Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg announced Thursday that the tech company is renaming itself to “Meta” to encompass its expanding technology and role in what it calls, “the metaverse.” The company owns multiple technologies and apps including WhatsApp, Instagram, and Oculus VR. In July, Zuckerberg told The Verge that over the next several years, Meta would “effectively transition from people seeing us as primarily being a social media company to being a metaverse company.”
What’s the metaverse? The way that Zuckerberg explains it in his founder’s letter today makes it sound like the next level of virtual reality: “You will be able to teleport instantly as a hologram to be at the office without a commute, at a concert with friends, or in your parents’ living room to catch up.”
“Our hope is that within the next decade, the metaverse will reach a billion people, host hundreds of billions of dollars of digital commerce, and support jobs for millions of creators and developers,” Zuckerberg said, giving marketers a clue as to what opportunities may lie ahead and how seriously the company is invested in this pivot. Earlier this week, the company said it would spend $10 billion over the next year to develop the technologies required for building its metaverse.
What does this mean for Facebook? “Starting with our results for the fourth quarter of 2021, we plan to report on two operating segments: Family of Apps and Reality Labs,” said the announcement. “We also intend to start trading under the new stock ticker we have reserved, MVRS, on December 1. Today’s announcement does not affect how we use or share data.”
Why we care. The rebrand comes right as whistleblower revelations have Facebook under fire for its practices, morals and social impact, which may give people something new to talk about and help sweep the blowback from whistleblower Frances Haugen’s stash of internal documents under the rug.
As Zuckerberg alluded to in his founder’s letter, Meta’s metaverse may offer interesting new opportunities, especially for digital goods. This may be a logical extension for brands, like Asics or Dolce & Gabbana, that are already trying their hand at NFTs. This also begs the question of whether the metaverse will become a new frontier for advertising (especially as the Oculus has been testing ads in VR).
Additionally, users may have become more accustomed to virtual alternatives for traditionally in-person services, like health appointments, that were introduced during the pandemic. The metaverse — Facebook/Meta’s or otherwise — might be a viable destination to host those services, as Facebook is already a destination to discover local businesses.
But, from a branding standpoint, we as marketers, simply can’t look away from a branding fail and “Meta” just feels like one.