Brand Building, One Letter
at a Time
Many communities, too many identities
From the Civil War to the struggle for Civil Rights, the YMCA had long championed the causes of social justice and community. They also invented basketball, volleyball and racquetball. Now there’s a diverse set of organizational assets.
Over the years, the Y became an amazingly vibrant and diverse organization, but its great success and growth also led to a bewildering profusion of identities. The main organizational message and meaning of the Y were obscured; research revealed that most people were not aware of the depth and breadth of the organization's role in society. To address the issue, Y-USA, the national council to the nation's more than 2,600 Ys, initiated an awareness campaign.
To raise awareness, first raise the brand
Siegel+Gale's research quickly revealed that misperceptions of the Y were so widespread that an awareness campaign alone would not correct it. Many people still thought of the organization as merely a provider of services—such as fitness and swimming lessons—because the Y lacked a clear definition of the central importance it provides to the communities it serves.
In the process of consulting employees, volunteers, the public and other key influencers, we uncovered the insight that, while offerings might differ from Y to Y, there is a pervasive commitment to strengthening the foundations of community through three key principles—youth development, healthy living and social responsibility.
With the brand promise defined, we could turn our attention back to the original assignment—getting the word out. The foremost signal of this brand revitalization was the adoption of a nickname for the organization—a recognition of what had already become its de facto name: the Y. The shortened name also subtly signaled a more contemporary sensibility and friendly informality.
Around the affable name, we crafted an engaging visual system, incorporating a range of bright color combinations that mirrors the Y's diversity of programs and audiences. The evolved logo transformed what had been all sharp angles and flat geometry into a softly rounded, almost three-dimensional mark that proves to be welcoming and flexible across media.
Working closely with the Y, Siegel+Gale created tools and processes to support the brand rollout—including brand and voice messaging guidelines, a brand activation manual, communications templates, signage standards and a brand training program. To empower the individual Ys with the compelling story and program components, we also helped develop a website that fully expresses the new positioning and offers tools for the rollout to communities everywhere.
A grand rebrand
According to Kate Coleman, senior vice president and CMO of Y-USA, “Through our new brand platform, we will more broadly make known what we do and our impact—so more people can benefit from what we offer.”
At the time of the brand’s unveiling, the major media networks jumped on what turned out to be a fun and hopeful story everyone could relate to—providing the kind of publicity that Siegel+Gale is optimistic will help the Y, and its people, serve communities for the next 160 years, as well.
Following the rollout, the Y received a prestigious 2011 REBRAND 100® Merit award.Download PDF
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