The expert's view- Facebook's move to Meta
At the annual Facebook Connect conference, founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced Facebook group’s official rebrand to Meta, which will focus on bringing the metaverse to life and help people connect. The “metaverse,” Zuckerberg revealed, will be an “embodied internet” where users are “in the experience not just looking at it.”
But will the new brand strategy be successful? Is it enough to put Facebook’s whistle-blower controversies behind and improve the tech giant’s reputation? Transform spoke to brand strategists and design experts to explore what the rebrand means for Facebook’s future and reputation.
"The name ‘Meta’ encapsulates Facebook’s ambition to lead us beyond the limited boundaries of our physical world, from its etymological origins (literally meaning ‘beyond’) to deeper suggestion that the company will lead us on a journey into the infinite possibilities (represented by the infinity symbol) of the digital realm. It’s a bold ambition. Whilst other tech billionaires like Bezos and Musk are investing in extra-terrestrial exploration - literally taking us outside the physical confines of our planet - Mark Zuckerberg is taking us out of the physical realm altogether, in favour of a limitless digital universe.
That said, the execution of his vision has already fallen somewhat flat. An opportunity to be distinctive has been lost in the desire to retain links to Facebook through a similar colour palette, whilst the typography is reminiscent of early 2000s phone companies and feels a little generic. Of course, the rebrand also comes at a pivotal time for the company, currently embattled by increasing scrutiny from Congress. As a move to shift focus away from the ills of Facebook of old, the rebrand has its work cut out for it – and, on first review, it may struggle to live up to the task."
-Nir Wegrzyn, CEO and founding partner, BrandOpus
“Facebook’s rebrand to Meta signals a move to simultaneously overcome its current struggles and define a new growth opportunity. The shifting of its focus towards the metaverse and goal to make AR and VR-enabled experiences part of “the next generation of online social experiences” has been well publicised and is indicative of how digital experience is evolving and touching more of our everyday lives
Brand and reputation are of course intrinsically linked but, in the short term, people will not just magically forget the whistle-blower news. What the rebrand does enable Meta to do, however, is finally realise its multi-brand, multi-product structure. Similar to the Google/Alphabet situation, this name change solidifies Meta's ambition and future vision. In the longer term, this will help distance the company and other products from any one of its other products' issues, thus helping improve Meta's overall company reputation.” –
-Tom Bianchi, VP marketing, EMEA, Acquia
“The renaming of Facebook’s parent company to Meta changes nothing for them, especially not the public perception of Facebook as a force for chaos, misinformation, and privacy violation. Mark Zuckerberg, a simulacrum of a human being, proposes that we will join his online environment called the “metaverse”, presumably as an escape from the dystopian society that Facebook has helped create. The name might be better understood as a reference to their renewed focus on mining and selling metadata left behind by their users. When individuals, groups, and Congress complain about privacy concerns, the business formerly known as Facebook can say that it was being completely transparent when it renamed the company.
Besides having some linguistic challenges – the word “meta” has other meanings in languages around the word – the name is just vague enough to serve as an empty vessel for Facebook’s attempt to rebrand itself as...something. The product name itself won’t change, and people will continue to refer to the whole entity as Facebook - just as no one, besides their lawyers, call the parent company of Google by the name Alphabet. As the saying goes, a difference which makes no difference is no difference.”
-Laurel Sutton, founder, Catchword Branding
"While it would be easy to see this recent move from Facebook as a smoke screen to throw people off negative press, it’s short-sighted to look at the launch of Meta through such a one dimensional lens. A rebrand fools no-one when you are dealing with a crisis and Facebook will know this.
The reality is that this move has been on the cards for a very long time as Facebook transitions its focus from platform (Whatsapp, Facebook, Instagram) to medium (Virtual & Augmented Reality). This move has very little to do with the individual Facebook platform and more to do with the company setting its intentions on virtual & augmented reality being the driving force behind the organisation.
"From a brand perspective, this appears to be a bit more than simply “rebranding Facebook”. It’s a strategic restructure of the company's various platforms with the introduction of a new umbrella parent company, not unlike the move that Google made in 2015 when it renamed to Alphabet. In that sense, it seems to be a logical strategic move for a company that was at risk of becoming a directionless patchwork Frankenstein’s monster of platforms, softwares, tools and companies it has slowly assimilated over the years."
-Alex Marshall, director of creative and strategy, Starts With A
“Whilst the new name has already been widely ridiculed, this will likely be a successful move for Facebook. Zuckerberg has a clear vision and the Facebook name will constrain these ambitions. It makes commercial sense and already the share price has increased as a result. By moving to Meta, a clear and strong identity, the company can travel in the direction of the future platforms it wants to build. Yes, this might be another Google/Alphabet, but the strategy and reasoning behind this rebrand is much stronger. By 2031 I doubt that Gen Alpha will even be aware that Facebook used to be the parent brand.”
-Manfred Abraham, co-CEO, Yonder.
"It's impossible to divorce the visual identity work here from the company and it's reputation. I suspect this will soon become a classic case study for when branding is used in an attempt to mask over a questionable history. The visual identity has been compared to others carrying a very similar symbol. This nearly always happens when a firm is a global one, so it's not a huge shock. The name too is carried by others, notably Meta Design — and the typeface Meta, both from the pen of prominent Design luminary Erik Speikermann. Any designer would know this — so I wonder if the naming decree came from on high and not a design firm... The bespoke font from Facebook is used — hard to argue with. The mark is well done. The applications are slick. However a new name and symbol do little to move the reputational needle — what is needed here is a deeper, more fundamental and tangible change. The design work is not awful, it’s just that the reputation of Facebook is."
-Simon Manchipp, founder & executive strategic creative director, SomeOne London