Why Meta doesn’t matter

In October, Facebook announced that they would rebrand as Meta, emphasizing an investment in a new approach for the company — the “metaverse.” Though the company is marketing the switch as a commitment to connecting people, communities, and businesses, some analysts say it’s merely a distraction tactic from the massive public outcry about the company in the wake of recent Senate hearings.

Rebrands and name changes are usually big deals: They almost always come at crucial inflection points, moments of major change, or when a brand is trying to signal they are moving in a new direction.

Sometimes name shifts keep current associations but strive to shift consumer focus beyond just their core products — think Dunkin’ Donuts moving to Dunkin’ or Kentucky Fried Chicken to the colloquially-used KFC. Other times, like Facebook, they’re more about signaling a brand new start for a company — think Google renaming as Alphabet, or Philip Morris rebranding as Altria.

In any case, renames – when done right – can bring new energy, new purpose, and a reinvigorated, re-educated customer base. But they only work in certain cases: and the larger the company, the higher the bar. Full-scale name changes are only successful when brands lead with a compelling why story to quickly educate their stakeholders and customers about how the new name reflects a new direction
and new experience, both for the company and for its consumers.

Three reasons we think the Facebook rename won’t land the way Zuckerberg hopes it will:

Our brains hate change

Changing a name that is so imprinted on our consciousness brings a specific set of challenges. Simply: Our brains don’t like change, especially to something that carries deeply held, long-term associations. Building new neural pathways is hard, and takes time. A new brand requires a public engagement strategy from the beginning, which Facebook seems to be starting just now. Time will tell if it is successful.

Nothing has actually changed

Facebook/Meta is still a dysfunctional company facing massive concerns over privacy, workplace culture, and the social ramifications of their products – not to mention a disillusioned customer base. Rebrands that signal new beginnings do nothing, if nothing has fundamentally changed at the organizational level.

Confusion doesn’t lead to better brand equity.

Facebook as a product isn’t changing; just the corporate parent. But with such a major rollout – complete with a multi-million dollar ad campaign launching this week – it’s clear the company wants us thinking about Meta, not Facebook. Yet…Facebook is still Facebook, and it is still the most prominent brand in the company’s portfolio. So is it Meta we’re supposed to think of first when we think about Zuck’s company? Or Facebook? Or does Facebook fade away because of Meta? (In the case of Google and Alphabet, the name change had no real impact on consumers; we all still “Google” things.)

Overall, we know that brands look to renew their logo or name at moments of major change – but panic is a different motivation than change.

That’s why it’s vital to always ask “why” before a brand change – to understand the core of a company, what its stakeholders and customers want, and to undergo a full strategic process before rolling out a new image.

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