A corporate name change and/or a rebranding may be embarked upon for a number of reasons – including a refocused mission, updated products, and, at times, as a means by which to exert distance from adversity. This week’s announcement by CEO Mark Zuckerberg that Facebook has changed its name to Meta as it moves into new areas of tech focus, then, would appear, at least in purpose, to be a combination of all of the above. It’s been met with mixed and uneven results – and with good reason.
On the one hand, the company is different than the one founded in 2004. On the social networking side popular apps Instagram and WhatsApp are, today, also a part of the corporate stable of offerings. Now, with the announced move into virtual and augmented business reality it would seem to make good business sense to form a new umbrella entity that underscores more product diversity. So why does it just not feel right?
Timing. With the dust far from settled on the fallout over Frances Haugen’s whistleblower testimony, this feels like misdirection and “wag the dog.” It’s too soon. Someone also might have let Zuckerberg know that October is national Bullying Prevention Month. If I were asked? I would have waited until after the first of the year (at the earliest) and hit 2022 with a bang and more specific details on new product offerings, perhaps even at the respected CES in Las Vegas (Consumer Electronics Show). Then again, an unveiling at a major conference would have meant media in attendance and more questions and scrutiny – all avoided with Zuckerberg’s online, controlled announcement.
In its coverage of the news, The New York Times reminded its readers that Phillip Morris changed its name to Altria in 2001 after years of tobacco health concern scrutiny. Who knew? The point being – you can’t put lipstick on a pig. Time will tell with Facebook, er, Meta. If I were them, however, I would be focused on taking real and public corrective action to improve their existing social platforms to operate more in the public interest (or at least not to its detriment). There’s just too much unfinished business. Better to fix what’s “broke” than start touting something shiny and new.