Big Idea, Tiny Team(s)

Have you ever wanted something, but it didn’t exist, so you had to go and make it yourself? That’s pretty much the way that Mission Bicycle Company operates. This minimal bicycle design shop — six employees when I first met them — is one of the driving forces pushing the cycling industry into the future.

They’ve done it again, so we made this spot to tell you about it:

So it’s pretty cool, right? A bicycle with built-in lights and GPS tracking. But not just any bicycle. This is a tight minimalist package that is fully customizable too.

This project has been a long-time coming, for both Mission Bicycle and The Human Expansion Co, the content production company I founded with Jason Cochard. In fact, Mission Bicycle was our very first client. We pitched them the week we opened our doors last August, and after a few revisions, multiple re-writes of our script, and a handful of prototype cycles, we took a very small crew to San Francisco and shot through day and night to support the launch of this bike. And we loved it. This is the type of project we started our company to create.

We tell stories that matter for brands that matter, and Mission Bicycle Company is the equivalent of a modern mom and pop shop competing with the titans of industry. Schwinn and Trek should take notice. These guys are the real deal, and they’re making products for a generation that is used to changing their profile picture every few weeks. Customization is the name of the game now, and adding safety lights and anti-theft features without changing the size of the package is a pretty big deal in urban cycling, where the two biggest fears are being hit by a car or having your bike stolen.

In developing our pitch, we focused on the elements that make this a great bike, but also the distinguishing factors that make Mission Bicycle Company such a hit with their fans. We started with a theme — “upgrade” — and then explored options from there. We ended on the five-act approach in the final spot, driven by the following factors:

This was Mission’s first foray into electronics — a major leap for an analog product. A big idea like this deserves a big reveal. We had to show the lights in action, on the streets, as proof of concept. GPS is invisible, so we needed to determine a way to illustrate this feature. Mission’s signature is the customizability of their bikes, and they have a track record to prove it. The more we played around with the ideas, the more we realized this spot would need to be a custom amalgamation of all these approaches. What better way to embody Mission Bicycle’s custom built approach than to tie together five seemingly separate styles to make one cohesive message?

It took a few rounds of revision, and a lot of trust from the team over at Mission Bicycle Company, but we’re all very proud of the spot we created, and the product they made. We ultimately divided the spot into five acts:

  • Inception
  • Big Reveal
  • Lights in Action
  • GPS Tracking
  • Customization and Community

Our pitch was ambitious for a new two person production company and a very very small budget, but we had an idea and we wanted to make it work. Our creative included motion graphics, character animation, studio product shots, mounted bike shots, drone cinematography, and studio portraiture. So we decided to reach out to a few of our friends across the industry to help us bring everything to life. We developed the creative, directed the spot and shot all live action footage at The Human Expansion Co., but we could not have created this without the support of these awesome studios, all of them small in their own right:

  • Swell TV created the abstract opening animation to illustrate new ideas being born and tease the next evolutionary step of the bike.
  • Dress Code designed a minimalist version of San Francisco and animated two characters cycling through the city to illustrate the GPS tracking features. They also provided logo animations.
  • You Too Can Woo wrote and recorded the music, built the sound design, engineered our audio mix, and lent one of their voices for the voiceover.

None of these companies has more than ten employees. In fact, most of us are under six.

It just goes to show, a small force can create a big impact.

If you’re still curious, here’s a companion piece we created for a Kickstarter campaign to raise the funds required to bring the bike to market which goes into more detail on the bike, Mission Bicycle Company, and their process.

The Kickstarter campaign will be open until April 20 at