There are two things wrong with Facebook’s reported plan to change the name that better reflect its role in the high-tech “metaverse.”
First, metaverses? seriously?
Second, who do they think they are cheating on?
Facebook is still, for goodness sake, that brutal, monopolistic company that wants to undermine your privacy at every turn, spread lies and, like Big Tobacco, encourage young people with its digital products for life.
“Consumers are not stupid,” said Jean Benedict Steenkamp, professor of marketing who specializes in branding at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
It means that the nearly 3 billion Facebook users around the world are well aware of the seemingly endless controversies – issues of privacy, disinformation, and turning a blind eye to hate speech, racism and political deception.
“The only way for Facebook to get past its differences is to radically clean up its actions,” Steenkamp told me. In any case, even if Facebook changed the name of the company, its main product would still be called Facebook.
The Verge, a tech website, reported Wednesday that Facebook may announce the company’s name change as soon as next week, citing “a source with direct knowledge of the matter.”
The Verge reported that the move was “intended to signal the tech giant’s ambition to be known for more than social media and all the ills involved.” Facebook declined to comment on the story.
While Facebook’s intentions remain unclear, the best guess among marketing experts is that the company will follow Google’s lead and create a vaguely named parent company to oversee its various operations.
They include the social media platform of the same name, Instagram, WhatsApp, Oculus, and Facebook’s virtual reality platform.
There is speculation that Facebook will invite parent company Horizon to somehow express a sense of, you know, broad tech horizons, an unlimited future, whatever.
This is where the buzzing idea of the metaverse comes into the picture. This phrase was coined by author Neil Stephenson in his 1992 science fiction novel “Snow Crash.” Think of it as “cyberspace” – another phrase that has science fiction roots – on steroids.
If the parent company is called Horizon, the various divisions of the company can in turn be renamed “Horizon Facebook” or “Horizon Instagram” or variations thereof. Or it can remain unchanged.
Of course, scandal-prone Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is no longer the CEO of Facebook when he testifies in front of disgruntled lawmakers, as he often appears.
He will be CEO of Horizon, which in theory will insulate Facebook’s core brand from any wrongs he has been called to account for. Or he’s no longer the poor sap to have to reply to on Facebook. The department head will be in the hot seat.
This is one possibility. The other thing is that the company may actually want to completely refashion itself in hopes of leaving the problems of the past behind and rebooting its corporate image.
“It is critical for Facebook to get the next generation addicted to its technology,” said Barbara E. Kahn, professor of marketing at the University of Pennsylvania.
“The biggest problem for young people is that Facebook is Granny’s platform, your parents’ platform,” she told me. “They need to get away from that.”
Kahn noted that the company’s new identity would have the dual benefits of turning the page on past scandals and repositioning the company in the digital marketplace as a cooler, more vibrant product.
“They need to get people to think about the brand differently,” she said.
We’ve seen this many times before. Perhaps the most notable example of a company trying to reinvent itself by changing company clothing was when tobacco giant Philip Morris renamed itself the Altria Group in 2003.
The company said the switch better reflects its portfolio of businesses. But she wasn’t kidding with anyone. The Philip Morris brand has become toxic after an endless tobacco controversy.
In the meantime, the Altria brand was pure. So the company called itself that – and continued to sell cigarettes.
We’ve seen this over and over again. Andersen Consulting (with ties to auditor Arthur Andersen of Enron fame) changed her name to Accenture. ValuJet Airlines, which was decommissioned in 1996 after a crash that killed all 110 of its passengers, changed its name to AirTran Airways.
“Changing the brand name entirely is not uncommon,” said Richard J. Lutz, professor of marketing at the University of Florida.
“It’s expensive,” he said. “When companies do this, it is usually out of a desire – or urgency – to distance themselves from undesirable associations.”
He cited recent name changes for troubled, racially tinged brands such as Aunt Jemima and Uncle Ben’s.
If the name change reports are correct, Facebook will just be following this great tradition of announcing to the world that all is well because, there’s a new name at the door.
“It will allow them to modernize themselves,” said Matthew Quint, director of the Center for Global Brand Leadership at Columbia University.
“It will allow them to show that they see a future of different technologies, all coming together,” he said.
yes I agree. crowding techniques. I got you.
But there is likely to be a more practical motive at work here.
“Yes, they need to distance themselves a little bit from the Facebook brand,” said Timothy Calkins, professor of marketing at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management.
“But what this will really do is tell investors and employees that things are different,” he said. “The company’s brand is really the most important at this level.”
It may also help in recruiting new talents. Rookie programmers who may not want to work with Facebook may be more amenable to the idea of working at Horizon.
But, basically, it’s still Facebook.
And Facebook is still an institutional behemoth that has shown time and time again that it cares much more about profit than it cares about protecting its billions of users.
She could call herself Horizon if she wanted to. Heck, they could call themselves world peace, or puppies and kittens.
Until the company makes meaningful changes, it still can’t be trusted.