The YMCA system for New York City and the largest Y system in North America has rolled out digital signage across its 26 locations, digital signage it’s using to promote memberships and services, keep members informed and raise money for its services — while standardizing its communications mix and its brand messaging.

“One of the reasons we are moving toward more digital signage is to maintain the consistency of our messaging throughout all of our branches,” said Ellen Murphy, VP of communications for the YMCA of Greater New York, in a recent interview. “The Y went through a major rebranding or brand update in 2010 and with that we changed our logo – and the [digital signage] has been a great way to ensure that all of our branches and our locations are utilizing our logo in ways that are compliant with our brand standards.”

The Y installed digital signage driven by the Navori QL software solution on a mixture of Samsung screens with Lenovo or Viewsonic net-tops, and Google Nexus 10 tablets, located in elevators, entranceways and more in the system’s 22 branches and 26 locations.

“We were heavily dependent upon flyers and posters throughout our building, which we still do have, but now with the new digital signage we’re able to get messaging out more quickly, more efficiently and in an environmentally friendly way,” Murphy said.

The reduction in reliance on printed posters and flyers also looks cleaner and less cluttered, she said, “and we don’t have to worry about messages not being updated because someone forgot to take a flyer out of a frame … it’s very easy for us to check and make sure that everyone has updated messaging and that it’s fresh and relevant.”

Most consumers these days expect to have digital signage, Murphy said, and Karl Christianson, IT consultant for the Y, said he definitely hears about it whenever it’s not there.

The Y started with a six-location pilot, and as soon as it went out every other branch was anxious and excited to get it at theirs, Christianson said in the interview. And now if there’s ever anything that affects the signage, such as a power outage or a screen failure, “we hear about it right away,” he said.

“[The members] get used to it; they get used to being able to check the weather at a glance as they head out the door,” he said. “There’s lots of little perks to it that go beyond what the flyering did.”

According to Murphy, most of the content on the digital signage network is a push of specific programs or initiatives that the Y wants to promote internally or to its members, such as special events, membership drives, daycamp enrollment or for fundraising pushes. “We use it to tell the stories of the young people whose lives have been touched by the Y.”

The flexibility of the system allows the Y system to push out messaging to all of its branches and locations, but also allows the individual locations to customize the content with their own messaging, said Gavan Vogler, the Y’s marketing and advertising manager, in the interview. “It allows them to have a unique look and feel while also maintaining the brand identity.”

The system also strengthens the Y’s overall branding and messaging strategies, by using some of the same content and content templates that people might see on television commericals or on bus-side advertisements, Vogler said.

“So from a marketing standpoint, I really like the fact that it’s reinforcing the look and feel of something that is out and about outside of the Y,” he said.

The system now in place replaced an earlier one that wasn’t as flexible, Christianson said, and part of the appeal for Navori was the fact that it is operating system agnostic – which allows him to try it out on different machines and in different formats, from Lenovo machines to Google tablets.

But one of the main perks of the system from Christianson pint of view is the software’s ability to quickly reach out and manage content at any location, but also to take care of technical issues or check in on the health of the system.

“We can really stay ahead of the curve and take care of the issue before members in the field even notice anything is going wrong,” he said.

And while ROI can be hard to measure for a system such as this one that is part of an overall communications strategy, both hard and soft ROI indicators are definitely positive, according to Murphy.

“I think our challenge is to constantly provide quality content for them to ingest and to think through what’s next and how do we constantly evolve the system to meet the needs of today’s and tomorrow’s consumer,” she said. “We’re definitely happy with it, and our membership is up, our program registration is up, our retention rates continue to increase, so I think we can point to an increase of our internal communications as a driver for those statistics, and qualitatively we hear from our staff and our members that they like the system.” Digital Signage Today

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