Facebook or the triple-risk meta(verse) rebranding
Six years ago, on August 10, 2015, Google co-founder Larry Page announced that he and his founding partner Sergey Brin wanted to establish the Alphabet brand as a corporate holding company. Alphabet Inc. replaced Google Inc. The purpose communicated at the time was to create an “anonymous” holding brand under which a wide variety of brands and companies with diverse focuses – from self-driving cars to drone delivery services to intelligent contact lenses for diabetics – could then be positioned. Now Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg announced that the company should no longer be called Facebook but Meta in the future. In contrast to Google, Zuckerberg is not taking one risk with Alphabet, but three risks.
(1) Facebook remains at the center
Even if Zuckerberg renames the company Meta, Facebook will remain omnipresent in day-to-day business. Take Alphabet! Even today, after six years, Alphabet has still not really established itself and conquered an independent position. A typical indication of this is that almost whenever the name Alphabet comes up, the name Google is also communicated along with it. For example, the Boston Consulting Group recently presented the “Most Innovative Companies 2021”. The top 5 are: Apple, Alphabet (Google), Amazon, Microsoft and Tesla.
This means that we can already assume that over a longer period of time, whenever Meta is reported in the media, the name Facebook will continue to appear. From this point of view, it is very likely that the company will continue to be seen only as a “social media group”. This, of course, justifiably raises the question of why it was necessary to make this name change right now, since in this case two much greater risks still arise from a brand perspective.
(2) The pressure on Meta(verse) to succeed is enormous
While Alphabet has been established purely as a holding brand, in the case of Meta it looks very different. For Mark Zuckerberg, Meta with Metaverse is the digital future of the world. On July 27 of this year, the FAZ wrote in Germany: “Facebook is developing the virtual world” and continued: “Mark Zuckerberg sees the project as central for the tech company. Users should be able to meet, spend money, consume media – and possibly even work – in this artificial online world.”
But today no one knows whether this vision will really be successful in technical terms and, above all, in terms of market success. With this, Mark Zuckerberg – actually for no real reason – takes the risk that his new company name will one day be associated with a meta- or better megaflop. But that’s not all and that brings us to the third risk.
(3) The Metaverse could be criticized even more than Facebook
Currently, many see as a major reason for the renaming of Facebook to Meta a kind of “distraction maneuver” to distract from the current criticism around the current whistleblower affair. But this brand crisis, like most brand crises on this planet, will very likely pass for Facebook. Only with the metaverse could Meta and Mark Zuckerberg – in the long term – come under much more and lasting criticism.
For example, Miriam Meckel, German publicist and entrepreneur, wrote in a column in the Handelsblatt: “Metaverse – the biggest conceivable disruption in tech history or just a digital crapshoot?” and further “Mark Zuckerberg wants to create a completely digital world. A billion-dollar market beckons, but also the danger of increasing disinformation and social division.”
Last Sunday, the Austrian daily Die Presse even said of Meta, “Zuckerberg’s rogue state 2.0.” And Democratic Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez already today called Meta a cancer for democracy.
From small to large
But what else should or could Mark Zuckerberg have done from a brand perspective to transform the group in his long-term interests or vision? Simple answer: He should have rebuilt the group from a position of strength. In doing so, he should have taken Facebook itself as a role model. So the birth of Facebook did not start as the largest social network on earth. Quite the opposite:
When Facebook launched in 2004, there were already two leading social networks, MySpace and Friendster. But instead of simply positioning the brand as another social network, Mark Zuckerberg found the first focus and thus the first market leadership for Facebook at Harvard. Facebook was initially the social network only for this one university. Then he expanded the focus to the Ivy League and then to universities in general.
With this step-by-step approach across each target market, Facebook moved from one mental position of strength to the next until it conquered the world. He could have applied exactly this kind of thinking to the Meta brand and then, from a position of strength, renamed the company from Facebook to Meta. He would then have written a logical success story. From this point of view, he is taking these three risks mentioned above completely unnecessarily today. In addition, he should always keep one thing in mind. If Meta’s dream should come true, it was largely financed by the group’s social networks.