diberry - 3:30 pm on Apr 21, 2013 (gmt 0)
Whitey, I've been mulling this over, and I'm not sure I understand precisely what you're trying to get at so my answer may not be quite to the point.
The people who deliver a "plastic" experience are generally able to deliver it much cheaper than the "real thing." Sometimes people don't really have a choice with their budget. So they may prefer personal, niche stuff, but only when the prices are the same or they're treating themselves. I.E., local coffee shops tend to charge the same or less than Starbucks and may taste better, but WalMart's almost always going to beat your locally owned retail shop on prices for the exact same goods.
IMO, the healthiest SERP would be one which presented me with several options (and maybe even guided me with a few questions - I've wondered for years why Google doesn't ask filtering questions to help determine search intent). I don't think anyone disagrees with that.
The question in this thread is whether GOOGLE intentionally spews out brands, and sometimes the same ones repeatedly on a page, or if this is a sort of glitch in the algo for now and they wish they could provide a more varied SERP. This is where it boils down to speculation and opinion. I've been reading a lot about how the sheer volume of information human beings are producing is increasing exponentially all the time. That means in a year from now, the algo will need to be able to cope with even MORE info than it's coping with now, and I personally doubt it's coping very well with what it's got, and hence all these measures *I* see as "shortcuts" but others see as intentional things Google is doing to achieve a particular goal.