Planet13 - 8:04 am on Dec 13, 2011 (gmt 0)
I don't have an answer, but some people on this board whose opinion I value have chimed in on this and suggested that solid link development, including incorporating your business name in the anchor text of inbound links, can pay dividends.
There are a few threads on the forum where some of the senior members have expressed their opinions on what google is identifying as strong brand signals.
Although it seems the branding dial has been turned up recently, I wonder if it isn't something of an extension of the Mayday update of 2010. That update seemed to affect the ability of certain sites to rank for longtail keywords. I personally saw a significant demotion in longtail traffic due to the mayday update and it has required major link building to reclaim much of that longtail traffic.