IS A CHANGE OF A COMPANY NAME A TRICKY PREPOSITION?

Changing a company’s name is a tricky proposition, but businesses continue to do it with varying degrees of success. What is it in a name? Branding and especially rebranding are of importance throughout the life cycle of a brand.

“Rebranding is the process of changing the corporate image of an organization.” It is a market strategy of giving a new identity by a new name, symbol, or change in design for an already-established brand. The purpose can be Proactive or Reactive. Companies go for a proactive rebranding when it recognizes that there is an opportunity to grow, innovate, tap into new businesses or customers, and to reconnect with its users, when there is an alteration in the strategic direction, or when the existing brand name no longer fits to be relevant to the market and its requirements. For the aging brands and legacy companies to survive and sell to the next generation of customers, they must rebrand. Reactive rebranding is done when the existing brand must be discontinued or changed situations like mergers & acquisitions that require a new corporate identity, legal issues, and negative publicity such as fraud, aiming to beat the competition or create their niche.

  Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook founder recently unveiled the company’s new name, Meta, and its logo, a distended infinity symbol, meant to reflect the future of the world’s largest social media platform. Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, and Oculus now fall under the family brand, Meta, along with Zuckerberg’s vision for an immersive, virtual reality world where people can meet in a digital space. “Our mission remains the same. It’s still about bringing people together,” “We are still the company that designs technology around people” Zuckerberg said in a video announcement. Under the umbrella, Meta the company is now attempting to create a platform where users will be able to “socialize, work, learn, play, shop and create” across various apps. Meta users will be able to access products and connect with others virtually without a Facebook account and try to be away from Facebook as well.

What can be the reason for Facebook to go for rebranding? Entangled in controversy, Facebook is facing intense scrutiny over data privacy, monopolism, and allegations that its algorithms help spread disinformation. The company has long been controversial and policymakers want to reform it. Name changes are often forced by the disaster. Something dreadful happens that brings negative publicity to the brand, and the only way a company can escape from the bad press is to walk away from its old image and create an entirely new one. Facebook is now adopting this strategy.

For instance, Google rebranded to Alphabet in 2015, a change that allowed it to restructure its portfolio for the markets. But consumers still don’t call the company Alphabet, and the phrase “Just google it” is likely to remain in the lexicon for some time. It has bought YouTube, launched Android, unveiled Maps – all now properties with more than one billion users. The other diversified areas are designing driverless cars, flying drones, developing wearable technology, and investing in startups. At the time of adoption, Google was a well-established tech conglomerate with a wide range of companies and products and expanded well beyond its search engine product and rebranding minimized the association between Google with its sister companies.

Andersen Consulting rebranded as Accenture in 2001 to reposition the organization in the marketplace to reflect a new vision and strategy. Arthur Andersen had been convicted of financial scandal shredding documents related to its audit of Enron and the company’s reputation as one of the most valuable brands in accounting was ruined. However, Accenture was unaffected and continued to grow. Rebranding as Accenture shielded the brand and helped it continue to grow for the past 20 years.

 In 1991, to stay relevant Kentucky Fried Chicken, the restaurant chain rebranded to KFC to drop “fried” from the name at a time when Americans were becoming extra health-conscious.

Mark Zuckerberg wants to lead consumers into the Meta, but it’s unclear whether they will follow.  A brand is referred to as a promise, but a brand must be a promise delivered. With its rebranding effort, Facebook is making promises. Will it be able to deliver right now? Until it is making real changes like sorting out the data breaching issues and acquiring users’ trust and confidence, Meta will just be the same old Facebook by another name though there is a popular belief that Facebook users are old now and Meta will be accepted by the new upcoming generations.

It is fascinating to watch the brand stories!!!

Dr.K.G Hemalatha
Professor and Head

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