The golden rule of rebranding is to focus on the organisational vision and commercial strategy rather than the brand itself – because focusing on the brand merely invites scepticism and criticism. Mark Zuckerberg wasn't lying when he said,
“Facebook is an iconic social media brand, but increasingly, it just doesn’t encompass everything we do.”
And when he added "from now on we're going to be metaverse first, not Facebook first" Meta was born. The problem is, timing is everything when launching a brand. To push ahead with rebranding when your existing brand faces serious questions… well, that was never going to play out well.
Choose your name carefully
Zuck first mentioned his intention to build a metaverse in July 2021, and expanded on his virtual reality vision at the launch of the new group company. Creating the impression that you’re attempting to decouple your future business from the negativity that shrouds the existing one is a display of corporate arrogance. The choice of name is surprising given, Facebook’s rationale for change. Linking the brand to future technology and/or commercial strategy is perilous. What if the technology/vision fails? And even if they do succeed, what happens when that technology is superseded? For an organisation that has fundamentally changed modern life and brought us all closer, Meta’s role in the world and the customers it serves are startlingly absent from the new brand. At a time when a demonstration of compassion and human empathy wouldn’t go amiss, it’s one hell of a missed opportunity.
Learn from rebranding success
When Google rebranded as Alphabet in 2015 for similar strategic, founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin explained the rationale behind their choice of name: “We liked the name Alphabet because it’s a collection of letters that facilitate language – humanity’s the most important innovation, and core to a Google search.” They added, “the meaning of Alpha within the investment community is a return above the benchmark, which is what we strive to deliver.” In a move designed to showcase Google’s diversified portfolio and address an increasingly stagnating share price, the rebranding was linked to significant organisational restructuring. And it was well received by the markets – the share price rose 5% the following morning.
Unfortunately for Meta, that boat has sailed and they’ll need to find another way to demonstrate that they’re on our side. Good luck!