged scientific capital and contributes towards an understanding of the ways in which leadership is ‘distributed’ within universities.