This article seeks to expand the science diplomacy (SD) discourse by introducing the concept of branding, focusing on its use as a tool for nation state decision makers. Although the current literature on SD has explored the relation between science and diplomacy, the question of how individual science projects can effectively aid SD has been left largely unanswered. Drawing on the SD as well as on the place and policy branding literature, a framework for the analysis and conceptualization of branding as a tool for SD and for Public Diplomacy in general is developed. This framework introduces three distinct branding styles: nation branding, policy branding and policy tool branding. The applicability of the framework is demonstrated by the comparison of two cases of branding by nation state policy makers: branding in the field of German transnational education and in the science and knowledge-based Dutch Water Diplomacy. The German case study shows that branding activities relating to ‘German’ SD are fragmented and focus mostly on individual projects, while the use of transnational education as an instrument to advance policy branding or nation branding remains largely underdeveloped. Such a lopsided branding process undermines the effectiveness of branding as an effective SD tool. In contrast, the potential of coordinated branding strategies as a foreign policy tool becomes apparent in the ‘Dutch Delta Approach’. In this centralised and coordinated branding process, activities on all three proposed branding layers were implemented, effectively employing branding to increase the visibility of the Dutch nation state, increase the attraction of its high-tech water management sector as well as to rejuvenate the Netherland’s bi-lateral relations with selected partner countries. Branding, as we argue, should be added to the analysis of contemporary science diplomacy as well as of broader foreign policies, adding to the understanding of SD as an instrument of cross-border communication and global opinion shaping. The paper ends with a discussion of potential limitations of branding, in order to illustrate that branding can be an effective instrument but should not be seen as an international relations panacea.