Global village is not a metaphor anymore. My minuscule company can have an influence on people in Chile. The parts in my products are coming from all over the world. I know of makers just like me in Europe.I look for advice In Australia or New York. People inspire me to continue and improve.
We are stepping in a new era where the production costs are decreasing fast.That means that even the smallest producer can make a product fairly cheap and fairly fast. Get an idea, build a prototype, build a small batch, and start selling. Rinse and repeat.
The second element is information. Google allowed the democratization of information, and it allows you to find very fast information, and more important to find obscure information. Large corporations don't care about obscure information, but increasingly people realized that they can find items outside the brands that can add to their individuality.
The third element is Facebook .It allows your minuscule brand to interact directly with the community .Is the second face of your company and it will mirror info that is primarily provided on your site.
People still want quality and good customer service. But guess what, you can talk directly with the producer of the goods which could be one man, which can be in the same tine the engineer , the customer support and shipping. He cares very much about what other people are saying because he knows that his profit is directly linked with what other people are thinking about his products. In the same time he knows very fast when something goes wrong, and is his job to fix it as fast as possible ,otherwise he is ruined. On the contrary a lot of big corporations did not figure out yet how to handle the people directly. The most important thing is that he can experiment with products. He can make a batch of 20 products and still be profitable. He knows if his idea does not work, is going to lose a small amount of money, but is not going to be the end of the world. He can refine the product. The product could be designed for a small niche . That is OK , because we are 6 billion people. The niche might not be so small after all. Maybe a a few hundred of people might be interested. But the difference is that you can find them now. You can talk them personally. Is not just your city that you are selling anymore. On the other hand your small company is going to be almost invisible to the mainstream culture.
There are companies that couldn't care less about users.They think that because of the size are untouchable, but this is is illustrated clearly in Sony. Is like this company is jumping from one PR disaster to the next. No matter how good are your products if you disregard the user your life is to become very complicated. People will respond to you, because they are empowered now, and they could hurt you too.