The Economist explains
Why do companies rebrand themselves?

Usually, to give consumers a fresh impression. Easier said than done




OF ALL THE things a company wants itself compared with, cancer is far down the list. But that’s what Facebook got from Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a far-left congresswoman, after rebranding itself as Meta: “Meta as in ‘we are a cancer to democracy metastasising into a global surveillance and propaganda machine’”, she tweeted. Facebook is hardly the first company to rebrand. Why do they do it?


Sometimes rebrands follow mergers: neither firm wants to appear the lesser, so a new name is hatched. Sometimes they signal a broadening of ambition, as when France Télécom became Orange and began expanding outside its home market. Google metamorphosed into Alphabet after venturing beyond search into sexier realms, such as autonomous driving and surgical robots. Facebook’s rebrand seems similarly inspired. In a video in which he appeared almost lifelike, Mark Zuckerberg, Meta’s chief executive, said the name was meant to reflect that the firm’s chief reason for being is now to build products for the “metaverse”, a networked virtual reality. And beyond its namesake social-media platform, the firm owns other apps, including Instagram and WhatsApp, and hardware brands, such as Oculus. The new umbrella name resolves that “inherent awkwardness”, said Mr Zuckerberg (its subsidiary products will keep their names).

有时,品牌重塑是在合并之后进行的:两家公司都不想让自己显得更弱小,所以就设计了一个新名字。有时,它们标志着野心的扩大,如法国电信成为Orange,并开始在其本土市场之外扩张。谷歌在超越搜索领域,进入自动驾驶和手术机器人等更性感的领域后,蜕变为Alphabet。Facebook的品牌重塑似乎也有类似的灵感。美达公司首席执行官马克-扎克伯格(Mark Zuckerberg)在一段他看起来几乎栩栩如生的视频中说,这个名字是为了反映该公司现在存在的主要原因是为 “元宇宙”(一种网络虚拟现实)打造产品。除了其同名的社交媒体平台,该公司还拥有其他应用程序,包括Instagram和WhatsApp,以及硬件品牌,如Oculus。扎克伯格说,新的伞状名称解决了 “固有的尴尬”(其附属产品将保留其名称)。

Sometimes firms rebrand to polish their reputation. As any marketer can attest, brands have equity that can depreciate. Sometimes they are better ditched, so as to gain distance in the consumer’s mind from a tarnished good. Philip Morris, a tobacco firm, is now Altria—though it still sells cigarettes, which still cause cancer. The opposite can happen too, where firms seek to bolster themselves by way of their marquees: that’s how BSN, a soulless acronym, became Danone.

有时,公司重塑品牌以擦亮其声誉。正如任何营销人员可以证明的那样,品牌有可能贬值。有时,它们最好被抛弃,以便在消费者心目中与被玷污的商品拉开距离。菲利普-莫里斯(Philip Morris)是一家烟草公司,现在是阿尔特里亚(Altria)–尽管它仍然销售香烟,而香烟仍然会导致癌症。相反的情况也可能发生,公司寻求通过他们的招牌来支持自己:BSN,一个没有灵魂的缩写,就是这样成为达能的。

Separating the corporate entity from the product also lets firms convey different messages to different audiences. Firms interact with investors, politicians, regulators and employees while products speak to consumers. This allows for two-track messaging without appearing contradictory, says Laurent Muzellec of the business school at Trinity College in Dublin. Diageo can support responsible drinking while Guinness ads on TV tell tipplers to guzzle the stuff. Meta, speculates Mr Muzellec, could sponsor initiatives to reduce teen online addiction while Facebook carries on hooking the kids.

将企业实体与产品分开,也让企业向不同的受众传达不同的信息。公司与投资者、政治家、监管者和员工互动,而产品则与消费者对话。都柏林三一学院商学院的Laurent Muzellec说,这使得双轨制的信息传递不会出现矛盾。帝亚吉欧可以支持负责任的饮酒,而吉尼斯在电视上的广告则告诉饮酒者要大口喝酒。Muzellec先生推测,Meta公司可以赞助减少青少年网瘾的活动,而Facebook则继续让孩子们上瘾。

Rebrands are not always successful. In 2001 Britain’s Royal Mail, for some reason, decided to call itself Consignia, which cost £2.5m ($3.4m). It then unrebranded, which cost another £1m. PwC Consulting became the butt of corporate jokes when it took the name Monday, which was scrapped in a takeover by IBM. 


No rebrand can fix underlying issues with a product. Better, more engrossing competitors are just a tap away—as TikTok’s rise demonstrates. And it cannot be coincidence that Facebook rebranded after years of unfavourable stories. The rebrand makes none of them go away, nor does it make its leader any more credible. Meta may have just half the letters in Facebook’s name, but it retains all of the company’s problems.








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