How startups can avoid Bodega's PR disaster

How startups can avoid Bodega's PR disaster
From TechCrunch - September 15, 2017

Oh, Bodega.

The newly launched startups insensitivity hit some pretty tender nerves during a time when cultural and societal tensions are high.

The first article published about Bodega read almost like a Silicon Valley parody. It highlights a few things people feel is wrong with the tech community right now; Bodega comes across as a tone-deaf company that got the thumbs-up from some of the Valleys most respected investors for a seemingly absurd idea with a culturally insensitive name. It represents a confounding and out-of-touch approach to disruption; if you missed the headline, its Two Ex-Googlers Want To Make Bodegas And Mom-And-Pop Corner Stores Obsolete.

Just a few hours after launching, Bodega received a lashing on Twitter, and the headlines came to resemble this one from The Washington Post: Bodega, an unmanned pantry box, has already become Americas most hated start-up.

I havent seen such a negative reaction to a startup since Color launched in 2011. It also reminds me of the immediate response to Venmos Lucas ad campaign; the tech media in particular recoiled at the seemingly random, weirdo ads plastered all over New York Citys subways. While we werent involved in the first situation, we were brought in to manage the fallout from the second as the anger quotient was high. This Fast Company exclusive shed light on the story behind the ads and turned the tides.

I dont think Bodegas problems can be solved by a thoughtfully placed story.

My hunch is that this brand and its launch strategy were created in a vacuumId be surprised if diverse thinking went into the strategy or communications.

Consider this excerpt from the Fast Company article:

I asked McDonald point-blank about whether hes worried that the name Bodega might come off as culturally insensitive. Not really. Im not particularly concerned about it, he says. We did surveys in the Latin American community to understand if they felt the name was a misappropriation of that term or had negative connotations, and 97% said no. Its a simple name and I think it works.


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