Facebook's problem isn't its brand - it's Mark Zuckerberg
rebrandis to help the company focus on its metaverse ambitions, and not just social media.
Zuckerberg announced during a virtual company event on Thursday the tech giant will now have a new corporate name - Meta.
Meta will essentially be an umbrella corporation with two businesses underneath it. The first will be Facebook's traditional social media business. The second, called Reality Labs, will focus its metaverse ambitions developing virtual reality and augmented reality products.
"From now on, we are going to be Metaverse first, not Facebook first," Zuckerberg said Thursday. But with him so visibly at the helm, it could make it hard for people to compartmentalize.
Helen Edwards, a branding expert and cofounder of marketing firm Passionbrand, told Insider Zuckerberg's continued presence as CEO will make it hard for Meta to separate the company's past from its future.
"Mark Zuckerberg himself is so much the face of the company - whether it's Meta or Facebook, the social media pummeling will come back to him not the brands," she said in an email to Insider.
"He is associated strongly with both - to give Meta its best shot, he might need to step back as the face of the business and find other people to represent the brand," she added.
Marketing Week columnist Mark Ritson wrote in a column on Friday, which said Zuckerberg has long been a branding problem for Facebook. "He will be the biggest branding issue for Meta as of today," Ritson wrote.
Jim Prior, CEO at brand agency Superunion, agreed Zuckerberg's personal brand could have a negative impact on Meta.
"With any corporate brand there is an inevitable strong link to the reputation, personality and performance of its leader - and that is particularly so in founder-led firms. So, yes, Zuckerberg's personal brand will be associated with Meta and any criticism or negative experience of him will impact the corporate brand," Prior told Insider.
However, he added that corporate brands have "narrower audiences" than consumer brands so that could allow Meta to "loosen their perceptual bond to Zuckerberg, freeing them from some of the negative associations that go with the Zuckerberg name and the corporate strategy he oversees."
Facebook's Meta rebrand is similar to Google's decision in 2015 to create its parent company Alphabet. But whereas Google's founders gradually distanced themselves from the company following the Alphabet restructure, officially stepping down four years later in 2019, Zuckerberg has signaled that he wants to be heavily involved in Meta's future.
Zuckerberg said in an interview with The Information, ahead of Thursday's announcement, that he has no plans to step back from his role as CEO of the company. "I really run the company on a day-to-day basis," Zuckerberg told The Information.
More than just being the face of the company, during his 77-minute presentation unveiling Meta on Thursday, Zuckerberg peppered in multiple jokes referring to his personal life.
Facebook is in the midst of a PR nightmare, with whistleblower Frances Haugen releasing hundreds of internal company documents, which have been scrutinized by journalists, lawmakers, and The Wall Street Journal, the Federal Trade Commission reported.
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