Google is experimenting with a search results box that inserts major brands atop regular search results for product-related queries.
They're not ads, and they're not regular search results. Search Engine Land spotted the branded results, which I was able to reproduce for several queries including "digital cameras," "notebook PCs," "cars," and "mobile phones." In each case, the first line below the ads atop the search results page contains the text "Brands for mobile phones" and hyperlinks over a company's name to another search results page that combines the original search and the brand.
Google did not immediately respond to an inquiry about how major brands are selected for inclusion. Five companies were listed in each of the search results for the queries above, all of which have well-known brands like Canon, HP, Ford, and Verizon.
It seems Google is getting ready to make significant changes to its product search strategy, coming off a deal that makes it easier for retailers and manufacturers to funnel user-generated reviews to Google product pages. Product-related searches are obviously a big source of ad revenue for Google, and improvements to those searches could create new opportunities for advertising within individual product pages and regular search results.