Facebook – Different Name, Same Opportunities and Challenges
by Betsy Burton
According to The Verge, Facebook is planning to change its corporate name. The new name is a closely kept secret. However, it is expected to announce the new name at its Connect conference on October 28th 2021.
Not the Only Company to Go Through Rebranding
Facebook is not the only company to change its name as it takes on new businesses. In 2015, Google reorganized and changed its name to Alphabet. In 2003, Philip Morris changed its name to Altria Group, in order to rebrand the company’s tainted reputation as it took on additional brands, such as Kraft Foods.
Comcast tried to rebrand itself as Xfinity because of its internet service issues. And, Angie’s List, which started as a user reference and review site, was changed to Angie Inc. as it branched out to broader services (payments, scheduling, etc.).
But, Why Now?
It is not a surprise that Facebook is considering this move.
On one hand, the company’s business has expanded significantly with Instagram, WhatsApp, Oculus, Onavo, and Beluga. The company is also working on innovations that are well beyond the Facebook brand, not the least of which is Metaverse. Facebook’s CEO describes Metaverse as, “a virtual environment where you can be present with people in a digital space.”
On the other hand, Facebook has and is continuing to face backlash from Governments, businesses and individual users for knowingly using personal data to promote potentially harmful advertising (particularly with respect to teenagers), supporting inadequate controls over misinformation, and putting profit before social responsibility. The timing of this name change is clearly related to the company’s desire to put some of these reputation issues aside as it pursues new ventures.
Name Change Won’t Solve Public Image Issues
The problem Facebook has is that its corporate name is too well-known. Even if it changes it’s corporate name, the Facebook reputation will carry into its new ventures. Even more importantly, unless the company significantly addresses the very complex ethical issues it faces as well as its business model, the new names and brands will become as tainted as Facebook. In fact, the company is already trying to put out statements promoting the social responsibility of Metaverse.
Don’t expect a lot of immediate changes with this name change. We believe that Facebook is unlikely to change its business model enough to mitigate its deep ethical editorial issues. Facebook is playing a long game with this name change, hoping that over time people will forget the issues with Facebook as/if they migrate to Metaverse. However, the Facebook reputation will likely follow Metaverse because of the company’s revenue model. It will take much more than a name change; more likely the introduction of regulatory controls and/or a corporate break-up.