April 19, 2010

Acronymity in Canada

Where do you buy liquor in Ontario? The Liquor Control Board of Ontario store of course. LCBO for short.

How about Manitoba? Manitoba Liquor Control Commission. The LC for short.

My Manitoba-raised wife caused consternation at a Toronto dinner party the other day when she asked what brands of South American wines were available at the LC. Questioning looks abounded as a result of this inter-provincial faux-pas. It got us thinking – what’s with all the acronymic brands in Canada?

Where would you like to bank? CIBC? TD? BMO?

Doing some shopping at HBC?

Why have CDN brands been STN (Shortening Their Names?)

Theory 1: Stock Codes. For companies where the finance department and investor relations have a lot of clout, marketing directors and CEO’s get convinced that this simplifies the conversation. Let customers invest, and investors be customers, and never let either group get confused.

Theory 2: Bilingual Canada.  Imagine a logo that says Bank of Montreal Banque de Montreal. Translation is often a legal requirement in Quebec (chez McDonald), and even when trademark registrations allow for loopholes, it’s still a cultural requirement. Having a common acronym across both languages makes life a lot easier for consistency, awareness, logo space, and voiceovers.

Theory 3: Cityism. It’s a lot easier for Bank of Montreal to sponsor the Toronto Football Club MLS team if their logo doesn’t have any reference to Montreal. It has also been easier for Toronto Dominion Bank to expand in the United States by shortening to TD _____ and doesn’t refer to that “capital city of Canada” with the igloos.

Screen shot 2010-04-19 at 21.06.08

Theory 4: Canadians just love shortening things. Radio DJ’s are especially guilty. During a December “snow event” I was surprised to hear a DJ describe the volume as 20cms. That’s not centimetres. She said “cee-ems”. I thought she was bee emming me. As I dialled up different stations, a couple of other dee jays said cee ems.

It’s probably all of the above (AOTA). The last broken arrow shot through my proper-English-loving heart was felt as I drove by my old high school – Gloucester High School. It used to have a great sign in front that said Gloucester High School…

Screen shot 2010-04-19 at 14.40.16

It’s now just GHS; which brings me to my last theory:

Theory 5: It’s cheaper to shorten everything because you don’t have to pay for as many letters, and it saves on ink. And keystrokes.

At least one company has come to its senses; the oldest Canadian company. After a misguided few years of shortening to this:

Screen shot 2010-04-19 at 14.54.57

… they finally realized the importance of heritage and tradition and brought it back to this:

Screen shot 2010-04-19 at 14.56.26

Join the conversation! 2 Comments

  1. Go get em George when you have some time check out train fares in the UK.

  2. In all seriousness, I’ve found “L” “C” “B” “O” to be too long of an acronym. As a result, I’ve been referring to it as “LC” “BO” (pronounced “Lick Bo” for some time)…and it’s catching on with my mates. Feel free to add to the momentum, and we, the consumer, can start making these acronyns look less desireable.

    Sincerly, Brian Halk from RIM


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Brand Personality, Frame of Reference, Naming


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