Do those brands include Interflora, J.C.Penny, Overstock, 1800Flowers, GourmetGiftBaskets. GoCompare, or Forbes Magazine? And do they include newspapers that sell links?
@aristotle - i think so, yes, but there are limits to tolerance, so no.
Although i don't know all the examples you refer to and how strong their brands are in the US, Google is appearing to set some discretional limits on what it seems to accept in the "brand club". If Interflora became successful, every man and his dog would be buying advertorials from this newspaper group. And Google needs to nip this in the bud. I'm aware of actions against some newspaper groups over 7 years ago.
Anything spiking in traffic, increased linking, receiving spam complaints etc etc - it's all feeding either the algo or editorial reviews. Editorial decisions like this don't come lightly i suspect.
Schmidt's statement seems to inply that Google gave up trying to identify real quality and fell back on brands as the only solution they were capable of coming up with
As I see it there are brand signals that currently dominate as a lenghtly interim step. Against this there are generalised algo's introduced and being ramped up, per Penguin for link related activity above a certain point, and Panda to encourage quality UI/content. The last 2 will surely be increased in emphasis, as more sites meet branding standards.
Eric Schmidt seems to be communicating the power of association through wishlists like G+ etc will slowly become part of this. We'll see.
I suspect that the reason few, if any sites have broken Panda is because it's difficult when your income resource is broken to re invest confidently , the bar seems set high in terms of $$ related branding activity and Google is strategically in no rush as it puts the internet into "buckets" of trust at the high end. And Google really couldn't care about sites that don't adequately compete with brands, such as affiliates unless they do something really special.
Against this you have editorial intervention via monitoring for gross excess' such as Interflora and JCPenny . It might be slow, it might at times not be fair, but I think Eric Schmidt would see his comments as a consistent intention even today alongside current actions and commercial plans.
Search engines are going to be less of a revenue force as diversification into devices limits the listings sought and forces players like Google to come up with ideas that combat the lack of listing space.
Maybe Interflora would be better to improve investment in a flower app and successfully sell that idea offline. Then by association and reputation it will win some of it's trust back.