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March 14, 2006

Brand Naming: Where are the BMW Brand Police?

The BMW Company LogoForgive my indulgence in a little , but I find it heartening to discover that even the world's largest manufacturer of premium automobiles has trouble controlling how consumers translate its name.

Or is this a precursor to the much talked about concept these days of the "consumer owning the brand"? It's predicted that with the advent of Web 2.0 social networking companies such as , the balance of power is shifting from companies and institutions to consumers like you and me.

BMW AG, of Bayerische Motoren Werke AG, or in English, Bavarian Motor Works, is, in German pronounced "bay emm vay."

In North America, however, BMW cars are commonly called "bimmers," (in the German language, the correct pronunciation of the term "bimmer" is "beemer.")

“Beemer" is adapted from the early-20th-Century British pronunciation of BSA, another motorcycle that was often racing against BMWs. Over time, the term became closely associated with BMW motorcycles, however.

Eventually the beemer pronunciation of the word was attached almost exclusively to its auto. And from there, Beemer transmogrified into a cornucopia of uncontrollable cross-cultural translations.

In Russia, for example, the car is considered a Bummer – which, in the U.S., is analogous to a bad drug experience.

In Lithuania, on the other hand, consumers actually feel safe driving in a sturdy Bambalis - a name that is achingly similar to the German word Bambus, which means bamboo.

In Greece, the Ultimate Driving Machine is a Beba – close in pronunciation to the German verb beben which means to shake, quake or rattle.

I find it most disheartening, in Mexico, drivers can park their BM just about anywhere – which, according to our American Miss Manners, is not the proper thing to do with one’s bowel movement (BM).

For more variations on how BMW Beemer is pronounced in different cultures, check out The Bimmer’s Bavaria on .

BMW enthusiasts, I think, will find these blogs very interesting: , , and .

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Posted by Diane Prange at March 14, 2006 8:23 AM
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