Will Zuckerberg Rue the Day Facebook Became Meta? How Historical Rebrands Only Sometimes Worked

© REUTERS / FacebookFacebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg speaks during a live-streamed virtual and augmented reality conference to announce the rebrand of Facebook as Meta, in this screen grab taken from a video released October 28, 2021.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg speaks during a live-streamed virtual and augmented reality conference to announce the rebrand of Facebook as Meta, in this screen grab taken from a video released October 28, 2021.  - Sputnik International, 1920, 29.10.2021
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Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has announced the company would be renamed Meta and would begin to focus its efforts on the metaverse instead of its social media platforms. But will he come to regret shelving one of the world’s most recognisable brand names?
Mark Zuckerberg has said changing the company’s corporate identity to Meta would better “reflect who we are and the future we hope to build.”
“Meta's focus will be to bring the metaverse to life and help people connect, find communities and grow businesses.”
The metaverse is a future iteration of the internet which it is predicted will include shared virtual spaces in 3D.
A sign of Meta, the new name for the company formerly known as Facebook, is seen at its headquarters in Menlo Park, California, U.S. October 28, 2021 - Sputnik International, 1920, 28.10.2021
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But the Average Joe in London, Los Angeles or Lagos has never heard of it and has no idea what Meta means.
So is Zuckerberg ahead of the game, or is he too clever for his own good?
Rebranding is an artform which, if you get it wrong, can end up costing you billions of dollars or the loss of your entire reputation.

Google

First, let’s start with a rebranding which definitely worked.
When Larry Page and Sergey Brin were first experimenting with search engines back in 1996 they adopted the bizarre name BackRub.
David Koller, from Stanford University, says the name was derived from the company’s way of analysing “back links” on the internet.
But in 1997 Page and Brin ditched BackRub after pinging around new names for the search engine.
Koller says a student called Sean Anderson first coined the name Googolplex during a brainstorming session but Page shortened it to Googol and eventually Google.
© AP Photo / Virginia MayoIn this March 23, 2010, file photo, the Google logo is seen at the Google headquarters in Brussels. Germany’s finance minister on Wednesday welcomed an agreement requiring large companies in the European Union to reveal how much tax they paid in which country.
In this March 23, 2010, file photo, the Google logo is seen at the Google headquarters in Brussels. Germany’s finance minister on Wednesday welcomed an agreement requiring large companies in the European Union to reveal how much tax they paid in which country. - Sputnik International, 1920, 29.10.2021
In this March 23, 2010, file photo, the Google logo is seen at the Google headquarters in Brussels. Germany’s finance minister on Wednesday welcomed an agreement requiring large companies in the European Union to reveal how much tax they paid in which country.
Nowadays “to google” is a verb in common usage in much of the western world.
Incidentally Amazon is also not the first name Jeff Bezos came up with - it was originally known as Cadabra, after the magical term abracadabra.

Coco Pops

In 1998, the US-owned company Kellogg's suddenly rebranded its popular cereal Coco Pops in the UK as Choco Krispies.
Sales plunged and a survey of a million people found 92 percent preferred the old name.
Kellogg's gave in to the inevitable and changed the name back in May 1999.
But the corporation did not learn its lesson.
In 2003, its US arm rebranded Cocoa Krispies, a brand which had been around since the 1950s, as Cocoa Rice Krispies.
Consumers rejected the new name and Kellogg’s eventually switched it back in 2006.

Washington Redskins

For decades fans of the Washington Redskins American football team resisted political and social pressure to change the name of the franchise.
Native Americans were furious at the use of the term “redskins”, a term which had always been seen by them as derogatory.
Finally in 2020, amid the brouhaha from Black Lives Matters and amid growing pressure from woke activists, they succumbed.
An employee passes a Washington Redskins football shirt for sale at a sporting goods store in Bailey's Crossroads, Virginia, US, 24 June 2020. - Sputnik International, 1920, 13.07.2020
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The sportswear giant Nike had pulled all merchandise related to the Washington Redskins from its online store, the stadium sponsor FedEx was unhappy and another corporate partner, PepsiCo, said it was "time for a change".
They are currently known as the Washington Football Team and will play under that name this season, with a new name - voted for by the fans - set to replace the Redskins moniker next year.
But some hardcore fans have said they will no longer support the team under the new name.

World Wrestling Federation (WWF)

Professional wrestling became hugely popular in the United States and also in Britain in the 1980s and early 90s with stars such as Hulk Hogan, Andre The Giant and The Rock.
In 1980, the governing organisation changed its name to the World Wrestling Federation but used the acronym WWF in most of its marketing material.
But the World Wildlife Fund claimed there was confusion and it had already licensed the acronym WWF.
In 1994, they drew up an agreement that the wrestlers would largely drop the use of the term WWF but it was impossible to get broadcasters and fans to stick to it.
Ronda Rousey looks around after defeating Sara McMann in a UFC 170 - Sputnik International, 1920, 12.04.2020
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So in 2000 the WWF sued the WWF for US$360 million.
The wrestlers lost the case and in 2002 were forced to rebrand as WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment).
The brand has never been as successful as it was in the 80s or 90s, although arguably this may be due to the rise of Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) and the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) poaching wrestling fans.

Snickers

Another trans-Atlantic brand problem was the chocolate bar known in Britain as Marathon and in the US as Snickers.
The bar - a conflation of caramel, nougat and peanuts - was created in the United States in 1930 and named after a horse which had been a favourite of Franklin Mars, owner of the confectionery company which made the Mars bar.
But for years the same product had been marketed in the UK and the Republic of Ireland as Marathon.
Snickers - Sputnik International, 1920, 14.09.2019
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In 1990 the company decided it made more sense for the product to have the same name on both sides of the Atlantic.
There was consternation among British shoppers but despite a slight dip in sales, they carried on buying it and it is now the second most popular chocolate bar in Britain.
Mars also blew British children’s minds in 1998 when they changed another popular pack of candy, Opal Fruits, to Starburst.
Last year, the savvy owners recognised the British love of nostalgia and for three months sold a special retro version of the bar…named Marathon.
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