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Facebook’s name change won’t solve anything

When Mark Zuckerberg created Facebook, in 2004, it was a simple directory of Harvard students: The Face Book. Two decades, 90 acquisitions and billions of dollars later, Facebook has become a household name. Now he wants a new one.

Zuckerberg is expected to announce a new name for the company next week at Facebook Connect, the company’s annual conference, as The Verge first reported. This new name, which is supposed to encompass Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, Oculus and the rest of the family, will clarify the company as a conglomerate, with ambitions beyond social media. The Facebook app may be the lifeblood of the business, but Zuckerberg has been very clear that the future of the business lies with the metaverse.

But what’s in a name? In Facebook’s case, that comes with strong associations, damage to reputation, congressional scrutiny, and general public disapproval. Facebook’s name has led to a “confidence deficit” in some of its recent initiatives, including its expansion into cryptocurrency. By renaming the parent company, Facebook could give itself a chance to overcome this. It wouldn’t be the first corporate giant to seek goodwill with a new nickname: Cable companies do it all the time.

Yet branding experts – and branding enthusiasts on Twitter – aren’t convinced that renaming the company will do much to correct reputation issues or distance itself from recent scandals.

“Everyone knows what Facebook is,” says Jim Heininger, founder of Rebranding Experts, a company that focuses solely on rebranding organizations. “The most effective way for Facebook to tackle the challenges that have recently plagued its brand is to take corrective action, not to try to change its name or install new brand architecture. “

Facebook’s decision to rename itself comes just after whistleblower Frances Haugen leaked thousands of pages of internal documents to The the Wall Street newspaper, exposing a company without worrying too much about the public good. The documents sparked a hearing on Capitol Hill, where Congress has been discussing for years the possibility of regulating Facebook or breaking up its conglomerate.

A new name could give the company a facelift. But “a name change is not a rebranding,” says Anaezi Modu, founder and CEO of Rebrand, which advises companies on brand transformations. Branding derives from a company’s mission, culture and capabilities, much more than its name, logo or marketing. “Unless Facebook has serious plans to fix at least some of its many problems, there’s no point in changing its name. In fact, it can make matters worse. Renaming a company can create more mistrust if it amounts to distancing itself from its reputation.

Modu says the name change makes sense to clarify how a business is organized, as other conglomerates have done. When Google restructured in 2015, it named its parent company Alphabet, to reflect its growth beyond a simple search engine (Google) to now include a number of efforts (DeepMind, Waymo, Fitbit and Google X, among others). Most people still think of the business as Google, but the name Alphabet is a signal of how the business is structured.

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