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- American Internet entrepreneur
“What's in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell just as sweet.” - Juliet, from "Romeo and Juliet" by William Shakespeare.
Names are just words, nothing more than sounds and symbols that we use to help us recognize people, places, or things. A rose is still a rose no matter what you choose to call it.
Or is it?
When Mark Zuckerberg recently announced that Facebook was changing its company name to Meta, the internet reacted with a virtual roll of the eyes. Within minutes of the announcement, jokes and memes criticizing the move went viral — not the reaction Zuckerberg was hoping for.
Facebook, as Zuckerberg argues, is not just “Facebook.com” the social media platform. Facebook owns Instagram, WhatsApp, and Oculus and as its new name Meta implies, is betting on what’s known as the “metaverse,” which is a future social media platform that will leverage virtual reality headsets, holograms, and video to allow users to “live” in an online virtual world.
So, from a branding aspect, Facebook’s name change makes sense.
But with Facebook under siege by internal whistleblowers, Congress and a good portion of the public for its role in the political and social divisiveness we see today, the timing makes the move seem more like an empty attempt to fix a tainted brand. As Shakespeare might write, “Facebook is still Facebook no matter what you choose to call it.”
“Re-branding,” as it’s termed in the marketing world, is nothing new. But in recent years it’s become more challenging.
Sometimes companies change their names to broaden their offerings. Apple Computers is now just “Apple” and Starbucks Coffee, Tea & Spices became just “Starbucks” as it expanded its menu. Other companies re-brand to adjust to changing tastes. Kentucky Fried Chicken changed its name to KFC and Dunkin’ Donuts dropped the “Donuts” as people began to realize that fried and/or sugary things are bad for you.
For large companies, changing names, logos, domain names, and slogans is an expensive and cumbersome undertaking. But whether it’s done to better reflect a company’s offerings or an attempt to repair a damaged corporate image, it’s often a worthwhile investment.
Shakespeare’s Juliet makes a valid point. But in business, for better or worse, perception is reality. Managing how your brand is perceived can be a make-or-break factor as to whether a company succeeds or fails.
And as Zuckerberg has seen over the past few weeks, in a world of instant, viral, unfettered communication that we consumers live in (ironically in a large part due to Facebook’s, or now Meta’s own products), it’s harder to manage consumer perceptions now than ever before.
Customers will no longer be fooled by a simple name change—it takes much more. Nowadays, to change how a company’s name and logo are perceived it takes real, fundamental changes to the products and services they are offering.
This is Meta’s challenge.
With the nearly unlimited resources that a large enterprise like Meta has, there’s a good chance they will succeed. But even with the resources Meta has, it won’t be easy.
For the rest of us small and medium-sized businesses that do not have Meta’s large piles of cash, managing how our companies’ names are perceived comes down to keeping a never-ending, unrelenting focus on simply keeping customers happy. As any businessperson knows, this is not always easy, but at least it’s real.
It will be interesting to see how Meta is perceived in the future. But for now, Facebook is still Facebook, and a rose is still rose no matter what you choose to call it.
JJ Rosen is the founder of Atiba, a Nashville software development and IT support firm. Visit www.atiba.com for more info.
This article originally appeared on Nashville Tennessean: Rebranding Facebook will take more than just a name change