My thoughts -
Brands do not pay for big dollar marketing and sponsorship of pro teams/riders.
Brands do not pay "Made in USA" or other "premium" locations
Because customers are influenced by these things, big brands can do these things put their prices up to cover it.
When the marketing department gets too carried away and wants features over actually long term customer benefits in real world riding, you get things like ceramic coatings that wear off but market nicely, and light weight but un aero Al spokes, or worse carbon fiber spokes like R-SYS that are thick, un aero, and resulted in wheel instability of the spoke buckles in compression.
I read recently about some new tensioned carbon fiber spokes that are much thinner than R-SYS and build like "normal" wheels. If they do bladed spokes I might be interested.http://www.abc6.com/story/35457725/tuff-cycle-launches-new-range-of-high-performance-competitively-priced-carbon-fibre-bicycle-wheels
Just because you are a big brand doesn't mean you have exclusive access to the latest developments. If you have good relationships with good factories you can still benefit from their knowledge and new tech.
If you crash any set of wheels no matter what you paid for them - they will fail. I kinda live by the theory - don't ride what you can't afford to crash. If you are an elite pro then yeah every last gram matters (and you don't have to pay for kit anyway), but for most of us getting within 5% of the best wheels will not make a noticeable difference. Hell just look at the pros who win on gear we know isn't the best out there.
For me I shop for value. I like good gear, but won't pay for the flash or the brand. You can get good stuff from any company that has invested in its brand - so that means stay away from no name Chinese wheels. They don't care if your wheels fail, they just get the cheapest rims from the cheapest factories and sell as many of them as they can before they disappear again and start as somebody else.