Meta-adverse

BY ALEX COLE, HEAD OF STRATEGY

All good things must come to an end. Or in Facebook’s case… a change of name.

After 17 years, Facebook, the parent company behind the empire of Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, and Oculus, is no longer Facebook.

The corporate giant is now… Meta.

Wait… what… why?

Mark Zuckerbeg appears to believe that it is his calling to build the Metaverse.

Hang on… what is the Metaverse?

ENTER THE METAVERSE…

The Metaverse is where the physical and digital worlds fuse together. In this space, avatars interact with each other, they work and play, living their virtual lives. At the center of the Metaverse, you’ll see virtual reality joining forces with elements of augmented reality.

Having worked in the worlds of social and digital marketing for 13+ years, I’ve developed a very sophisticated bullsh*t sensor and during the launch of Meta… my sensor exploded.

Perhaps I’d feel differently if it were Netflix or Apple trying to kick off the new cultural revolution; I’m just not sure that I want Facebook, and particularly Mark Zuckerberg, to lead in developing the new digital world.

It goes without saying that the forces at Facebook (now known as Meta) have the resources and means to develop their version of the Metaverse, but the question is, are they equipped morally to take society into a new space when they have a history of putting profits before experience?!

The initial reactions to Facebook’s vision reveal that people are not entirely comfortable with Facebook nominating themselves as the masters of the new digital world.

It sort of feels like that old friend that you don’t like anymore building a pool at their house just so that you will go over and hang out with them. It’s tempting, but ideologically your views are very different and there are plenty of other pools. It’s also easy to have a good time without even having to go to a pool, especially if the other guests are people you would rather avoid.

A natural-born cynic, I’ve looked at how others feel about Facebook for balance and it’s not good reading, although some of it’s hilarious.

In terms of Facebook’s brand evolution, it appears like a good move for two main reasons: people don’t exactly like or trust Facebook these days, and the Facebook platform is coming to a period of decline in its lifecycle.

THE DECLINE OF FACEBOOK


Leaked documents Facebook Papers exposed Facebook, with allegations from whistleblower Frances Haugen damaging their reputation, creating the perception that they put profits before creating safe and pleasant experiences for users. For years, Facebook has turned a blind eye to calls to regulate and police certain pages, content, and behaviour. And the platform’s algorithms have been found to promote hate speech and even fuel content that promotes ethnic violence.

The Facebook Papers also revealed that Instagram has been detrimental to the mental health of teenagers. It’s hardly a surprise that an image-based app saturated with the use of filters and editing tools causes 32% of teenage girls to feel worse about their body image.

Facebook’s reputation has been so negative that it’s had a damaging impact on its other brands, effectively resulting in a “brand tax”. Instagram and WhatsApp have struggled to distance themselves from the hate press that Facebook receives, and it didn’t exactly help matters when in 2019, Facebook tagged all its platforms “with Facebook” at the end of their names. A reminder we didn’t exactly need… or want.

You won’t find many of Gen Z on Facebook (users in the US have dropped 13% since 2019).  And this figure will no doubt plummet further in the coming years. Facebook has been unable to shake off its image as a platform for baby boomers, and its content lacks imagination, positivity, and authenticity. Not exactly the place to find your source of Monday motivation is it?

With Mark so synonymous with the Facebook brand, the decision to make him so integral to the launch of Meta, and ripe for memes, seems a rather misguided one. I question why the brand didn’t consider a partnership or acquisition of a brand that people like and respect to freshen up audience perception (like with Instagram). Perhaps it’s like the familiar challenge of guiding clients away from their dodgy ideas, to ones that fit more strategically? Or perhaps it was Mark that suggested it? We’ve all been there…

“That’s a great idea Mark but we were thinking of asking Timothee Chalamet to do the ad”.

Presumably, the objective was to reposition the brand as an organization focused on building the future, separate from Facebook and its baggage.

I personally don’t feel excited by Meta… I feel annoyed.

The pictures of Mark Zuckerberg answering questions to Congress were so damaging, it seems a strange decision to have Zukerberg nominate himself as the spokesperson for the new digital world, having allowed Facebook to turn into an unregulated, right-wing propaganda swamp. The Metaverse is a chance for society to create an incredible new world. Why would we want that future guided by a self-nominated billionaire who views humans as nothing more than a commodity?

Coming to the end of the tech lifecycle

The global adoption of Facebook the social media platform, is coming to an end. It’s clear that Zuckerbeg has his sights set on disassociating with the bloated whale carcass as it starts to get rather stale and wiffy. 

We all have such a strong perspective of how Facebook fits into the world – constantly featuring in films, tv and culture. THE original Social network. For any tech brand in this stage of its lifecycle, it’s a case of adapt or die. 

With the Facebook brand so synonymous with the Facebook platform, a rebrand is vital for us to accept Facebook evolving their offering into a new space. In other words, we will always connect Facebook with social networks unless the brand evolves.

But fear not, Mark Zuckerbeg says Meta are still the experts in connecting and creating experiences, even if few others agree.

MY TAKE?

It feels too much like Mark Zuckerberg is poisoning the well. Facebook are attempting to become masters of the Metaverse, a sphere that is not meant to be owned by any one entity, but a universal space for all.

My take on the Meta brand itself? Meh.

Facebook (I mean Meta) can make desperate attempts to re-brand and shift perceptions of how consumers view them. But do branding overhauls ever help companies succeed in shedding their negative image and rebuild credibility? One would think that audiences can see straight through these face-lifts.

Facebook can create virtual reality experiences in an attempt to claim its place as the architects building the Metaverse, but in my opinion… it’s too late to save the brand.