Updated: Mar 8, 2019
By: Sara Bonafair, Burns Group Account Team
In an age of accelerating technological advancement, tech companies seem to celebrate birthdays in dog years. I think 15 years must be about midlife for Facebook, but instead of going out and getting an extreme haircut or a sports car, I think Facebook is due for a re-brand.
As social media manager of a couple brands’ platforms, employee of an agency that specializes in brand transformation, and someone who believes deeply in the power of a purpose-driven brand – this is my wish for Facebook on its birthday.
In recent years, Facebook has tried to justify its data proliferation and expanding power with what seems to many a disingenuous humanistic premise. It is true that Mark Zuckerburg has long claimed a social mission. In 2012 when the social network filed to go public, he pointed out that Facebook wasn’t originally designed to be a company, but “to make the world more open and connected.”
So then, why are people calling bullsh**t on Facebook’s efforts to act upon its current mission? To “give people the power to build community and bring the world closer together."
I am not criticizing Facebook for becoming a company and commercializing. In fact, Facebook offers amazing brands, who may not have the marketing budget of the ‘big guys,’ an opportunity to speak to the people who matter most for their business. Of the 50 million small businesses using Facebook to connect with consumers, 4 million are paying for Facebook advertising (Forbes, 2016) Brands built on social media, like MVMT, Warby Parker or Article, wouldn’t be where they are today without the avbility to target their marketing dollars and take advantage of all the data Facebook has gathered from us.
And I am definitely not criticizing Facebook for trying to be more purpose-driven. Yet there is an obvious disconnect between what they claim their trying to accomplish (their mission) and why (their purpose). In fact, there is no clear why. Without a clear purpose, their mission feels shallow and reactive, given recent PR crises.
We all remember shaking our heads last spring when Zuckerburg, made his robotic testimony in front of the US congress. Or two weeks afterwards, when Facebook launched its largest ever ad campaign ‘Here Together’ that pretty much came off as ‘Sorry, not sorry.’ Even if Facebook is lacking a clear purpose at the moment, it may have fared better in the aftermath if it had exhibited its own brand mission in its relationship with its consumers.
For a brand that claims to be all about ‘connection’, Facebook fails to build or nurture any kind of human connection with its users. Something we think about on a daily basis at Burns Group is how brands can build trust and authenticity in their relationships with their consumers. I find the key often lies in a brands’ ability to personify itself and tell a story that connects with their audience. For a brand built for and by millennials, Facebook’s lack of personality and conventional focus on its product alone, is what makes its new narrative around connecting people to make the world a better place so unbelievable. People are programmed to trust (and forgive) people, not products.
Nonetheless, it may not be too late to turn its story into a positive one with a re-brand, or a first-time branding exercise, in year 15. A good re-brand starts from a company’s core. Facebook has a mission that we can all get behind, but it needs to show its consumers emotion and personality while effectively telling a brand story that includes the why. That is all I wish for Facebook on its birthday.