Archive for July, 2010

Why “the Y”?

Last week the news broke that the YMCA of the USA was launching a new rebranding strategy. There was a short-lived media frenzy, with controversial headlines claiming that the Y had dropped the  “MCA”, and thus their Christian values and heritage. Although the identity and marketing structure of the organization may be evolving, the mission of the YMCA is still the same and in fact, it may even be stronger than before.

While the change seems sudden for most of us,  the new branding strategy is actually a result of more than 2 years of data analysis and input from Y leaders across the country. Through feedback from focus groups of both members and non-members, it was determined that  the YMCA was perceived by the public to be an organization that provided fitness and recreational facilities. We all know that the Y is so much more than this, and that there is a deeper meaning and long-term value to the work that they do. In a press release from the YMCA of Western North Carolina, CEO Paul Vest said it best:

“We don’t teach swim lessons at the Y. We teach self-confidence and a sense of accomplishment through our swim lessons. We don’t just teach a child how to play basketball. We teach sportsmanship and what it means to work together as a team. We don’t just offer group exercise classes, we offer a place where  a person can feel accepted and part of a caring community, while learning healthy habits for a better quality of life”

Indeed,  the Y is not just a “gym and swim” with a history, but a cause-driven, community-building organization with strong values and a compelling voice. The rebranding effort is seeking to get rid of any inconsistencies and clarify misconceptions of the Y as merely a provider of programs and services. It hopes to broaden (yet, in a way, narrow) this widespread public opinion and perception and convey itself more as a  ‘movement’ committed to strengthening our communities, rather than just a fitness club.

The rebranding includes a 3 part makeover: updating the logo, creating a more focused framework for its mission, and yes, even changing its name.

  • For the first time in history, the YMCA will officially refer to itself by its more familiar name – “the Y”.  While it is an affectionate colloquial term that the majority of us have used for decades, “the Y” will summarize the organization under the “Y USA”, and it will remain the Young Men’s Christian Association in all corporate and legal references.
  • The Y is using this rebranding as a call to action to make its mission more clear and concise to the masses. It is reorganizing it into the 3 specific areas: healthy living, youth development, and social responsibility, which all fall under the Y’s primary focus of “strengthening the foundations of our community”.  The Y hopes to begin to tell the story of not only what they do, but how and why they do it. They will continue to put Christian principles into practice through programs that build healthy spirit, mind and body for all. Furthermore, the heart and soul of the organization- its core values of caring, honesty, respect, and responsibility still hold true.
  • Lastly, the visual identify of the Y has been revamped to express the organization’s inspiring personality and commitment to a higher cause. It will no longer feature the familiar red, white and black Y that is recognized around the world. The new logo is  more contemporary and vibrant, with 5 distinct color design palettes representing the diversity of people and places that we serve. It’s dynamic color scheme and gradient seems more fresh and relevant to youth, and it reflects healthy living through its brightness and sense of movement. Critics of the new logo should also note that it preserves the iconic triangle (symbolizing spirit, mind and body) and that for the first time in 43 years that  the letters “YMCA” are actually featured on the emblem!

Individual Y’s will have the freedom to choose what they want to do with the new brand under the transition timeline of 5 years. The Y’s goal is to impact 25 million children and adults by 2012 and this rebranding  is expected to bring in more donors, partners, and financial support, as the public gains a better understanding of its cause.

During a recent Blue Ridge Assembly Board meeting, Phill Morgan, Resource Director for Y’s of North Carolina,  was able to clear up much of the confusion about the new brand strategy.  He assured Board members and Assembly staff that “the Christian mission is stronger than ever”, clarifying the logic behind the revitalization and more importantly, explaining how all of this would affect Blue Ridge.

As supporters of the Y’s mission, and friends and family of the Assembly, it is our duty to help strengthen the Y brand by continuing to live by example, engaging in open conversation and using powerful word of mouth to tell the whole story of what we do- impacting the lives of youth. He  encouraged us to continue to have pride and passion for our work, embracing the past, but looking forward to the  future.

In reality, it is expected that we will see very little change on the mountain. Some of the signage around grounds, as well as our marketing materials and literature may be updated, but we can assure you that the beauty, character and spirit of the Assembly will remain the same. Weatherford’s founding principles will carry us through the next hundred years and we will continue to serve our guests with quality programs, services, and facilities through a well-trained, empowered staff.

Building strong kids, strong families, and strong communities is WHY we do it. It is an important, exciting time for the Y and we are so proud to be a part of this history in the making!


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