Saying Bye to Facebook: Why Companies Change Their Name
As anyone who’s started a company knows, choosing a name is no easy task.
There are many considerations, such as:
- Are the social handles and domain name available?
- Is there a competitor already using a similar name?
- Can people spell, pronounce, and remember the name?
- Are there cultural or symbolic interpretations that could be problematic?
The list goes on. These considerations are amplified when a company is already established, and even more difficult when your company serves billions of users around the globe.
Facebook (the parent company, not the social network) has changed its name to Meta, and we’ll examine some probable reasons for the rebrand. But first we’ll look at historical corporate name changes in recent history, exploring the various motivations behind why a company might change its name. Below are some of the categories of rebranding that stand out the most.
Societal perceptions can change fast, and companies do their best to anticipate these changes in advance. Or, if they don’t change in time, their hands might get forced.
As time goes on, companies with more overt negative externalities have come under pressure—particularly in the era of ESG investing. Social pressure was behind the name changes at Total and Philip Morris. In the case of the former, the switch to TotalEnergies was meant to signal the company’s shift beyond oil and gas to include renewable energy.
In some cases, the reason why companies change their name is more subtle. GMAC (General Motors Acceptance Corporation) didn’t want to be associated with subprime lending and the subsequent multi-billion dollar bailout from the U.S. government, and a name change was one way of starting with a “clean slate”. The financial services company rebranded to Ally in 2010.
Hitting the Reset Button
Brands can become unpopular over time because of scandals, a decline in quality, or countless other reasons. When this happens, a name change can be a way of getting customers to shed those old, negative connotations.
Internet and TV providers rank dead last in customer satisfaction ratings, so it’s no surprise that many have changed their names in recent years.
We Do More
This is a very common scenario, particularly as companies go through a rapid expansion or find success with new product offerings. After a period of sustained growth and change, a company may find that the current name is too limiting or no longer accurately reflects what the company has become.
Both Apple and Starbucks have simplified their company names over the years. The former dropped “Computers” from its name in 2007, and Starbucks dropped “Coffee” from its name in 2011. In both these cases, the name change meant disassociating the company with what initially made them successful, but in both cases it was a gamble that paid off.
One of the biggest name changes in recent years is the switch from Google to Alphabet. This name change signaled the company’s desire to expand beyond internet search and advertising.
Square also found itself in a similar situation. The “Square” brand had become synonymous with its commerce solutions, so the parent company became Block to help the company signal a shift into other areas of business.
The Start-Up Name Pivot
Another very common name change scenario is the early-stage name change.
In the world of music, there’s speculation that limited melodies and subconscious plagiarism will make creating new music increasingly difficult in the future. Similarly, there are millions of companies in the world and only so many short and snappy names. (That’s how we end up with companies called Quibi.)
Many of the popular digital services we use today started with very different names. The Google we know today was once called Backrub. Instagram began life as Bourbn, and Twitter began life as “Twittr” before finding a spare E in the scrabble pile.
As mentioned above, many companies start out as speculative experiments or passion projects, when a viable, well-vetted name isn’t high on the priority list. As a result, new companies can run into trademark problems.
This was the case when Picaboo, the precursor of Snapchat, was forced to change their name in 2011. The existing Picaboo—a photobook company—was not thrilled to share a name with an app that was primarily associated with sexting at the time.
The fight over the name WWF was a more unique scenario. In 1994, the World Wildlife Fund and the World Wrestling Federation had a mutual agreement that the latter would stop using the initials internationally, except for fleeting uses such as “WWF champion”. In the end though, the agreement was largely ignored, and the issue became a sticking point when the wrestling company registered wwf.com. Eventually, the company rebranded as WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment) after losing a lawsuit.
To err is human, and rebranding exercises don’t always hit the mark. When a name change is universally panned or, perhaps worse, not relevant, it’s time to course correct.
Tribune Publishing was forced to backtrack after their name change to Tronc in 2016. The widely-panned name, which was stylized in all lower case, was seen as a clumsy attempt to become a digital-first publisher.
Why Is Facebook Changing Its Name?
Facebook undertook this name change for a number of reasons, but chief among them is that the brand is irrevocably associated with scandals, negative externalities, and Mark Zuckerberg.
Even before the most recent outage and whistle-blowing scandal, Facebook was already the least-trusted tech company by a long shot. Mark Zuckerberg was once the most admired CEO in Silicon Valley, but has since fallen from grace.
It’s easy to focus on the negative triggers for the impending name change, but there is some substance behind the change as well. For one, Facebook recognizes that privacy issues have put their primary source of revenue at risk. The company’s ad-driven model built upon its users’ data is coming under increasing scrutiny with each passing year.
As well, there is substance behind the metaverse hype. Facebook first signaled their ambitions in 2014, when it acquired the virtual reality headset maker Oculus. A sizable portion of the company’s workforce is already working on making the metaverse concept a reality, and there are plans to hire 10,000 more people in Europe over the next five years.
It remains to be seen whether this immense gamble pays off, but for the near future, Zuckerberg and Facebook’s investors will be keeping a close eye on how the media and public react to the new Meta name and how the transition plays out. After all, there are billions of dollars at stake.
How Disinflation Could Affect Company Financing
History signals that after a period of slowing inflation—also known as disinflation—debt and equity issuance expands.
How Disinflation Could Affect Company Financing
The macroeconomic environment is shifting. Since the second half of 2022, the pace of U.S. inflation has been dropping.
We explore how this disinflation may affect company financing in Part 2 of our Understanding Market Trends series from Citizens.
Disinflation vs. Deflation
The last time inflation climbed above 9% and then dropped was in the early 1980’s.
|Time Period||March 1980-July 1983||June 2022-April 2023*|
|Inflation at Start of Cycle||14.8%||9.1%|
|Inflation at End of Cycle||2.5%||4.9%|
* The June 2022-April 2023 cycle is ongoing. Source: Federal Reserve. Inflation is based on the Consumer Price Index.
A decrease in the rate of inflation is known as disinflation. It differs from deflation, which is a negative inflation rate like the U.S. experienced at the end of the Global Financial Crisis in 2009.
How might slowing inflation affect the amount of debt and equity available to companies?
Looking to History
There are many factors that influence capital markets, such as technological advances, monetary policy, and regulatory changes.
With this caveat in mind, history signals that both debt and equity issuance expand after a period of disinflation.
Companies issued low levels of stock during the ‘80s disinflation period, but issuance later rose nearly 300% in 1983.
Source: Bloomberg. U.S. public equity issuance dollar volume that includes both initial and follow-on offerings and excludes convertibles.
Issuance grew quickly in the years that followed. Other factors also influenced issuance, such as the macroeconomic expansion, productivity growth, and the dotcom boom of the ‘90s.
Similarly, companies issued low debt during the ‘80s disinflation, but levels began to increase substantially in later years.
|Year||Deal Value||Interest Rate|
Source: Dealogic, Federal Reserve. Data reflects U.S. debt issuance dollar volume across several deal types including: Asset Backed Securities, U.S. Agency, Non-U.S. Agency, High Yield, Investment Grade, Government Backed, Mortgage Backed, Medium Term Notes, Covered Bonds, Preferreds, and Supranational. Interest Rate is the 10 Year Treasury Yield.
As interest rates dropped and debt capital markets matured, issuing debt became cheaper and corporations seized this opportunity.
It’s worth noting that debt issuance was also impacted by other factors, like the maturity of the high-yield debt market and growth in non-bank lenders such as hedge funds and pension funds.
Then vs. Now
Could the U.S. see levels of capital financing similar to what happened during the ‘80s disinflation? There are many economic differences between then and now.
Consider how various indicators differed 10 months into each disinflationary period.
|January 1981||April 2023*|
Next 12 Months
10-Yr Treasury Yield
|Nominal Wage Growth|
Annual, Seasonally Adjusted
|After-Tax Corporate Profits|
As Share of Gross Value Added
* Data for inflation expectations and interest rate is as of May 2023, data for corporate profits is as of Q4 1980 and Q1 2023. Inflation is a year-over-year inflation rate based on the Consumer Price Index. Source: Federal Reserve.
The U.S. economy is in a better position when it comes to factors like inflation, unemployment, and corporate profits. On the other hand, fears of an upcoming recession and turmoil in the banking sector have led to volatility.
What to Consider During Disinflation
Amid uncertainty in financial markets, lenders and investors may be more cautious. Companies will need to be strategic about how they approach capital financing.
- High-quality, profitable companies could be well positioned for IPOs as investors are placing more focus on cash flow.
- High-growth companies could face fewer options as lenders become more selective and could consider alternative forms of equity and private debt.
- Companies with lower credit ratings could find debt more expensive as lenders charge higher rates to account for market volatility.
In uncertain times, it’s critical for businesses to work with the right advisor to find—and take advantage of—financing opportunities.
Learn more about working with Citizens.
You may also like
United States2 weeks ago
Charting the Rise of America’s Debt Ceiling
By June 1, a debt ceiling agreement must be finalized. The U.S. could default if politicians fail to act—causing many stark consequences.
Money2 weeks ago
Ranked: The World’s Top 50 Endowment Funds
Endowment funds represent the investment arms of nonprofits. See the worlds top 50, which collectively have over $1 trillion in assets.
Demographics2 weeks ago
Visualizing the American Workforce as 100 People
Reimagining all 200 million of the American workforce as 100 people: where do they all work, what positions they hold, and what jobs they do?
Money4 weeks ago
Visualized: Real Interest Rates by Country
What countries have the highest real interest rates? We look at 40 economies to analyze nominal and real rates after projected inflation.
Banks2 months ago
Ranked: The Largest Bond Markets in the World
The global bond market stands at $133 trillion in value. Here are the major players in bond markets worldwide.
Economy2 months ago
Visualized: The Largest Trading Partners of the U.S.
Who are the biggest trading partners of the U.S.? This visual showcases the trade balances between the U.S. and its trading partners.
Money6 days ago
Charted: Public Trust in the Federal Reserve
Visual Capitalist3 weeks ago
Calling All Data Storytellers to Enter our Creator Program Challenge
AI4 days ago
Ranked: The World’s Top 25 Websites in 2023
Cities3 weeks ago
Ranked: Top 10 Cities Where International Travelers Spend the Most
AI3 days ago
Visualizing the Top U.S. States for AI Jobs
VC+3 weeks ago
Coming Soon: Here’s What’s Coming to VC+ Next
Personal Finance4 weeks ago
Ranked: The Best U.S. States for Retirement
Demographics2 weeks ago
Visualizing the American Workforce as 100 People