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T he digital age, the information age, or the computer age, call it whatever you want, but one thing is for sure: It changed everything. It flipped the world upside down and forced all businesses and all people to reconsider everything they’ve built.

In the second half of the 20th century, especially during the 80s, the world got(was?) blown away whenever a new technological invention got released to the public and suddenly became an essential part of any household. 

By the end of the 80s, personal computers were everywhere: In houses, offices, and almost everywhere. The internet was something of a revelation, even if it ran on phone lines with a limited speed. 

The World Wide Web was invented; it helped people find the information they were looking for and eventually gave birth to a new communication method via Electronic Mail.

The world slowly transitioned into a digital world where every kind of data became stored in digital format: In 1981, the first CD was released, creating new competition for the old analog format of the vinyl discs and cassette tapes. In 1997, the first DVDs were released, making videotapes something of the past. 

Every little step technology took during the last century paid off in today’s world. Because today, technology is advancing rapidly and forces people to follow it or else they’ll fall behind, which might affect their business.

When technology started to become an essential part of the workplace and a profit generator, companies of all sizes and power knew that they had to take advantage of it.

When it comes to mega brands or small local businesses, they knew that technology, especially social media, could be a perfect platform to expand their worldwide presence and increase their profit.

And since most of Earth’s population became connected, digital technology completely changed consumer’s behavior and gave them the ability to browse any product they want and like. It allowed them to look for many businesses and companies worldwide and build a relationship with them.

This put pressure on companies to have a digital presence since it could target new markets and new customers. If it were for small or big companies, the pressure was the same.

However, mega-brands already built a reputation before the digital age (McDonald’s, Dunkin’ Donuts, Ford, etc.), so they had nothing more to prove and only went online to spread awareness of their brand and products.

So the real pressure came to relatively smaller businesses that need to access new markets and new customers to grow and improve their performance and sales.

Their exposure to a much wider audience online could help them in revenue, revenue growth, brand awareness, relationship with the customers, and more.

Some experts believe that with the help of today’s technology, small businesses can become a force to rival the big market leaders.

Imagine a situation similar to David fighting Goliath and David actually winning.

But how did the internet create an alternative to the mainstream presence of mega brands?

When these mega-brands first started, the internet was still the US government’s top-secret invention. Fast forward to decades later; the same companies are still going strong; they are still market leaders and give newcomers no chance to show their potential.

But eventually, the people grew sick of the same products, the same companies, the same colors, and the same publicity. 

It created a sort of “counter culture,” a form of an alternative/indie atmosphere, breathing new life into a stale mainstream market.

Many situations and trends have played a significant factor in this change:

Do–it–yourself culture (DIY)

Globalization and dominance of the same mega brands in the whole world made the finished products impersonal and hindered the progress and exposure of passionate people in their respective fields.

In music, film-making, cloth-making, jewelry, etc. Globalization facilitated mass factory production at the expense of personalized creation.

But now, people tend to go back to this kind of DIY culture where you can find them designing their line of clothing, “bedroom” music, make their cakes, coffee, and more.

They would go on social media, create their website and post tutorials, “how-to-do” videos, and promote their merchandise and self-made products under the banner “support local businesses.”

So now, instead of going into a big retail shop and buying a shirt having thousands of replicas, you can look for small local businesses and have your custom-made shirt.

The next element we’ll mention proves to be very influential on the DIY culture.

The impact of blogs, vlogs, and influencers:

To succeed, what these small businesses need is exposure. With the help of social media and influencers, many local small businesses are receiving the attention they need. 

Here’s how things go:

Many influencers having thousands of followers are always looking for entertaining content. Many of these influencers consider themselves “vloggers” and record their daily lives or experience trying new things: Shop from unusual places, try a new restaurant, bar, coffee shop, etc.

By doing so, they’re promoting these small businesses by exposing them to thousands and thousands of people and giving them free or sponsored promotions: Taste test the food or coffee, buy and review certain products, etc.

Of course, this would be unnecessary to do this kind of content for shops and businesses that everyone is familiar with: We all know what a burger from Burger King tastes like or how good a donut from Dunkin’ Donuts is.

Another key element in the “fight” against mainstream trends is the cult following a few companies or products receive, giving it a “mainstream – like” attention.

If you’ve seen shows like “Orange is the New Black” on Netflix, you would understand what we are talking about: 

This show was produced and released as a “Netflix Original,” which became an iconic phenomenon thanks to the themes it treats: racism, drug issues, gang issues, human rights, LGBTQ+, and more.

The span of issues treated by “Orange is the New Black” made it relatable to all of its viewers by giving attention to vulnerable members of society and empowering them.

So when you give attention to these people, one would expect a dedicated following to it, something never seen before.

Another example of something catching a “cult-like” following is the biggest and newest sensation in the world of music: The K-Pop Boy Band BTS.

People who listen to mainstream music may ask, “Why do you listen to Korean music, you can’t even understand what they say.” 

Psychologists say it’s a form of rebellion against the status quo, which dictates that all people should listen to English music since it’s the most popular language in the music business. 

But a sense of uniqueness makes the young BTS followers attached to the band.

Another reason is the look and appearance of the band members: If you closely look at all of the members of BTS or any K-Pop boy band, you would realize that they all look cute and slightly feminine. This comes as a refreshing change from the usual threatening look of male singers in the western world, giving fans an unusually charming and friendly-looking feel.

The development of the internet, its incorporation into our daily lives, and its influence on technology, in general, created much more than just an alternative to mainstream products; it created a new, unexpected “monster” that is fighting business giants on an unpredictable level.

Let’s take YouTube, for example.

It started as a little video-sharing platform back in 2005. Today, YouTube is THE juggernaut of video platforms: With its variety of contents, billions of users, and millions of creators, YouTube offers content catering for any demand: Information, Education, Entertainment, Movies, and more.

It created a problem for the big moviemakers in Hollywood and any big production company around the world. 

So as you can see, the current digital age is a time of change, a time where the unexpected can happen, a time where the “underdog” is getting the attention he/she deserves.

Will we see the downfall of the mega brands at the expense of newer, smaller ones? 

No one knows, but we sure can say that the digital age helped many smaller businesses evolve and show the world that they are as capable and talented as the people working in the mega brands.

Fun Side Note:

If you went shopping in the 16th century, all you would get is personalized items. For example: If you want a new pair of shoes, you can go to a shoemaker, and he makes a pair just for you. If you want to buy a necklace for your wife, you can go to a jeweler, and he would make one custom-made.

A few centuries later, the industrial revolution began, and with it, technological advancements started, mass production was at its beginning and gone are custom–made products.

And now, during the digital age, we observe a return of this “custom–made” trend under the “DIY” banner.

In other words, we are returning to the 16th century while we are in the 21st century and living in the digital age.

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