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Facebook to Meta: The Risk of Rebranding

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Just as another Facebook scandal hit our news waves with former employee Frances Haugen imploring regulators to take serious action against the social media giant, the company did their best to play the ultimate reverse card.

A total company-wide rebrand. It unfortunately and understandably fell flat.

Making the decision to rebrand is never an easy one, especially when you have made the decision to change your company’s trademark entirely. It can sometimes be the best route forward, especially if your business is changing its target market, its services, or its products. It can be a good idea if your initial brand was created years ago, and you are ready to update it to better suit today’s style and customer values. However, it is a massive risk.

Let’s analyse the Facebook to Meta rebrand.

Much of the criticism that has surfaced in the wake of Meta’s announcement is that the company has pushed forward its rebrand in order to shirk the negative press and unfavourable reputation that Facebook has acquired over recent years. Facebook had become synonymous with data leaks, improper handling of customer information, misinformation, and allowing false statements and misleading advertisements to be displayed on its platform. By launching Meta now, at the height of worsening accusations against the company, public opinion seems to view the rebrand as desperate attempt to ditch the poor reputation of Facebook and start fresh with a company that is moving forward into the “metaverse”.

So, potentially poor timing. It may have been better for the company to face the negative media attention and then launch Meta when the harsh spotlight was no longer focused so intensely on them. It may have brought their new brand less public and professional scrutiny.

Another facet of a company rebrand is introducing the new style, name, and company message to your customers directly on your social media platforms. It may be best to keep it simple by announcing your decision and then allowing your audience to ask any questions or make any comments, even if they are negative. Defending your choice too harshly may alienate customers further and make it seem that you do not care about their connection to your previous and future business identity.

If you have been on Twitter, we can see that Meta decided to handle the public reaction differently. Whilst I personally did not see them engaging with negative feedback from the public directly, they did repeatedly tweet other franchises and well-known brands to push the new “meta” message. Over and over again, the Meta Twitter account made jokes and innuendos while replying to or tagging other companies. This behaviour itself became a meme and unfortunately, rather than solidifying the new name, made the company look, for lack of a better word, desperate. They perhaps were trying too hard in the wrong place. The lesson here may be to keep your rebrand and the messaging professional and sincere, especially if you want your new business name to be taken seriously.

Messaging is an integral part of branding and marketing. And Meta’s is unclear at best, inaccessible at worst. Firstly, public understanding of the “metaverse” and what that actually means is loose, with many people’s frame of reference being superhero and sci-fi movies. Without offering detailed information on what the “metaverse” is and what it means for the average person, Meta has launched into its rather grandiose plans for the future, one where people are living more online and more digitally than ever before. Secondly, one of the main messages is that the “metaverse” Meta plans to create and make mainstream would be an accessible platform for everyone worldwide. But that intention falls short when the crucial technology for such software, their Occulus VR equipment, is almost $400, which is not small change for many people struggling with the impacts of the pandemic and a hard-hit world economy. It does make the new brand seem out of touch and strictly exclusive to those who have the right knowledge and the money, a direct parallel of what Facebook previously portrayed.

When taking on the challenge of rebranding, you must consider your current and new market. You could lose loyal customers when changing directions, especially into an industry and technology that people may not fully understand. It might be necessary if your brand no longer aligns with modern values and modern needs but if your intention is to rebrand to maybe avoid public scrutiny or lose a negative image, you might want to rethink that plan and put thoughtful action into changing your company reputation before drastically changing your business’s identity.

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