Since 1844, the YMCA had long supported social justice and community building efforts, from joining the struggle for civil rights to inventing basketball, volleyball and racquetball. But as the organization grew increasingly vibrant and diverse over the years, it developed a bewildering abundance of identities. Its main organizational message and meaning were obscured, and research showed that most people were not aware of the YMCA’s contributions to society. To address this issue, the national Y-USA council decided to initiate an awareness campaign—until our own research quickly revealed that greater efforts would be needed to overcome widespread misconceptions about the organization.
While consulting key influencers, such as employees and volunteers, we discovered that every YMCA was committed to strengthening the foundations of community through three key principles—youth development, healthy living and social responsibility. Armed with this key insight, we began a major brand revitalization. Our first step was officially adopting the organization’s famous nickname: the Y. This friendly, modern sensibility lent itself to an engaging new visual system, including an evolved logo, which we designed using a range of bright color combinations that mirrored the Y’s diversity of programs and audiences. Finally, we set the stage for the brand rollout by giving individual Ys the tools they needed to launch the new brand in their own communities.
It didn’t take long for the Y to see a significant return on its investment in the new brand, which received a prestigious 2011 REBRAND 100® Merit award. Just one month after launch, press coverage of the Y’s rebrand had reached an estimated 1 billion people, and web traffic was 25% higher than it had been at the same time during the previous year. With an enthusiastic reception from patrons and employees alike, the Y is poised to continue its service to the community for the next 170 years, and beyond.