The Y — Why not?GRAND FORKS, N.D. - The organization formerly known as the Young Men’s Christian Association, now known as the YMCA, will be shortening its name again to “the Y.”
By: Tu-Uyen Tran, Grand Forks Herald, Worthington Daily Globe
GRAND FORKS, N.D. - The organization formerly known as the Young Men’s Christian Association, now known as the YMCA, will be shortening its name again to “the Y.”
The national organization is doing what every organization or business that goes through such a change: It’s rebranding.
“This is meant to show the fun, diversified side of the Y,” said Debbie Thompson, head of the YMCA of Grand Forks.
She’s referring to the new name and colorful new logo that the national organization, YMCA of the USA, has developed to replace the existing black and red logo. That angular logo dates back to 1967, about a decade before the Village People sang about the “many ways to have a good time” at the YMCA.
Before that, there were five other logos going back to the YMCA’s founding as a place for Bible study in 1844 in London. The first YMCA opened in the United States in 1851.
YMCA of Grand Forks, along with some 2,600 other YMCAs nationwide, will transition to the new logo over the next five years as part of a national effort to educate the public about what the organization does. The national organization found after two years of research that, among other things, many Americans don’t know what YMCAs do.
“There are people who may believe the Y is just a place for gym and swim,” said Thompson. “They’re not understanding the depth of what we’re trying to do with youth development, promoting healthy living and engaging people as volunteers in their community.”
The new logo’s supposed to help with all that.
The current logo is an upright letter Y partly in black with a red triangle, a very bold and sharp-cornered design.
The new logo is the same stylized letter Y, except the corners are round and it leans to the right, in the same direction that most Americans read. It is “forward-looking,” says the national YMCA. It also comes in a bunch of colors, such as purple and red, blue and purple, and orange and yellow.
For many businesses and organizations, rebranding is a way to get customers and patrons to see them in a new light. Sometimes it’s because they’ve changed but perceptions of them have not.
For example, Kentucky Fried Chicken changed to KFC in the early 1990s to get customers to realize it offers more than just fried food, which is associated with unhealthy eating habits. When sales flattened a few years ago, it began to go back to the old name at some restaurants as a way to emphasize that it didn’t just offer fast food any more.
The YMCA’s new logo is meant to get its patrons to see it in a new light as well.
Thompson said it’s clear the organization is not doing a good job telling its story.
Besides exercise, she said, the YMCA is also involved in youth development and encouraging volunteerism.
The Big Brother-Big Sister program is an example of both. It pairs adults with at-risk youngsters who need role models and tutors, youngsters who often come from poor, single-parent families or are complicated by drug addiction, abuse or imprisonment on the part of one or both parents.
There are 120 to 125 such matches a year and a waiting list of about 70 youngsters, Thompson said. Many people are surprised to learn that the need is so great, she said.
From RC to Y
The YMCA is no stranger to rebranding.
In its early years, the logo was a circle with the Greek letters “Rho” and “Chi,” an abbreviation for Christ, and an open Bible. The group was formed as a Bible study association, which also offered safe lodging for travelers. That logo remains in use by the international YMCA.
When the group got to America, the Rho-Chi remained, but on top of it was a red triangle with the words “mind,” “body” and “spirit” on each side. That was an innovation designed to emphasize the unity of the three in the ideal Christian man. At the time, physical education, the “body” part of that equation was being emphasized.
The Rho-Chi was completely removed when the YMCA rebranded again with the letter Y, keeping only the red triangle.
Reach Tran at (701) 780-1248; (800) 477-6572, ext. 248; or send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.