A brand is a promise made and a promise delivered.
I formerly known as Facebook now wish to be known as Meta. In one swoop, the world’s biggest social platform changed its corporate name to Meta. Facebook’s name has been virtually synonymous with social media. So why would anyone want to squander all that brand equity?
Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg said the rebranding reflects the company’s increased focus on building a virtual world, known as a metaverse. The company’s various social media apps, including Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp, will now become subsidiaries but still retain their names. The new move has many sides.
1. Perfect deflection and PR voice
Deflection is defined as a strategy to bounce action or responsibility away from oneself and toward another person, time, or place.
When an established company becomes fraught with scandal, advisers will often suggest changing the subject to distract from its mistakes and divert public attention. This is a classic public relations strategy.
Facebook has been facing a tsunami of bad press following misinformation on its platforms, and content moderation failures. For a brand like Facebook, marred by these concerns for years, a rename could ease some of its reputational damage.
2. Smart investment move
Secondly, it helps to placate investors as Facebook stock prices have been declining recently. Having a parent company streamlines operations, and signals transparency and clarity in the future.
This will play out positively in the financial media especially.
3. Brand territoriality and think ahead
Another good in the rebranding is that Facebook could get the first mover advantage in the virtual reality space which seems to be where the internet is heading long term.
The word “meta” comes from the Greek word meaning “beyond”. And that’s the brand intention of Facebook.
By the time otter players see it more clearly, they will be playing catch -up. Remember how GTB Bank defined the customer service space well ahead of the market. It’s probably a different story today and the lines of differentiation between the big banks have become blurred.
Territoriality refers to the monopolization of space by an individual or group. Facebook is contemplating a site-specific dominance. This will give it a stronger PR voice in the future.
1. Predictable distraction
Some analysts consider the Facebook rebranding a foolish attempt to distract from the criticism the company has recently faced.
As a result, the renaming has not produced positive PR results and the weight of public opinion is still not in Facebook’s favor.
2. Public confusion
There is still a great deal of public confusion. Many of its 2.8 billion users including almost 30 million Nigerian users are either confused or have no clue about what is going on.
The metaverse new name is not well-known or understood, so it’s confusing. So, there are more questions than celebrations.
3. Missing PR fundamental backbone
Great PR is built on support evidence and should follow sweeping internal changes. “You can’t carve fine art out of bad wood.
The most critical issue with this rebranding is that the new brand has been introduced without any substantive or noticeable change at the company.
Facebook should probably have waited until it established itself as a provider of metaverse products or applications before announcing a new brand.
That is what Google did when its corporate entity was rebranded to Alphabet in 2015. Over many years leading up the change, Google’s business had expanded well beyond its search engine product.
When the company adopted its new name, it had already become a tech conglomerate comprised of a wide range of companies and products including driverless cars, medical devices, and smart home appliances. As a result, the brand change not only made sense, but it also effectively minimized the associations between Google and its sister companies, shielding Google from public big tech concerns and Wall Street profit expectations of
4. Over promise and under deliver?
PR and Marketing strategists counsel that it’s always better to under promise and over deliver. In this case, Facebook might be doing the reverse.
Zuckerberg had explained that “It is time for us to adopt a new company brand to encompass everything we do.” But, that’s just not true.
The vision behind Meta is still just that: a vision. Right now, social media remains the core of the company’s operations and revenues.
By adopting a brand name that is based on future potential capabilities and a platform and products that may not be established for nearly a decade, the company sets itself up to confuse people at best; at worst, it will disappoint people and further degrade their trust in the company.
5. Missing preps and PR props
When business leaders want to change their company’s identity or reposition their business, they often turn to external messaging and communications first — a new name, a fresh logo, an advertising campaign.
That’s because these kinds of surface-level and peripheral changes are relatively easy to make and also help to energize and connect with the target audience.
This has not happened with the latest Facebook rebranding into Meta.
Ugly or strategic?
By adopting a new name, Facebook may be trying to claim that it is developing innovative technologies that bring people together in new and exciting ways.
Despite its new name, Facebook cannot effectively create any separation between its social media business and the metaverse and other developments because the latter are only in their infancy.
Many people refer to a brand as a promise; but a brand must be a promise delivered. With its rebranding effort, Facebook is making promises that it doesn’t seem able to deliver right now.
Until it shows that it’s making real changes, Meta will just be the same old Facebook by another name.
Will brand history some day describe the latest Facebook renaming as the good, the bad and the ugly? Or the good, the bad and the strategic? Time will tell.