The topic of Google giving preferential treatment to big brands has been around since the early days of search.
The question was something like, why do big brands get away with more spamming tactics than smaller brands?
Matt Cutts responded saying that big brands are penalized all the time but you don't hear about most of them because they are not the first to admit it. They often keep it under the radar because it is not good for their brands.
Of course, some are not so off the radar like most recently Interflora's 11 day penalty.
A WebmasterWorld thread is discussing this right now and most webmasters don't believe that brands are not treated better when it comes to not being penalized or being penalized in a more gentle manner.
Do you think brands get preferential treatment by Google?
Forum discussion at WebmasterWorld.
Image credit to BigStockPhoto for brands image