YMCA R.I.P.

I’m all for branding. Not the kind that marks farm animals, but the kind that makes you order a Coke when probably any cola will do. Some branding is more successful than others. I like orange soda, but I never ask for a Fanta or a Sunkist. I just ask for something orange. They could hand me a Screwdriver and I’d be thrilled.

The point is, everybody knows the YMCA. That’s why I’m as dismayed as the Village People that the YMCA has officially changing its name to “the Y.”

Sure, that’s what everybody already calls it, but that’s no reason to change the name. People will just be confused. They’ll walk around, scratching their head, wondering what happened to the YMCA.

“It just died,” someone will say, and then the Y will have to start all over, rebuilding an entirely new brand. Across the country, entire stadiums of folks will rise to their feet to dance to the Village People anthem, then sit down when it’s over and say, “Did you hear the YMCA died?”

“Yeah,” someone else will say, “I miss the Y.” Even though it never went anywhere.

So here it is. My #1 Rule of Marketing: Don’t mess with the brand when the brand is already working.

According to the AP article posted on Salon.com, officials at the Y say the brand wasnt working because lots of people don’t know what the YMCA does. Maybe, but everybody knows the dance.

That’s my #2 Rule of Marketing: You don’t need a new anything when you already have a dance.

The YMCA doesn’t just have a dance. It has a dance everybody in the world knows how to do.

Here are fans doing the dance at Yankee Stadium.

YMCA dance

For the record, according to its website, “The Y is a cause-driven organization that is for youth development, for healthy living and for social responsibility.”

Here’s the problem – and this is what branding is all about — what does the Y stand for now? If the YMCA was the Young Men’s Christian Association, what’s the Y? The Young? The Youth? If it just stands for the YMCA, then you didn’t need to change the name, you needed to work on getting your message out.

Rest in peace, YMCA. You died before your time.

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