The light blue Bublr bikes are a new Milwaukee attraction. PHOTO COURTESY OF SAVAGE SOLUTIONS LLC
The light blue Bublr bikes are a new Milwaukee attraction. PHOTO COURTESY OF SAVAGE SOLUTIONS LLC

Bublr: A bike that doubles as a verb and a brand that puts a Milwaukee stamp on the bike share system launched earlier this month.

With the blue bikes and docking stations spreading around the city, I wondered just how Midwest BikeShare LLC came up with the name, one that will be vital to attracting users and building success.

The word "bubbler" popped out early in a brainstorming session, one of those all-hands-on-deck efforts in the offices of Savage Solutions, a 12-person marketing and advertising agency hired to create the brand and marketing campaign for Milwaukee’s bike share.

The white boards and even the windows were filled with names and concepts, the possibilities for a brand that would make Milwaukee’s system unique and memorable. The conversation turned to unusual lexicon and Milwaukeeans’ name for drinking fountains. Bubbler popped out of the mind of a digital producer, and carried the day.

“It was the clear winner,” recounted Cory Savage, a Chicago native and founder of the company that carries his name. “That immediately was the one everybody was rallying behind.

“We wanted to have a correlation with something Milwaukee, something that would really tie to Milwaukee and something that could become a verb,” he said. “Bublr just screams Milwaukee.

“There were other names that were out there, and we kept gravitating toward Bublr because it was the high-risk, high-reward choice. This was not going to be the safest choice, but the one that could be a home run for everyone.”

It certainly trumped Milwaukee Bike Share, the early pick to be stamped on the bikes and stations.

Four months earlier, just before launching a fundraising campaign with that as the name, the principals in Midwest BikeShare LLC hesitated.

“We pulled back because we realized there was a higher opportunity that we were missing here,” said Kevin Hardman, the launch director of Bublr Bikes.

“It needed to be friendly. It needed to be accessible,” he said. “It needed to exude an exuberance and fun, which the word itself does.

“At the end of the day, we didn’t want people to see this as a bike thing. We wanted them to see it as a fun, convenient thing.”

Savage and Hardman are convinced that Bublr Bikes will be catchy enough to grab people’s attention and guide them to the promotional and educational materials that will teach them how to use the rental bikes.

Crews from B-Cycle, a subsidiary of Trek Bicycles, have been installing the bikes and the docking stations almost daily. Bikes can be checked out at a half-dozen stations, with a total of 10 scheduled to be in place by the end of August.

The branding, while successful, is just a small step in the evolution targeted to include 100 stations around the city in two to three years.

“To support the brand, we have to create and maintain a great system, an asset that’s beloved,” Hardman said. “This is just the smallest beginning.”

Tom Held writes The Active Pursuit blog for