I learned way back in my research about branding, that a brand is the ‘personality’ of your product that you are trying to market. Your brand will develop a reputation, initially by marketing tactics, but ultimately by consumer experience. It can be bad, or it can be good. (Don’t forget Public Relations, it’s up to PR to make sure the reputation is protected by enhancing the good and downplaying the bad.) Marketing ‘uses’ the good qualities of the brand to ‘sell’ to the public. And marketing will match graphic elements to reflect the positive qualities of the product by using colors, photographs, a logo and even fonts. These elements will create a visual identity for the ‘personality.’
In my opinion, I think the act of making the art is no different than making the aluminum can, it’s just one more step in a lifecycle process before upcycling can occur. Even then, I’d say it still has to be viable for the material moving back upstream. So if you harvested steel from a building and welded it together into a sculpture, it can still be melted back down into steel. If you take paper and encase it in resin instead of putting it in a landfill, that paper can’t ever be very much else so I wouldn’t consider it upcycling.