The brand issue perfectly demonstrates the problem. Every bit of advice, guidance, whatever can be taken many ways.
They could be saying it's not brands that have the upper hand but big sites, or they could be saying brands and big sites have no upper hand because a small site could simply do a better job on a niche topic, get loads of publicity and high quality links as a result, etc. etc. and beat the brands in that area.....or they could be saying there's no specific 'brand' factor built into the algo that identifies and boosts brands.
We just don't know what they really mean and they can't give away every detail of the algo or how they operate commercially so eventually, no matter how much we question them directly, we will hit a point where they just can't say any more.
It's like asking your wife if she's been unfaithful. Unless she's got nothing to lose she's going to say no, but she may say 'not really' and then what do you do? That could mean yes, depending on her definition of unfaithful.
I've struggled to come up with anything I'd say to ignore but I also can't think of a single bit of advice I've tried from Google that has helped. That could be down to my understanding of what they meant, or the way I executed it, or my site could be so screwed that nothing will help.