Learn How the YMCA Brand is ‘Becoming More’ to Customers and Employees

Contributed by Marc Koehler.

I was walking into the local Y and saw the following banner hanging above the entrance.

If you asked most people what comes to mind when they hear the four YMCA letters, they would probably say:

My kids take swimming lessons there…My kids go to after school programs there…We attend their camps there….I workout there
(we would also think it is a fun song to dance to!)

So most of us only think of the Y as a ‘there’. We miss that at nearly 2,700 YMCA’s that serve 10,000 communities in 120 countries, there is so much more going on for it’s nearly 21 million members.

The YMCA’s stated Brand Purpose is:

Strengthening community through youth development,
healthy living, and social responsibility

and with this new marketing campaign, they want us to think of it as a ‘there’ still, but they want is to know it is so much more – It is a cause. And this message is so much more powerful for both employees and customers.

How Did the YMCA Come to Their Brand Purpose?

They put all of the thoughts that their customers and employees had on a huge whiteboard and started asking the question “Why does that Matter?”. Here is an example from a customer comment.

“My kids go to an after school program at the Y”

Why does that matter?
It is important because working parents have an option for their kids who otherwise would return to an empty home. It provides them help and also peace of mind knowing their children are safe and in mentoring programs focused on building confidence and learning positive behaviors.

Why does that matter?
Children who are busy in YMCA programs learn valuable skills that are building blocks for life and they don’t have time to get into trouble.

Why does that matter?
There are less children in trouble and more children making a positive impact in the community now and when they are grown.

So when an employee working at the after school program is asked what she does, her response should not be “I work the Y’s after school program”. She should say “I help to create confident and socially responsible people”.

Likewise, when a mother is asked what her children do after school when she is still working she should say “My kids are learning to be confident and socially responsible.”

The YMCA is doing a great job amplifying their Brand Purpose by sharing stories where their customers are the hero. This is one of three banners in the walkway that shows a child benefiting from one of the programs they offer.

2The YMCA is to be applauded for their latest effort to help both its customers and employees understand the reason the Y exists and the difference it makes in the world. They are not just a place, they are a cause.

Testing and Amplifying Your Brand Purpose

So give it a shot with your own Brand Purpose. Put all the things that your product does on the wall and keep asking “Why does that matter?”. Tell the stories where your employees or customers are the heroes to help amplify the message.

Here are the results of this exercise with two companies for you and your team.

For employees of a wire manufacturer, I don’t manufacture a piece of wire that goes in a heart pacemaker…..I help people live longer and more fulfilling lives (by manufacturing wire for pacemakers that helps people continue to enjoy life).


For employees of a window manufacturer, I don’t make windows for a school…..I help create inspiring learning environments (by manufacturing windows that make the educational space more open).

The bold wording and the images to the right are so much more inspiring to both employees and customers of these products. Remember to keep it succinct so people can remember it.

You will be surprised how much more you mean to both your employees and customers when you show them the real difference your company is making in the world.

Marc is a turnaround specialist with over 25 years of experience helping companies identify, simplify, and amplify those things that are most important and make the greatest difference. His work involves helping people lead more purposeful and inspiring lives. To contact Marc send your message to [email protected].

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