FROM “FACEBOOK” TO “META”: A BAD LESSON IN BRAND NAMING
So, Facebook is no longer Facebook. Or at least that’s what they want us to think.
For any company, a rebrand is a decisive break from the past. A signal to the world that new things are coming – or here. So as a branding and naming consultancy to the tech industry, you can imagine that the Facebook announcement triggered a flurry of Slacks here at Made By Giants about the choice of name – Meta.
In Ancient Greek – where it originally comes from – “meta” is a common preposition that means “with”, “behind” or “among”. In compounds, it suggests participation or community, often in a very vague sense. In current English it is often used in the sense of “beyond”, so “metaphysics” is “the physics beyond physics”. The word has also become used, in compounds or alone, to mean “something referring to itself”.
This new name is supposed to mark Facebook’s vision to create a “metaverse”, a virtual reality that looks like reality. The idea is that the physical and digital worlds will collide stunningly as technology transcends our physical existence.
But (and it’s a GIANT “but”), the term “metaverse” has actually been around since the 90s. Many of us already exist in the metaverse – it isn’t a new concept. Attempting to claim the word “meta” as a link to the “metaverse” is a high-risk naming strategy, with that in mind.
Why? Because the name could be rendered meaningless soon. It’s the equivalent of saying we are setting up a company called “Internet” – a name that is (or will become) ubiquitous in society and therefore trying to “own” it devalues it.
Not only that, the new name is also trying to mark a change for Facebook after months of criticism for failing to acknowledge the damage that some of its products can do, and allegedly ignoring the evidence of its own research.
As naming specialists, we agree that the rationale behind the rebranding may be correct, but the name is not. Together with the timing of the announcement, everything appeared like a diversionary comms tactic. Very human. Very real world. Not “meta” at all.
Grace Keeling, Comms Growth Partner at Made By Giants