I do think that more than anything else, this is about branding and identity, the entity being branded is "Aiki".
I'd say that the analogy was perhaps not the best one, as this is not about "branding" anything. It's about trying to explain that what Morihei Ueshiba was doing, and talking about, was something completely different than the physical method that modern aikido is based on today, and that those who still know and practice aiki as it was known by Ueshiba and by Sokaku Takeda, are simply trying to convince modern aikido people of 1. its existance and 2. it's availability to be restored into modern aikido for those who would like to be able to experience aikido as Ueshiba could practice it.
The few Japanese arts that still maintain aiki within them, are not generally open to the "the world," and individuals who want to learn aiki must go through the process both of being accepted into those exclusive arts, and to have to learn the entire system in order to learn aiki. Even then, there is no guarantee that they will be taught the essense of aiki.
By contrast, there are a number of people who have the skills and are willing to teach them. And so far, looking at those who do offer this via school membership and/or seminars, it seems to me that what they are charging is extraordinarily inexpensive considering the value (IMO) of what students are receiving.
I mean, really!
Ask accountants, stockbrokers, doctors and lawyers about the questions they get at parties. People want free advice, for stuff that professionals charge by the hour for because it's their livelihood. They just nod and shrug, maybe a clipped "Thanks" if you do provide, but they get put off and sometimes huffy if you don't. What's offered "for free" is so often taken for granted.
Why should people who manage to make a livelihood from their knowledge, be criticized, while those who give it away don't earn any respect, either? Damned if you do or don't.
Be that as it may, some individuals have been incredibly fortunate to be given knowledge by others as a gift, one that, although it was a gift, came with an enormous burden of responsibility to do the work, to sweat, to be frustrated, sometimes to the point of tears. They got far more than they paid monetarily into it. Others pay a relatively few bucks and get some useful training, do the work, and gain skills, feeling they have gotten a great value for what they paid. Still others sit on the sidelines and gripe bitterly about folks whom they believe are hoarding knowledge and won't dish it or will do so for an outrageous $180 or whatever, for a paltry 24 hours of focused training.