The YHA was formed in England and Wales in 1930, and grew rapidly as hostelling became a well-loved experience for many young people. However, by the 1980s, the needs of the modern day traveller were rapidly changing.
Although part of the charitable mission of YHA is ‘to help all, especially young people of limited means’, the organisation was no longer perceived as relevant to many age groups and membership was in decline. We were briefed by YHA to propose ways of engaging younger people with the brand, whilst also protecting and enhancing YHA’s substantial heritage and goodwill.
We engaged Acacia Avenue – a specialist qualitative research consultancy – for a series of in-depth focus groups and stakeholder interviews. This concluded, unsurprisingly, that the brand was very old-fashioned, but worse, that it was not alive in modern culture and also invisible – young travellers did not think of YHA when planning holidays, and often it did not even appear in relevant Google searches.
Based on this, we suggested a complete overhaul of the brand (retaining the name as a key element of brand heritage) – starting with a compelling set of core principles to inform all aspects of brand communications and build on the substantial internal pride that exists. Following this, we evolved the visual identity (preserving core assets such as the green triangle) to ensure that the YHA story could be told in full, breaking down any barriers of negative perception amongst non-users.
YHA has an entirely refreshed set of brand assets: the brand identity, together with a proposition and key messages that communicate their core values and charitable mission in a contemporary, fresh and appealing way. The brand was launched internally with great success, and has helped to focus and energise employees. A new website was launched and a number of substantial improvements have been implemented within the organisation.
By all KPI measures, the health of YHA has improved substantially over the last four years. Hostel revenues are £46.3 million, up from £40.0 million. Net cash from operations is £1.2 million, up from £0.1 million. Membership renewals are running at 75%, up from 65%. There is a new hostel in Cardiff and others refurbished, with £24 million having been invested in the network.