Facebook to change its name to Meta

Meta Facebook

The new Meta brand. Source: supplied.

After a week of speculation, Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg has revealed the tech giant will change the name of its holding company to Meta to reflect its mission to build the ‘metaverse’, as the company attempts to rebrand itself following a string of controversies. 

The rebrand was unveiled at Facebook’s annual Connect conference on Thursday, one week after The Verge reported the name change was imminent. 

Meta will be the holding company for all of the brands in the Facebook group, including social media sites Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp, and virtual reality company Oculus. 

The company intends to start trading under the new stock ticker of MVRS on December 1, and will also change how it reports its financials starting with the fourth quarter of 2021. From that time, Meta will split its financial reporting into two segments: Family of Apps and Reality Labs. 

At the conference, Zuckerberg spoke about his vision for the metaverse — an “immersive” digital world made up of virtual reality headsets and augmented reality — which he said the company believes “will be the successor of the mobile internet”. The name Meta was chosen because it can mean “beyond”, the company added.  

The next chapter of the internet, Zuckerberg said in a letter accompanying the announcement, will be “an embodied internet where you’re in the experience, not just looking at it”. 

“The defining quality of the metaverse will be a feeling of presence — like you are right there with another person or in another place. Feeling truly present with another person is the ultimate dream of social technology. That is why we are focused on building this,” he said.

In the metaverse, individuals will be able to “teleport instantly as a hologram to be at the office without a commute,” said Zuckerberg, and companies and creators will design holograms instead of “physical things assembled in factories”.

Meta work

An illustration of how Meta sees people using the metaverse in work settings. Source: supplied.

While Zuckerberg said the metaverse won’t be created by one single company, he believes Meta’s role is to “accelerate the development of the fundamental technologies, social platforms and creative tools to bring the metaverse to life, and to weave these technologies through our social media apps”.

In a statement provided to SmartCompany, Meta’s managing director for Australia and New Zealand Will Easton said the company will be “collaborating at every stage with policymakers, experts and industry partners” as it continues to develop its contributions to the metaverse. 

“There are already a wealth of Australian companies and creators working in this space, including fashion designers, gaming and VR experience creators, academics and marketers experimenting with new immersive formats,” he said. 

“Australia has an opportunity to be on the forefront of this technology even at this early stage of its development.”

“Too little too late” for Facebook

The tech giant has so far committed US$10 billion ($13.3 billion) to its metaverse project in 2021, with additional product announcements unveiled at Thursday’s conference; however, it comes amid ongoing regulatory and public relations concerns engulfing the company, including recent reports of toxic business practices exposed by whistleblower Frances Haugen and tech outages that affected users and businesses across the globe. 

Writing for SmartCompany last week, independent brand counsel Michel Hogan said it was unsurprising that Zuckerberg would seek to change the company’s corporate identity. 

“It’s a go-to move for companies when the going gets tough,” said Hogan, but “it also rarely works”. 

“A name helps people pick you out of a lineup, over time becoming a marker for what an organisation does and how people think about what it does. In simple terms, do bad things, and you get a bad name,” wrote Hogan. 

“Names are a social capital you can trade for other things, such as customers and reputation. However, the things that build or destroy that capital come from what you do and how you do it. So unless those things change, a different name will quickly fall to the same stuff.”

Paris Young, founder of strategic design and brand consultancy Pascal Satori, shares a similar view, telling SmartCompany the name change is “too little too late” from a branding an design strategy standpoint. 

“While I agree that distancing the Facebook brand from the other products with a new umbrella brand name is the right decision, it still reeks of a serious lack of understanding and disregard for corporate responsibility,” she says. 
 
“Strategically, Facebook should have been reorganising their brand structure and looking to rebrand as soon as they started gaining traction with other technology and products. Not now when they have come under so much scrutiny, and when it looks like an all-too convenient reaction to a mountain of bad press.”
 
However, King Kong founder and head of growth Sabri Suby says the repositioning of the umbrella company makes sense given the direction and investments outlined by Zuckerberg. 
 
“They are going to have multiple dimensions to their business moving forward and they already do with the likes of WhatsApp and Instagram,” he tells SmartCompany
 
“And so by just having the company’s name as Facebook — just one of their existing platforms — it isn’t an accurate representation of the business as a whole, where it plans to go and all of the different areas that it will be moving into in the not so distant future.”

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