• Transform magazine
  • December 05, 2019

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Opinion: Facebook goes corporate. The power of action, the promise of belief

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As the dust has settles around the social media giant’s three week old rebrand, Vincent Roffers argues that real work has yet to begin

Branding is actually pretty straightforward. It’s about signalling, storytelling and then acting. All these need to be in balance to ultimately be successful. Therefore, we won’t know whether this recent introduction of a corporate Facebook brand has actually ‘worked’ for some time.

Facebook has taken the first step, articulating a unifying vision – to give people the power to build community and bring the world closer together. The next and most critical step is using the brand to drive this vision through the business. This is something that hasn’t yet been done but is a must in order to make people believe in it again.

From signal to belief…and everything in between

Brand is what you do when people are looking, but most importantly when they’re not. Fortunately, or unfortunately, for Facebook…we’re all looking right now. This does, however, create an incredible opportunity to demonstrate its values and brand are aligned.

The response to big brand launches like this one are often similar to a professional sports draft, in that people are quick to react in the moment and hand out “draft grades” before the players even play a minute in their new reality. We find, without fail, that top draft picks end up being busts and those picks we ‘hated’ end up becoming the next team saviour. This is almost 100% driven by what they do and how they act over time, not the splash at the outset or what they say or is said about them. The environment, context and those around them must also work together in service of them performing better.

So, I guess what I’m saying is whether you ‘like’ the new Facebook corporate logo or not is kind of irrelevant…though I’m sure the design community will continue to have its strong opinions. Honestly, the revisionist history on logos is amusing. For example, if you told me the world’s leading logistics company would have a childish smiley face logo and be named after the Earth’s largest forest, I’d call you crazy. But it just works. The reason we don’t question it is based on the actions Amazon has taken over time and our resulting belief that they simply make things work.

It’s not what they do now, it’s what they do next

Look at the relatively recent example of Google’s new corporate brand, Alphabet. This move was a quiet signal and story but works for the business as it diversifies and needs both a connector and ethos for expansion and trying new things. On the other end of the spectrum, The We Company – although an easy target – is a great example of all signal, little story and even less action, which is at some level emblematic of the challenges it has had as a business.

My favourite deployment of a corporate brand was P&G reintroducing itself during the Olympics years ago. The brand signalled the market, told a great story and then acted accordingly over time, so this isn’t impossible to get right. It is also an example of when the actual logo was met with a mixed reception, but the execution and action has made it a success.

Facebook could have considered creating greater distance from the Facebook app, providing a greater buffer between actions of corporate and product. However, people are smart and would make the connection regardless of the amount of distinction, particularly given the quantity of eyes on the business right now. An Alphabet-type solution could therefore be seen as a bit disingenuous here given all that’s happened. Facebook’s actual solution could be the most transparent, honest approach in creating a Facebook corporate brand. Granted, there will be no hiding behind this brand, though it’s probably exactly what is needed as people are demanding more transparency and accountability from them. 

An onus for action, above all

The pressure is now really on Facebook to act more and tell less, given this all comes in the wake of some serious challenges. Doing nothing tangible to prove they are “giving people the power to build community and bring the world closer together” will make this fall extremely flat, especially as the market is watching for any misstep. And let’s be honest, many are looking for failure.

I’m though quite hopeful. I think Facebook has the moment, platform and gumption to do something special. I truly want to believe, I really do, but now it’s up to the them to convince me through action why I should.

Vincent Roffers is executive strategy director of  Superunion New York

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