A Tale of Two Ottawa Retailers: Hot Chocolate Rocks

Reading Time: 5 minutes

This is a short case study of two different companies in Ottawa that are active on Twitter. Both use social media to get the word about their business out.  Twitter is a channel that you shouldn’t ignore in your communication mix. Although many messages get lost in the endless stream of opinions, some times some one picks up on your message and recognises your store when cycling around town. Twitter can help build your image.


Liquid Nutrition is a store in the Glebe. It is a franchise of Montreal based Liquid Nutrition. They produce and sell “a fusion of naturally flavoured, intensely healthy functional beverages”, and are busy “creating inventive combinations of fruit, juices, almond milk and neutraceuticals”. (I am not into health, only in in transportation, so I had to look up what neutraceuticals are.)

This winter,  well known Ottawa blogger Modalmom made some points about winter cycling after a decent interview with winter cyclists on CTV (that CTV than followed up with a pathetic poll: “Should winter cycling be banned”).  The Ottawa franchise of Liquid Nutrition started to vent his/her opinion about winter cycling on Twitter: winter cycling was a bad idea, it is dangerous and that (s)he as a summer cyclist would never cycle in winter, even going as far as calling Modalmom an angry person. Other cyclists got involved on Twitter, pointing out that Liquid Nutrition Ottawa was too harsh on Modalmom. Modalmom, being a Maritimer, a knitter, owner of 6 bikes, cookie baker and urban skier,  stayed calm (read from bottom to top):




Eventually, Liquid Nutrition HQ in Montreal reads the tweets and tweets back, apologizing’:


Also brand strategy specialist Dennis van Staalduinen picks up on it and tweets:

liquid3 liquid4

That same day, January 22nd, @LiquidOttawa deleted all the tweets.

Only a two tweets remain on the 22nd of January.
Only two tweets remain on the 22nd of January.

Taking advantage of the situation

Around the same time, 8LocksFlat, the wooden bar type structure along the canal was looking for a photo for his poster for a winter bike party at his location along the canal near the Corktown bridge, to try to whip up some business during Winterlude. He pulled Simone’s photo from this blog with a group of cyclists cycling along the canal during the 2nd Citizens for Safe Cycling Family Winter bike ride. When people tweeted him about the unauthorized use of our image on his tweeted poster, he contacted us and apologized. As Citizens for Safe Cycling was planning its third Family Winter bike ride too, we suggested we fold the two events into one and let our ride finish at 8LocksFlat with free hot chocolate. We are good folks and we like hot chocolate (that old fashioned protein shake).

poster winter cycling
The 8LocksFlat poster with Simone’s photo.

8LocksFlat was game. Colin seized the opportunity to work with an established bike group in Ottawa that is experienced in organising events, knows the turn out and guarantees tons of free publicity in the market he tried to approach.

What did Colin get over a period of 2-3 weeks? Other than 30 cyclists or so, his company name was out on Twitter, Facebook, a few websites and blogs. The 8LocksFlat brand was connected to active living, recreation, winter activities, good times and fire pits along the canal.  After the ride, pics appeared on Twitter again, on the Citizens for Safe Cycling website for a few months afterwards  and a video was made in which 8LocksFlat appeared once again. There was a brief write up in the Ottawa Citizen. What more do you want in exchange for 30 free hot chocolates? People had a good time and will definitely meet again at 8LocksFlat. 

Focus on your core message

I have about 700 followers on Twitter. Of course I have more opinions (I am Dutch after all) than just about cycling, but a bike account should be about bikes (and cats, because we can’t ignore cats). My “bike ottawa” account rarely strays off the bike message. People expect bike info from a bike account. As Dennis mentions, be careful if you tweet opinions from a business account, it can seriously hurt your company image. You may not always realise that you actually have an audience, when you are bored behind the counter on a Wednesday afternoon in January, even though you know that 160 people follow you. Worse, Modalmom happens to have hundreds upon hundreds of followers who in turn have hundreds and hudreds of followers. You get the picture. In Liquid Nutrition’s case it flared up, and HQ apologized on behalf of the franchise. I am sure Liquid Nutrition Ottawa won’t suffer long term effects, but it was definitely a lesson learned. Meanwhile Colin knows this summer dozens of cyclists will enjoy beer at his patio. He basically turned a faux pas into an opportunity at virtually no cost.

At the fire pits along the Rideau Canal at 8LocksFlat.
At the fire pits along the Rideau Canal at 8LocksFlat.
There is Colin in the middle: free publicity on social media.
There is Colin in the middle: free publicity on social media.

Moral of the story: hot chocolate rocks.


  1. Dear Hans,

    What a brilliant article about the power of social media! Your insightful messages are always inspiring.

    Here’s to cats and cycling.

    Best regards,


    (commuter cyclist, but not in the winter–looking forward to spring)

      Catherine Montgomery 50 Leonard Ave. Ottawa K1S 4T9

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