tedster - 4:16 am on Mar 22, 2013 (gmt 0)
Of course big brands have an advantage. That advantage starts with their financial ability to buy links, develop on-topic supporting websites for linking purposes and employing the staff to properly manage these sophisticated link building tasks.
There are certainly other advantages. As others here have observed (but in different language) big brands have an advantage because GOOGLE NEEDS THEM in addition to their need for Google. They got into that position by doing lots of things right. In many cases, these are physical world businesses rather than exclusively online.
Even those that only conduct business online often do a lot of offline advertising and brand awareness building. The percentage of navigational searches that they get is often way beyond the level that other more "ordinary" sites get. In fact, trying to get significant non-navigational traffic can be the factor that triggers their violations of Google's guidelines in the first place.