After 17 years of being called Facebook, the tech giant announced on Oct. 28 it is rebranding with the new corporate name Meta, a move toward CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s ambition to build the “metaverse.”

Facebook’s move is drawing comparisons to Google’s corporate rebranding to Alphabet, according to Mitchell Olsen, assistant professor of marketing in the University of Notre Dame’s Mendoza College of Business, who points out there is one major difference.

“It’s not the fact that Facebook’s face-lift is happening in the midst of public relations scandals or that the word ‘meta’ itself means ‘death’ in Hebrew,” said Olsen, who researches marketing strategy, with a focus on the intersection of brands, innovation and sustainable marketing initiatives. “Long term, a key difference boils down to the strategic flexibility that each firm’s moniker provides. ‘Alphabet’ implies the organization’s purpose is to seek growth by placing bets on a variety of initiatives capable of producing abnormal rates of return. This gives the company formerly known as Google substantial freedom in terms of the types of bets it places.

“By contrast, Facebook’s rebrand places it at a single betting table called the ‘metaverse,’” Olsen said. “Since the term itself refers to a fairly nascent concept, it’s a high-risk, high-reward move by Facebook. If the metaverse becomes as important as Zuckerberg thinks, the rebrand will be seen as a brilliant move in hindsight. However, if the metaverse fails to launch, the company now known as Meta may start to give Sean ‘Puff Daddy, P. Diddy, Puffy, Diddy’ Combs a run for his money when it comes to name changes.”

Facebook, which previously announced it plans to separate Facebook Reality Labs, its augmented reality and virtual reality group, from the rest of the company when reporting its financial performance, says its corporate structure won’t change. The company is also switching its stock ticker from FB to MVRS beginning in December.

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