To say my interest was piqued when my good friend and digital media professional Alison Read sent me a link about the new Facebook rebrand can only be described as an understatement.
Fifteen years ago, Facebook was at the very forefront of exclusive social communication. It was such a brainwave of an idea, it transcended all levels to become so mainstream the word was verbalised in the English language. ‘Call me’ we said to friends. ‘I’ll Facebook you’ the early adopters among us replied (to which we agreed, because it sounded much cooler.) Very soon we all discovered a more convenient and less intrusive (we thought) way to keep in touch in our increasingly fast paced lives than an actual phone call, heaven help us.
But there’s a downside to becoming a mainstream, household name that even Granny is comfortable with. Eventually, no matter what you do, you’re just not cool anymore.
I imagine that at the outset, the ‘core purpose’ of Facebook was to ‘connect people’. When I talk to clients about their core purpose, I also ask them to imagine what change they want to effect on the world. I ask them to set a BHAG: A Big, Hairy, Audacious Goal. I ask them to perceive how things might be in their organisation 20 years from now, if everything they’re dreaming of is achieved.
For Facebook, that change, if they imagined it, was surely to alter the world of communication as we knew it? Facebook certainly fulfilled their ‘core purpose’ of connecting people. They took less than 15 years to change the world and probably went way beyond even their own most ambitious targets. Because if you have a dream, and you write it down, anything is possible.
But what if Facebook is still aiming to change the world of communication?
In that case, they have a problem. Their brand’s no longer synonymous with cool people, secretly communicating with their friends, creating a deeper understanding and connection with each other on a human level.
It’s still many things to many people, but arguably as a tool Facebook is now more about keeping Granny and Grandad informed about what Junior is up to, selling business services and going shopping without leaving the house, about connecting mums who don’t chat at the school gates as much as they used to, and about saving us all time creating (and remembering to look back on) photograph albums.
Not really about being cool, cutting edge and at the forefront of communication then?
People always ask me: ‘Should we change our logo?’ Almost always, I say ‘NO!!!’ Because contained within your brand identity is brand ‘equity’. That means, your identity is worth money, over and above the value of your company. Changing a logo has to be a very carefully considered decision. BUT one time when it really is right to change your logo is when your brand is in decline. Facebook, it’s time.
I love that FB say their rebrand is about creating ‘clarity’. They stole my word! Anyone who has been following me for the last couple of years will know that B is for Brand is all about the ABCs of branding: Achieving Brand Clarity. It’s hard to be clear in this confusing and over-communicating world we inhabit. So Facebook, I’m on the same page. We should all be focussing very hard on being clear about what we offer.
I’m also pretty clear about what they’re up to. They’re re-defining their brand architecture so that ‘Facebook’ or rather ‘FB’ will now be recognised by us all as the ‘company’ or ‘parent’ brand (it’s the one getting the new look by the way) beneath which they can have whatever structure they like really. But for sure, there will be multiple assets – in fact there already are. FB, the parent company will top a ‘house of brands.’
Eventually, they will likely stop referring to the parent company as ‘Facebook’ altogether, as we’ll come to know the company as ‘FB’.
Eventually, many of us (if we haven’t already) will drift off from old ‘facebook’ the product, at which point, FB will sell it (because as I tell all my clients, if they create a brand, it has a value in its own right).
Eventually, ‘FB’ will stand to make millions, nae billions from the sale of their old cash cow. But by that time they will in fact have long been perceived as a far more modern communications company and we’ll all be familiar with at least one if not many of the cutting edge products and services they provide.
Now don’t get me wrong. I love the new FB/Facebook identity. It’s cool, chic, dynamic and hints of exciting things on the horizon. The ‘early adopters’ among you will no doubt start seeing communications from the new brand pretty soon as they continue on their life cycle of brand development.
Very importantly, and what’s more, what I like best is that it’s not ‘just a logo.’ On their website, they go to great lengths to tell you about the strategy that sits behind it, how they engaged their people during the process and what the identity is meant to represent.
Well done Facebook, you get a gold star. Straight to the top of the branding masterclass!