Insights / branding

Branding: Out with the old, in with the new

Brands have a funny way of taking on a life of their own, don’t they? Or maybe I should rephrase that to reflect that the public has an interesting way of interpreting what a brand is or stands for.

Look at Sony’s Walkman brand. Everyone called their portable music player a “walkman” at some point, right? Then there’s the copy machine. There are those of us who are still guilty of saying things like “I’ll make a Xerox of it.” Really? You’ll take a piece of paper and instead of photocopying it, you’ll miraculously turn it into an expensive piece of machinery made by the Xerox corporation? Interesting.

Or what about Google? It’s become a part of our every day language. Instead of saying “I’ll do an internet search on it”, most of us simply say “I’ll Google it.”

Funny. They’re all brand names, but mean different things to us. I suppose it’s the ultimate form of a brand’s strength that it has such a huge market share AND awareness that it affects the world’s perception of the entire category.

The same applies to the Y.M.C.A., better known today as the Y. It’s true. After 43 years, the Young Men’s Christian Association has decided to drop the MCA and simply refer to itself as the Y.


I’m not quite sure, other than to simplify things. That’s the best I can make of it. However, according to a company news release, Kate Coleman, the Y’s senior vice president and chief marketing officer says “We are simplifying how we describe the programs we offer so that it is immediately apparent that everything we do is designed to nurture the potential of children and teens, improve health and well-being and support our neighbors and the larger community.”

I suppose that make sense.

In addition to the name change, they’ve got a new logo. Their new logo is much

more vibrant and modern and it still includes the YMCA text. However, there are a few things I question:

1. What about the Y.W.C.A.? Will there be a merger in the future? You never know.

2. More importantly, will the company lose it’s true heritage?

In my opinion, changing your name, logo, uniforms, stationary or what have you is completely useless unless the brand’s culture changes with it. I think the Y has always served its communities well and will continue to do so. I’m not worried about them losing sight of that.

One thing is for sure, I’ve always referred to the YMCA as the Y, as did thousands of people long before their new re-branding effort. You have to wonder what took so long. It’s a good thing they waited until now, and didn’t do this in the mid 1970’s… the Village People would have had to write an entirely different chorus line!