FDA defines what is considered extract and most recipes on the internet do not produce extract, rather vanilla flavored vodka. McCormick produces extract. If produced properly, it is quite expensive. That is why the store brands, produced in such large volume, are still relatively expensive. Vanilla is the second most expensive "spice", or rather flavoring, to produce and process, second to saffron. I will share this recipe on a pm to those I know, as I have been asked by a wholesaler to market my extract nationally in gourmet stores and possibly Whole Foods. I do have significant knowledge on the subject. Every bean... the quality, origin, and quality of processing... affects the flavor.
As far as the off brands for other products, the internet is full of information. For example, off brand window cleaner is just water added. In the majority of cases, the off brand is there to seduce the price buyer, where in reality, they are paying a premium for the watered down version, ultimately paying much more than for the name brand product.
Your meat at the supermarket is brined in salt water to up the weight. Notice how your meat shrinks when cooked. Mine does not. I go to a butcher that specializes in quality meat. Many times his prices are equal to grocery store (good ones, not Walmart, etc) but I get no shrinkage. So my family gets premium meat for actually less than the tough, water-logged grocery meat.
Because of my persuit of a better baked good, I have found this information over the years by actually researching higher quality ingredients. Also, top bakers and pastry chefs go into great detail concerning the sub of inferior products and their adverse effect on baked goods.
These subtle changes are why one product, even close in retail price, will be so much better than another with possibly the same recipe. Why do you think that store brand French bread has no taste at all? Just like the artisan loaf, it has flour, yeast, salt, an egg, and some water. Of course, method plays a starring role, but the grocery store uses the cheapest products available that will still produce bread, where the artisan baker has researched and searched for the exact ingredients that will produce that perfect, flavorful loaf.
All of those name brand products get cast-offs, the ingredient parts that just don't make it through their quality control. That cast off is either sold to another company, or the company has another division, in no way associated with the parent company, that produces and distributes the inferior product, many times at a higher profit margin.
Just start google searching and you will get every answer I have found. Read books by renowned pastry chefs. They spend pages on the effects of inferior/gourmet products. Ina Garten, the first one I listened to, and all top chefs will expound on the need to use quality ingredients to achieve their recipes. Look at Cupcake Wars. It's about taste and those chefs are bringing the top of the line with them, using advanced methods, to compete.
Lower cost items are not bad. Those items are needed to fill the needs of the price-conscious shopper and those on a limited budget. But just be aware that even though you feel that these ingredients are not affecting your product, they are, moving you farther down the line in quality in relationship to your competitors. This can be a good thing when you want to put yourself in a specific spot in the market, but just be aware of the results.
This also brings up a point about scratch baking. How many posts have we read about how the customers prefer the box to the scratch? I'll take a box any day over a scratch with inferior products or poor execution. And now there is a poster that runs down the people, I'm assuming me, who always post about quality ingredients. This is a forum and we all can express our opinions and share our knowledge. It is fact, not opinion, that if the ingredients are of a higher quality, the outcome will also have a higher quality.