Rebrands are rarely popular. When Twitter became X, it was a “bad joke.” When SunTrust and BB&T became Truist, the brand evoked “toothpaste” and “linoleum.” When Philip Morris became Altria, “names [were] changed to protect the guilty.”
So eye-rolling was to be expected when social media giant Facebook announced on October 28, 2021 that the company was changing its name to Meta.
At the time, some critics viewed the rebrand as a sad attempt to shield the company from bad press. Others pointed out that the superficial change wasn’t being accompanied by any meaningful restructuring. Plus, everyone added, the namesake virtual world known as the metaverse wasn’t, as yet, really a thing.
But as time goes on, people often forget about disliking a rebrand. They may even forget that the brand ever had another name. Yes, we are still in a time of red-hot disdain for X, but who here even remembers that Accenture was once Andersen Consulting? Who recalls that Bell Atlantic and GTE merged and begat Verizon?
So two years later, how is Meta faring? Let’s assess.
IN A VACUUM, IS META A BETTER NAME?
Yes. In the context of brand and business strategy, the name works, as we noted in our review at the time.
One of the reasons Mark Zuckerberg said the company was rebranding was that during 17 years of existence, Facebook had acquired a whole mess of apps, such as Instagram and WhatsApp, and it was awkward for the parent company to have the same name as one of those apps. Fair point. This was the same strategic reason behind Google’s rebranding as Alphabet in 2015, a move that siloed the search business from the likes of self-driving cars and smart home appliances.
Linguistically, the name Meta is shorter, more elegant, and more modern. One could argue that Facebook feels more human—that there is a futuristic sterility to Meta—or that Meta feels more generically techie. But the words face and book are prosaic and specific, while Meta, crucially, is flexible enough to feel natural on just about any kind of hardware or software the company could come up with.