Wharton marketing professor Patti Williams isn’t sold on the stated reasons behind Facebook’s recent name change— to Meta—or the timing. Branded with a distended infinity symbol, Meta is meant to reflect the future of the world’s largest social media platform. Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, and Oculus now fall under the Meta umbrella.
Embroiled in controversy, Facebook is facing intense scrutiny over data privacy, monopolism, and allegations that its algorithms help to spread disinformation. The company has long been the target of policymakers who want to reform it, especially after whistleblower Frances Haugen testified before a Senate subcommittee last month about the company’s allegedly harmful practices.
“The truth is a brand name doesn’t change what’s going on in an organization,” Williams says. “The dilemma they’re facing now is, do people want to be part of dystopian metaverse that’s run by a company that seems to have the kind of values that Facebook has? I don’t know if consumers really do.”
Williams says companies typically rebrand themselves or their products when there is a merger or acquisition that requires an updated corporate identity, when there is a shift in strategic direction, or when the existing brand name no longer fits or reflects outdated norms.
“I think what you see here is Facebook hitting point No. 2 and point No. 3,” Williams says. “There’s a shift in strategic direction, and they’re facing a lot of baggage with their current brand name. Both of those things combined seemed to have led them to decide that the new name is one that maybe has more positive potential in the marketplace.”
She says the company can spread the new name if they help consumers form meaningful associations with Meta.
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