You may have heard the news about "Bodega," a hot Silicon Valley startup that wants to shake up the vending machine space with machine learning and clever placement. They've got two young ex-Google employees as founders, and have attracted lots of funding.
And then there's the name: A pretty shameless appropriation of the term used to describe the small mom-and-pop convenience stores in New York and elsewhere, often serving poor immigrant communities and offering special goods such as home-made sandwiches and services such as international money transfers. The logo is a cat, which in real bodegas is often the mascot. People are up in arms about all of this.
Let's be honest: If the startup were called "Vendoogle" or "Quikbox" I don't think there would be so much outrage.
mom & pop stores have been under assault by all kinds of
well-funded rivals for decades, including CVS, Target Mini-Stores, gas
station franchises, and bottling companies working with vending machine
distributors. Nevertheless, the little corner stores still keep ticking
in many areas thanks to goods and services not offered by these bigger
competitors, including specialty food, extended hours, and money
However, if Target were to rebrand their
mini-stores as "Red Bodegas" or something similar there would be similar
outrage. It's one thing to compete, it's another thing to play dirty by
usurping the little guy's brand or throwing your weight around too much
in a very obvious or threatening way.
If I were McDonald and
Rajan, I would use this opportunity to rebrand to something more
acceptable, offer a mea culpa, and maybe even figure out some way to
work with real bodegas and local stores (shared distribution for certain
items to lower costs? Machine learning for real bodegas' inventory?
"Local" goods? Spillover sales?)