By Jon Swartz
Cowen analyst John Blackledge immediately raised doubts about Meta’s going-young strategy in a note Friday. “We are concerned with FB’s ability to attract younger users, who have recently expressed more interest in platforms like Snapchat,” he wrote.
Read more: Opinion: Dear Facebook: No one cares about Oculus; give us Instagram revenue!
A new corporate name “seems to be a very small way to respond to calls [to break up Facebook], albeit without actually changing anything,” Umang Shah, head of global digital at Medidata Solutions, told MarketWatch. “At worst, it’s an attempt at distraction.”
Instead of a “confusing name change,” Facebook should focus on addressing criticisms of how it filters and distributes content, said Shah, who previously held social and digital marketing roles at Microsoft Corp. /zigman2/quotes/207732364/composite MSFT -1.85% , Walmart Inc. /zigman2/quotes/207374728/composite WMT -0.73% , and Campbell Soup Co. /zigman2/quotes/202107764/composite CPB +1.05% .
The social-networking company continues to be assailed for its treatment of content and data, and for ignoring clear signs internally that the digital platform is harmful — especially to children. This week, Sens. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., and Edward Markey, D-Mass., and Rep. David Cicilline, D-R.I., called for legislation aimed at the company, the Federal Trade Commission reportedly is looking into yet another probe , and the New York Times called the Mark Zuckerberg-as-CEO era over .
In an interview with The Information published Thursday, Zuckerberg said he hasn’t considered leaving the company or spinning off the virtual reality and metaverse unit Reality Labs from the rest of the business. The interview took place before Connect.
Yet Zuckerberg — who is unlikely to cede power under any circumstances because of his controlling stock — could have served himself well by naming someone else CEO of the Meta conglomerate and run metaverse operations to distance himself from the Facebook name, says Nabiha Syed, president of The Markup, a nonprofit newsroom.
Indeed, 63% of Facebook/Instagram users said they have been the victims of misinformation, according to a Consumer Reports survey of 2,263 U.S. adults in August . What’s more, only 41% of U.S. online adults polled by Forrester say they trust the former Facebook.
Facebook joins a long line of tech-company rebrandings with its stab at name reinvention. Google became Alphabet Inc. /zigman2/quotes/202490156/composite GOOGL -2.22% /zigman2/quotes/205453964/composite GOOG -2.56% , Apple Computer Inc. was pared to Apple Inc. /zigman2/quotes/202934861/composite AAPL -1.28% , Snapchat Inc. was shortened to Snap Inc. /zigman2/quotes/205087158/composite SNAP -8.20% While the latter two moves simplified messaging, the Google-Alphabet change continues to confound consumers.
Ken Segall, who came up with the “Think Different” marketing campaign for Apple and put the “i” in iPhone, says a name change won’t change anything.
“They have mountains of trouble to deal with,” he said. “Changing the hearts and minds of billions of users with a new title does not do it. To get there, they need to make fundamental organizational changes.”
Of course, it could all blow up in Facebook’s face and become a “New Coke” moment. Coca-Cola Co.’s /zigman2/quotes/209159848/composite KO -0.49% campaign to give an informal name to a new formula for its most popular soft drink in the mid-’80s fizzled, and was eventually discontinued in July 2002.
“In the short term, the name change will likely not do much to silence the critics,” Dipanjan Chatterjee, vice president and principal analyst at Forrester, told MarketWatch. “That will happen in any case because the half-life of consumer outrage seldom extends beyond a news cycle.”
Added Paul Barrett, deputy director of the NYU Stern Center for Business and Human Rights: “Zuckerberg and his lieutenants can’t shed the Facebook albatross with a clever brand adjustment. It’s past time for meaningful self-regulation combined with carefully designed government oversight.”