Facebook didn’t seek outside advice in renaming itself Meta. Branding experts say that may prove a mistake.

When even a small company considers a new name, it often turns to branding consultants who specialize in that very job.

But when Facebook
the social-media giant whose reputation has taken a significant hit in recent months, decided to come up with a new moniker, it apparently saw no reason to hire experts from beyond its own team. The company, which announced Thursday its new corporate identity as Meta, said in a statement to MarketWatch, that “the name, logo, and wordmark were all created internally.”

Branding professionals say that shows more than a little confidence on the company’s part — a confidence that may border on hubris, some note. In effect, there’s wisdom in embracing outside wisdom, these experts say, noting that a company doesn’t rebrand itself more than once a generation (if that), whereas the pros do this for a living.

Outsourcing the blame

“The best practice is to outsource,” said Thomas Donohoe, author of “The CEO’s Digital Marketing Playbook.”

If nothing else, going outside gives a company a certain defense should the new name flop, Donohoe and other branding experts note. That is, they can pass the blame on to the consultant.

“If things go sideways, there’s a throat to choke,” said Donohoe.

Like many others, Donohoe is critical of the Meta name. His main issue: It’s one that ties the company to a very specific future in the augmented/virtual reality space, which has not been its main focus to date. Donohoe says a branding agency might have argued for a moniker with a little more wiggle room, so to speak.

‘If things go sideways, there’s a throat to choke.’

— Thomas Donohoe, author of ‘The CEO’s Digital Marketing Playbook.’

The name “handcuffs the company to a future promise,” Donohoe said. “It’s risky and agencies do a pretty good job of mitigating risk.”

Others find different reasons to fault the name, including the fact that the word “meta” is already a fairly common term and thus lacks a certain buzz. But regardless of the reasons, some experts suspect the company might have rushed the process in coming up with Meta.

“It feels like this was not probably thought through. Like a restaurant that fails its health inspection and changes its name” in a rush, said Ryan Goldstein, founder and chief executive of A.P. Keaton, a marketing agency.

How the renaming process typically works

Branding professionals say renaming a company is a process that can normally take at least six months and can involve all sorts of outside consultants — not just those in branding and marketing, but also strategic, legal and design ones.

First, the company must hone in on a vision it can truly embrace, professionals say. Then, it must consider the names: Experts note that it’s not unusual for hundreds to be suggested, before the list is whittled down to a more manageable 10 to 20. At some point, focus groups, representing various types of consumers, may also be brought in to help assess which name has the most sticking power before making a final choice.

So why did Facebook — ahem, Meta — shun help with this process? Some say it’s because bringing in outside consultants always raises the risk of the new name getting out before the formal announcement. “You’re definitely worried about leaks,” said Matthew Berman, president of Emerald Digital, a marketing agency.

But some also suggest the decision to handle the task in-house is reflective of chief executive Mark Zuckerberg’s general approach to management. After all, he’s a tech guru whose whole demeanor is defined by a certain self-confidence.

“He’s not known for being deferential to the positions of others. That’s not his M.O.,” said Donohoe.