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Reshaping the Content Strategy at Boombotix

This past week was one of the worst moments in our company’s history. In the span of a few minutes, it seemed that all of the hard work we put into making friends and partnerships in the bike community was thrown away. Boombotix was left in a position where we had made more enemies than we ever imagined.


A lot of people wondered how such an ill-advised ad could even come about. What kind of company would stoop this low? Initially, the idea of the “To Be or Not To Be” campaign was based around our athletes and affiliates having fun and comparing it to someone crashing. It was never intended to be a campaign juxtaposing two different body types.

One of our designers misinterpreted the vision, and the campaign quickly took a turn for the worse. This young designer chose an image of cyclist Ernest Gagnon, and launched the campaign without any internal review. Poor taste does not even begin to describe how Ernest’s image was used.

With administrative access to Facebook and a trial budget, the ad was aired. It was a classic case of poor workflow in a rapid growth startup. We encourage experimentation, creativity, and freedom in our startup environment. What this experience taught us is that we need to add better oversight and structure into the mix.

Within twenty-four hours, the ad circulated and we were faced with a stream of comments, messages and emails that condemned our advertisement. We immediately realized there was a problem, but we didn’t have a finite grasp of how much damage had actually been done. In three years of business, we had never dealt with an incident of this scale.


I didn’t even realize how bad this situation was at first. My initial apology posted on Facebook was weak considering how serious this was. As the messages continued to pour in, I realized that I had to pull back and be much more strategic about our outreach. I went to Ernest’s project to make a donation, and I wrote him a personal apology. On Friday, we issued a more detailed apology that was more reflective of the situation we unfairly placed Ernest in.

On top of that apology, I wanted to make sure nothing like this would ever happen again at Boombotix. Since I couldn’t get a moment of sleep, I stayed up thinking about how we could bounce back with character and integrity.


When it comes to design, our brand has a detailed vector graphic design kit that identifies everything from color to typography. We have rules in place to make sure that all of the design we do has cohesion. Creating uniformity in our design is integral to our brand.

What I realized was that we lacked a cohesive brand identity. There was nothing on paper that described who Boombotix was. While everyone had a clear vision of the product roadmap, nobody had a clear idea of what our voice was. Our voice was primarily driven by what got “likes” and “comments.”

This might seem like an obvious piece of material that every company should have, but we overlooked it. Up until January we were a small team of four, and it was easy for everyone to be on the same page even as our mission evolved. As we’ve expanded our team over the last few months, we didn’t make the effort to ensure that everyone understood our brand’s identity. It left us in a place where the brand became vulnerable to the unfortunate ad we published last week.

Over the weekend, I channeled the lessons I learned from this event into creating a brand guideline for Boombotix. This brand guideline clearly defines what our values are: adventurous, sincere, reliable, positive, witty and inspiring. When I looked at the people that came together to embark on this journey, I realized that these were the unifying traits that we all had in us. Somewhere in the process of building a company, we lost track of our foundation.

The brand guideline I put together enables our team to continuously be creative while adhering to the ethos of what we are all about. From here on in, we plan on instilling these values in every one of our employees.


We’ve had the opportunity to speak to Ernest a few times and offer our apologies. He never wanted this attention, and we are at fault for putting him in the spotlight. He has been very understanding in learning more about whom we are, and how this unfortunate ad came to be published. We’ve also had the chance to learn more about his story and the impact his platform has had on numerous individuals.

In our conversations we have expressed interest in working with Ernest in a positive way. At the moment, we don’t have a definitive plan in place, but we are hopeful that we can work with Ernest to spread his platform even further.

We plan to move forward with our own initiative later this month. It will focus on positive self-image and how being comfortable with who we are can be extremely empowering. Boombotix employees, along with some of our users, will step forward to share insecurities that they’ve dealt with, and in some cases, are still dealing with.

We owe Boombotix users and the larger cycling community a lot right now. Without question the situation that we brought upon Ernest and ourselves is regrettable. We hope that our refined brand identity allows you to see us in a new light. We’re looking forward to this new undertaking and will actively seek feedback on how we can continuously improve Boombotix to be a brand that we’re all proud a part of.

With sincere regards,

Lief Storer

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