The parent company of social media platforms Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp, previously known as Facebook, Inc, has announced a new name—Meta—alongside a new brand and visual identity.
The word “meta” has several meanings, but the definition the company cites as their inspiration is “beyond” i.e., moving beyond limitations into the future.
The timing of this rebrand cannot be ignored, as it is likely the name change is part of a strategic approach to distance the company from the recent negative headlines and legal scrutiny associated with the name “Facebook.” Setting the parent organization up as something distinct from the apps they own helps to separate any future endeavors from Facebook-related criticism.
Earlier this year, former Meta employee and whistleblower Frances Haugen shared internal research that revealed potential harm the social media platforms cause for their users, including political polarization and mental health issues among teenage girls who used Instagram. The intelligence that Meta prioritized profit over the well-being of its users has prompted a host of questions about the lack of transparency in how Meta handles user data and the lack of regulation of the Facebook platform.
Perhaps in the past, Facebook was the right name for the parent organization because it brought with it the fame and weight of their most popular platform. With the amount of baggage now tied to the name, Meta has taken steps to “move beyond” and shed that identity for a new one.
Meta’s brand page states that they created the Meta symbol to live in 3D and motion, to be experienced from varying perspectives. At times an “M," at times an infinity loop, the mark is successful in appearing tech-based while being made up of organic shapes. The 3D aspect ties in with Meta’s move toward a “Metaverse,” or virtual world, and the accompanying logo animations add depth and movement to the brand.
The element that ties Meta to Facebook is color—the familiar blue from the social platform is used in the “M” mark. The color blue is associated with trustworthiness and is used commonly in corporate branding. The accompanying wordmark is clean, modern and unassuming. Overall, the Meta logo fits stylistically with Facebook’s suite of brands and feels just close enough, while also standing on its own.
The term “metaverse” was coined in the early 1990’s by science fiction author Neal Stephenson to refer to an interconnected 3D virtual space where humans interact via avatars. Meta’s use of the term is in step with this definition. They have released videos demonstrating their vision for their metaverse that includes use-cases for education, entertainment, and, most prominently, commerce.
Incorporating virtual reality in events, commerce, and education is not a new concept, and there is a lot of potential for VR as technology improves. Meta’s videos show a cheerful take on how companies can advertise products in the metaverse. This is no doubt meant to inspire, but paired with the current lack of trust in Meta and its use of user data, it is difficult to avoid a dystopian overtone evocative of a Black Mirror episode.
Whether or not Meta can regain public trust and improve their reputation enough to find success in their version of the metaverse remains to be seen.
We believe change can be motived by desperation or inspiration. A brand may be updated to distance it from a negative reputation or a rebrand can be borne out of anticipation of a positive shift in a new direction for the organization; a change in name and logo can herald a new and exciting chapter in your organization’s history. A brand that already carries weight and respect among its audience can further modernize and reinvigorate itself with a fresh visual identity.
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