By Izzy Beaumont, account manager
“In the metaverse, you’ll be able to do almost anything you can imagine.” This was the promise touted by company founder Mark Zuckerberg when Facebook rebranded to Meta last October.
This would be its next chapter, and its first step into the metaverse, which would include “holograms” and “augmented reality glasses” – all devices once the stuff of sci-fi, now seemingly in touching distance.
Last month, when we began looking at the idea of ‘rebranding’ to identify what PR and marketing professionals were discussing online, a larger conversation emerged: big rebrands were dominating the sphere, and one of the biggest of them all (even eight months later) was Meta. We wanted to take a deeper look.
Using social listening data and isolating conversations to just those identifying themselves as marketing and PR professionals, we uploaded conversations around the Meta rebrand into our platform, comparing them to our standard English model to identify what conversations were taking place.
This is what we found.
The attempted Meta rebrand
Looking at the data, it emerged that language around ‘trying’ was 3.6x more likely to appear in tweets around the rebrand.
Industry tweeters were referring to the rebrand as an ‘effort’ or ‘attempt’ – suggesting they think it might not stick, a whole eight months after the change took place. One tweeter responded to a news story around Meta with:
“Gross. but entirely on brand for Facebook (which I refuse to call by it’s ridiculous new attempt to rebrand name)”
The quick fix & damage control
Despite rebranding being a huge undertaking, we also found that tweeters were discussing Meta’s wider failures to address fundamental issues within its platform and its controversial role in spreading misinformation and political campaigns. These tweeters were seeing the rebrand as a ‘quick fix or as ‘damage control’.
Language around disappointment, dislike and inauthenticity was overindexing within the social data.
“such a deplorable toxic company- spreading hate- inciting violence and influencing political campaigns.#facebookwhistleblower”
Using the Relative platform, we also identified that ‘damage’ was also 2.4x more likely to appear in the social data – both in the context of ‘damage control’ and ‘reputation damage’.
One tweeter described “Facebook pulling the good ol’ trick of rebranding as damage control” – there was a clear strand of scepticism running through industry professionals’ tweets.
“#fb rebranding to Meta… Efforts on damage control after being exposed. yikes!”
The future of rebranding?
While not all of the conversation was positive, the rebrand clearly had a big impact on industry professionals. Through our text analysis platform, we identified that tweeters were discussing the far-reaching implications of the rebrand.
The word ‘future’ overindexed 8.1x against standard English in the social data, as tweeters spoke about what the Meta rebrand could mean for their industries. Some suggested that Meta was “concept squatting” on the idea of the metaverse early, to try and stake a claim on a piece of the virtual world before anyone else. Others asked if the metaverse was the future of branding.
“the Facebook/ meta rebrand has focused a lot of attention on branding in the metaverse. is that the future of branding?”
Conversations over time
Using these insights, we identified three key themes that we wanted to examine – the idea of the rebrand lacking legitimacy, Meta rebranding as damage control and general themes of dislike and negativity.
We input these themes into Relative Insight Heartbeat, a tool which can visualise text data over a period of time, to see if any changes had occurred in these themes since the rebrand.
Conversations around the ‘rebrand as damage control’ were at their highest immediately after the rebrand, in October and November. However, they spiked again in February after news broke that Meta might need to suspend its services in Europe, as it claimed it couldn’t stop transferring data to the USA.
The rebrand ‘lacking legitimacy’, tracking the inauthenticity perceived by tweeters, peaked between January and March, as Meta was ordered to sell Giphy by regulators in the UK, then as Meta apps were banned in Russia.
Language around ‘dislike and negativity’ towards the rebrand first spiked in January 2022 in line with a string of negative media stories around Meta apps, before tapering off. When the company’s COO stepped down and it announced a fall in users for the first time, conversations around this theme increased considerably.
Rebrand and rebound?
Meta’s rebrand has given the industry a lot to chew over – our platform analysed almost 23,000 words when conducting our comparison.
While industry tweeters are yet to be completely won over by the rebrand, the fall in negative conversation in April shown by the Heartbeat chart suggests that they may be learning to live with it.