by Amy Fillhouer
Last Thursday, one of the world’s most valuable companies announced a major rebrand: Facebook is now known as Meta. CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced the new name during the company’s augmented and virtual reality conference, Connect.
The Facebook social network won’t be changing its name, but Zuckerberg has been outspoken about wanting the brand to be known for more than just social media, saying, “In our DNA, we are a company that builds technology to connect people.”
This rebirth may seem surprising for a company that’s so universally recognized. With 2.89 billion users, Facebook is the world’s biggest social network. Zuckerberg explained that the rebrand comes from a place of aspiration. “Meta,” the Greek word for “beyond,” was chosen to represent the tools the brand has yet to build in the virtual world.
But it’s not lost on the public that this change follows a series of scandals, including the 2019 FTC violation and the recent “big blackout.” Early in October, a former Facebook employee went public with information claiming that the social network profited off of hateful, divisive content. Coincidentally, every Facebook-owned platform went down the following morning for most of the day.
Any rebranding raises questions from your customers, so if you’re considering one, ask yourself these three important questions first:
Question #1: “Are we rebranding to evolve or escape?”
Customers are smart, and they can see when it’s the latter. Facebook wouldn’t be the first company to rebrand following PR nightmares (see: the Washington Football Team). Comcast, infamous for bad customer service and technical difficulties, renamed its parent company to Xfinity in 2010. Facing heat from environmentalists, BP recast its initials to stand for “Beyond Petroleum” instead of “British Petroleum” (before abandoning it after several oil spills). And Philip Morris, the tobacco company that couldn’t keep defending the negative health effects of its products, now goes by Altria.
Question #2: “Are we rebranding because our customers need a refresh, or because WE do?”
A lot of times, companies want to change for the sake of changing. Internally, they’re tired of their colors, logos, etc. This isn’t always a bad idea, but sometimes the confusion and disruption of a rebrand outweighs its benefits.
Look at Tropicana. After the company switched out its iconic packaging and font for a modern, minimalist look in 2009, sales plummeted as much as 20% before they changed it back. What went wrong? Customers couldn’t find the product on the shelves because they no longer recognized the brand. This is a perfect example of trying to fix something that isn’t broken, resulting in “rebrander’s remorse.”
Question #3: “Does our new brand reflect a larger cultural change within our organization?”
Sometimes rebrands simply offer consumers a fresh face. Other times, companies — especially entrepreneurial organizations — also want to change something bigger about their culture.
Of course, rebrands are substantially more successful when they’re part of a larger strategy. General Motors recently redesigned its logo using brighter blue colors and an “M” resembling an electrical plug to reflect its commitment to environmental sustainability. This branding makes a statement of its new identity and direction, helping customers understand what GM stands for.
Your name and logo communicate more than just your aesthetic. They speak to your ownership, quality and values. Before you commit to your rebrand, make sure your team is ready to collaborate with a clear vision of those values. Why do you do what you do? And are your current logo and name working towards that mission?
Often, rebrands are essential to growth. And as Zuckerberg displayed last week, even the most valuable, established companies sometimes need change in order to evolve. Whatever compels you to think about a new look, we urge you to ask yourself the three posed questions.
At Media Bridge, we want to help our clients stand out. More than that, we want to help you make strategic marketing decisions to influence further growth—including figuring out whether it’s the right time for a rebrand. Check out the work our creative team has done to tell our clients’ stories, and let’s chat about how we can help you tell yours.