Why bigger is Meta

Michael Goldthorpe on Facebook’s move to Meta, and whether a logo change and advanced technology is enough to win back trust.

There are only two conversations about Logos. The one about making it bigger so people can see past the noise of your ad and work out where to buy stuff. And the one about the companies who switch theirs up and deliver something crap.

Everyone hates new logos. It’s part of the logo birthing process. We lovingly add genitalia, scour the web for look-a-likes and mutter about how back-of a-napkin doodles could possibly cost a seven-figure bucket of cash. Logo reinvention is blood sport.

All that to say that any new logo from Facebook would always be met with derision. And in this case, rightly so. But is it really about the logo?

Facebook broke the internet

Facebook announced its shift to Meta on October 28 and instantly leapt to the top spot in Google’s trending search topics. Two million Americans rushed online to find out more. Meta was four times more popular than – Zayn Malik’s break up with Gigi Hadid. It also beat A.J. Green’s game-ending interception in the NRL, Jada Pinket-Smith’s lack of boredom in the bedroom and a robbery at the home of a Real Housewife. It was a big news day, and Facebook nailed it.

Here in New Zealand, the story peaked at number three. Right behind the All Blacks playing Wales and every parent’s biggest Lockdown fear, ‘is Roblox closed for good?’ In a world that likes to claim the breaking of the internet with popular stories, Facebook’s announcement did a solid job.

The marketing strategy sucks

I first heard about this cliché logo and scary new name on LinkedIn. @Piero Liguori summed it up with his trademark wit and clarity of thought when he questioned the wisdom of “a company that developed a reputation for being increasingly intrusive, creepy and untrustworthy [changing]their name to one that is EXPLICITLY all-encompassing and intrusive to all areas of life.”

He’s quite right. With all the money in the world to manage reputation and develop kick-arse design, Facebook doubled-down on everything we hate. And the cherry on the top is the world’s four billionth infinity-loop logo that’s fashioned to resemble a letter. Genius.

It’s not about the logo

Here’s where marketers get excited about stuff that doesn’t matter. Of course we do, it’s our job and our passion, we love this logo/naming stuff and it feeds our families. But Facebook don’t care about the logo. They care about the money.

Meta isn’t a comms journey, it’s a business dodge. And it’s straight from the Google playbook. On October 2, 2015, Google became Alphabet. There was lots of fuss about making Google ‘cleaner and more accountable’. Alphabet is the parent, Google is one of the children and it’s instantly harder to break up the business in an anti-trust lawsuit. Sound familiar?

It’s Facebook growing up

Facebook was launched as Facemash in 2003. Ironically, its original name is more on the money than the one we know. By December the following year, they had a million users. And four years later Microsoft bought a piece, valuing the business at $15B. In 2009 they claimed to be making money. And 2010 was a tipping point. The movie The Social Network positioned Mark Zuckerberg as something of a weirdo. Teenage Facebook started to get personality wobbles.

Fast forward to 2018 and a whistle-blower outed Cambridge Analytica for harvesting customer information from Facebook to build a machine that could influence elections. Facebook had moved from ‘a place to connect’ to a ‘weapon with uncomfortable power’ – and the people getting elected got cross. In April that year, Zuckerberg was invited to ‘explain the Internet to Congress’. Stuff got real.

Why bigger is Meta

On the face of it, Meta is a smart move to expand the reach of an online platform with new and exciting virtual technologies. Meta is “a set of interconnected digital spaces that lets you do things you can’t do in the physical world.” The socially interested among us are right to ask if it’s just more technology to do the bad stuff that you wouldn’t do in the physical world. It’s a good question.

The politically interested among us would ask if it’s a cynical move to dance around liability and lower the potential of anti-trust legislation. It’s a good question.

And the marketing-ly interested among us would ask why you would change your name from something perceived as scary to something that actually is – and create a new logo that’s figuratively and literally (just add an appendage) bollocks. That too, is a really good question. But I’m not convinced that any of this has anything to do with the logo.

Michael Goldthorpe.

Michael Goldthorpe is a writer at Hunch. He has a Facebook page and mostly posts pictures of his cat.

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Michael Goldthorpe is Managing Partner at Hunch.

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