I think this whole brand thing is a ... red herring
As a direct answer to ranking highly, I'd agree. But if you can build a brand and people are searching for it, you probably have a quality product. Or at least, a product that people are trying to find. Which I'd guess is what *should* achieve ranking-related recognition in the longer term.
Building a brand can be as "simple" as providing something that people actually want and want to get from you so, in my opinion, that's what you need to do: set yourself apart and give people a good reason to go to you rather than your competitors. And having a memorable name probably helps :)
Incidentally, I think a number of webmasters probably do have a brand-in-waiting but don't convey their USP's very well in an evermore impatient world.