Has the pronunciation of “BMO” in BMO Harris Bank ever struck you as odd? It has bugged me for the last year, since I began hearing it on Packer radio broadcasts. Shortly after Harris Bank gobbled up mortgage-crippled M&I, it rebranded itself with an acknowledgement of its long-time parent, the Bank of Montreal…er, BMO Financial.  Bonjour, BMO Harris Bank.

The first few times I heard it, I thought it was a mistake; the announcer must have called it “BEE-mo” (not “B-M-O”) by accident.  It quickly became clear this was no accident however, and the cynic/marketing guy inside of came up with a conspiracy theory – the bank must be quietly but firmly instructing on-air talent to pronounce it that way, so as to de-emphasize the “M” (for Montreal).  After all, Midwesterners like to keep things local – especially their money – so it why not downplay the bank’s foreign ownership?

But now, the “BEE-mo” pronunciation conspiracy thing has jumped the shark , at least for me.  Their latest round of print creative goes out of its way to TEACH people the preferred pronunciation!  So much for subtle consumer manipulation, eh hosers?  I’m not sure what to make of this.  Is it a nod to the celebrity nickname shtick? (Bank of Montreal shortens to B-Mo, just like Jennifer Lopez shortens to J-Lo, etc.)  Or is it purely budget-based hubris? (“If we thrown enough weight behind this campaign we can make people call us anything…”)  Or is there some cute, endearing little story behind all of this? (I doubt it, but…maybe.)

Anyway, I’m not sure what to make of it, other than I still find it weirdly annoying. But maybe I’m just easily annoyed.

Anyone else have a theory?  Let’s hear it.

Andy Larsen

VP/Director of Public Relations

This Post Has 5 Comments

  1. Bob Monnat

    It’s their stock symbol on the NYSE. Interesting, isn’t it, that they want to teach Main Street to use Wall Street jargon. Similar to the New York Currency Exchange – I mean NYCE – of NYCE Club fame at Miller Park.

  2. Matt Hughes

    My first thought when seeing “BMO” is Bowel Movement Odor. I think the Bee-Mo pronunciation ad campaign is a way to get out ahead of more obvious nicknames, such as Stink-o.

  3. Andy Larsen

    I knew it’s their stock ticker, didn’t know it was trader-speak. Maybe that’s the answer. The bowel movement pun theory could be it to. But then shouldn’t IBM refer to themselves as “Eye-Beem”? (I believe the Journal of Mass Communications called this the “Beavis and Butthead Effect”…) My theory du jour is that they think it is easier to create a verb if it isn’t an acronym.

  4. chad

    You used the word “hubris”. I note this because I wrote a poem called Hubris. Weird. http://60secondpoetry.wordpress.com/2012/11/13/hubris/

  5. Anonymous

    “Bee-MO” may come from a mixture of English and French. “Montreal” in French is pronounced kind of like “moe-ray-al”. The ‘nt’ are not emphasised like they are in English.

    Also, the ‘MO’ represents a single word.

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