It has become an American pastime to root against the "big bad corporation." As much as we love to loath big corporations offering bland products for the masses, and cheer for the plucky underdog with a quirky story, we ought to learn something from the big guys.
Dell Computer is now seen as a big manufacturer of commodity computers trying to fend off the once smallish Apple Computer that produced curious machines only artists used. The Gap now sells a predictable line of affordable garments only the unimaginative middle would wear. Starbucks makes overpriced coffee only the non-discriminating would drink while the savvy early adopters have moved on to better and more obscure sources of gourmet caffeine.
These "brands" and companies were once startups that had to contend with bigger competitors. Dell entered an arena dominated by behemoths such as Hewlett-Packard, IBM, and Compaq. The Gap had to go up against the goliath that was Levi's Jeans. Starbucks had to contend with endless existing beverages from Coca-Cola to McDonald's styrofoam much-too-hot brews to the anonymous corner store coffee.
They also created new categories. Dell invented the direct-to-consumer customized personal computers selling process. In doing so, the company cut out middle man retailers and passed on savings to customers. When being a coordinated, clean yuppie was cool, the Gap gave consumers stores to buy everything from one brand; t-shirts, socks, shoes, jackets, belts, and yes even jeans (all coordinated). Starbucks priced coffee outrageously and sold customers on a whole new experience of luxury not previously associated with cocoa beans.
By creating new categories, they got to choose what position they would occupy in the market. They didn't have to find an unfilled nook in an existing category. Because this was virgin territory, they could choose to get as big as possible once the market told them their new category was accepted. That's one of the benefits. Create a category - you get to choose to become big. Enter an existing category, you have to find an unoccupied niche and probably stay small.
Don't hate the big companies because they are big. That's their natural right for being once innovative, small upstarts that magically created new categories. If you're a startup, you too should create a new category and confront the choice. Three cheers for the big behemoth, hooray for the startup.