From Facebook to Meta: strategy and implications
From Facebook to Meta, recent news
On November 28, Mark Zuckerberg announced that Instagram, Whatsapp, and the social media giant's parent company would rename from Facebook to Meta. According to the company, the name change reflects the emerging strategy of developing a Metaverse-based social technology company.
This post aims to assess the reasons behind the change and summarize our point of view.
The Facebook brand name origin and corporate development
Launched in a Harvard dorm in 2004, Facebook - from 2006 simply Facebook - was named after the Facebook or facebooks online directories typical of American Universities and Colleges. Facebook would compete with social websites like Orkut, Bebo, Friendster, and MySpace. The brand name gave it immediate relevance with college students, which were at the beginning the only target pool for the social media website, and was very relevant in terms of its promise. A good brand name must evoke a pledge and give a snapshot of the brand's personality. And Facebook did that. But today, it does not because Facebook is more prominent in size, scope, features, and means. Of course, with its level of awareness, Facebook should not change the name of its social website and apps, but what about the namesake corporation?
Importance of a new name moving forward
From a brand architecture point of view, Facebook was launched as a Branded House. Still, acquisition after acquisition, it converted into a House of Brands, becoming the container for Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, Oculus, and now Messenger, which is a stand-alone brand and product at the corporate level. From a corporate point of view, and with the need to build a forward-looking strategy, there are multiple reasons why Facebook should rename its corporate brand to something else. In particular, the corporate brand should make more believable the new corporate strategy, which can be summarized in this excerpt from a previously linked announcement on fb.com:
"The metaverse will feel like a hybrid of today's online social experiences, sometimes expanded into three dimensions or projected into the physical world. It will let you share immersive experiences with other people even when you can't be together — and do things together you couldn't do in the physical world. It's the next evolution in a long line of social technologies and ushering in a new chapter for our company."
"The metaverse is the next evolution of social connection. Our company's vision is to help bring the metaverse to life, so we are changing our name to reflect our commitment to this future."
If the development of the metaverse is such a critical step for the corporation, then as consultants, we would argue that a corporate brand name that so strongly reflects only on your roots and past should be changed for something that supports and accelerate that vision. We are talking about a corporate/ B2B brand that motivates investors, stakeholders, and partners in this journey towards the future. What a brand name change does not solve is equity and perception issues. While this is a strategy often employed by corporations with reputation problems, as brand experts, we know that step barely scratches the surface of the reputation problem.
On the other end, Meta is a simple, effective greek word that points in the direction of the metaverse, and quite literally. It feels like Sun Computers' slogan - "We are the dot in dot-com" - because it is performance-based. It is also very context-based. It does not explain the metaverse nor trigger the imagination of what the metaverse could look like. It's hollow because it does not create a promise or evoke a feeling.
How is it possible that such a large corporation has not thought through the renaming process? And in this era and age, doesn't Facebook leadership that setting a purpose and signaling it through a new brand name would be helpful to build a stronger and more resilient company?
Such a missed opportunity.
As consultants, we understand why the company wanted to change its corporate name. We don't know why they wanted to do that during a reputation crisis, which has the effect of linking the two. Changing the name so abruptly amid the current events signals to everybody that there is an attempt or partial effort to overcome the reputation issues with the corporate name change. Whether that is true or not, we can only guess.
This step lowers the value of the name change by making it less important and not look good overall. Timing is everything.
Conclusions: from Facebook to Meta
Given their new strategy, we recommended a name change to signal a more robust future-centric approach for the company. It's no easy choice, but it's one we would have supported. Beyond its reason for being, the change from Facebook to Meta defeats its purpose, in particular:
- As in "We are the Meta of Metaverse," Meta is void, purposeless, not very creative, and lacks an "a-ha" effect. It does not set a context for an emerging visionary world.
- Is Meta for Meta-Metaverse, in an epistemological sense? Go figure.
- The timing was messy, almost tactical. It diminished the sense of directional change that the renaming should have built momentum for.
- The logo - which probably deserves its post - does not solve any of the problems of the name while opening a new can of worms on the meaning of "infinity" or infinite 3D goggles.
A PDF file (3 pages) with the Brand Positioning, based on a Brand Key Model