BMO features Indigenous-owned business in new “Barrier Breakers” campaign

Who: BMO, with FCB for strategy and creative, production by The Detour Film Co. Ltd (directed by Jesse Blight), post-production by Alter Ego and The Editorial Factory, with music by OSO and UM for media.

What: A new “Barrier Breakers” campaign spotlighting how BMO is removing barriers to business success. In this case, it’s Joella Hogan, an Indigenous women who runs The Yukon Soap Company.

When & Where: The campaign has been live since Nov. 14, and will run until mid-December. There are 20 pieces of content, including social ads and a nearly 12-minute short film running on CBC’s Gem and via the Roku app. (See the two-minute ad below, and the full short film at bottom.)

Why: The campaign is part of BMO’s overarching social good / brand purpose platform: Boldly Grow the Good in business and life.

The barrier breakers element focuses on how BMO is helping entrepreneurs facing systemic barriers overcome those barriers to build their business. BMO has been providing special financial assistance to women entrepreneurs going back to 2014, but in September 2020, the bank added new diversity and representation goals—“Zero Barriers to Inclusion: 2025”—to assist Black, Indigenous, People of Colour, Latino, and LGBTQ2+ employees, customers, and communities.

Last year, it launched a “Barrier Breakers” social content series celebrating Black-owned businesses, and the latest iteration is spotlighting the efforts made to support Indigenous businesses.

 How: The campaign is anchored by “More Than Gold,” a more than 11-minute short film about Hogan. Her Yukon Soaps Company is in Mayo, Yukon, the traditional territory of the First Nation of Na-Cho Nyäk Dun. For 20 years, she has created handcrafted soaps using ingredients like wild rose petals and juniper berries.

She talks about the injustices her ancestors endured in the Yukon, and how her business is symbolic of Indigenous people reasserting their rights, saving their culture and their language. “Our stories were taken from us, they weren’t told by us, or the narrative didn’t include us,” she says. “So now we’re taking that back and taking lead in telling the stories of Indigenous people in the Yukon.”

Hogan also explains how, when it came time to grow her business, the bank she’d been with all her life turned her down because of systemic barriers to home ownership. “They literally laughed at me,” she says. “The BMO experience was so different because I was expecting a no, and I got ‘tell me more.”

The video also features BMO relationship manager Cassandra Sole explaining why they supported Hogan and how she has surpassed her expectations. The message that BMO helped Hogan while other banks didn’t is also the key message in the cut-down spots. “Supporting indigenous women-owned business is the most swift and efficient way to economic reconciliation in our country,” says Hogan in the :30.

“We’re investing in zero barriers to financial progress,” reads the closing super at the end of the spots, followed by the BMO logo and #BMOgrowthegood.

And we quote: “Like Joella says in the film, Indigenous cultures and languages are at risk of fading away… We, as an industry and a nation, have an important responsibility to do everything we can to ensure that doesn’t happen by amplifying and celebrating stories like hers.” — Nancy Crimi-Lamanna, CCO, FCB Canada

David Brown