Case: Facebook’s brand image has hit a rough patch in recent years. The social media giant has found itself at the center of privacy scandals, electoral controversies, hate speech and misguided information.
In addition, an Edison research study estimated 15 million fewer users in the US today than in 2017. The US being Facebook’s most lucrative market, bringing in more than 40% of advertising revenue. It’s no secret that something has gone wrong with the formula.
At Facebook’s F8 developers conference this year, Mark Zuckerberg set the tone for the event when he opened his keynote address with, “Let’s talk about building a privacy-focused social platform”. He later admitted that the company didn’t have the strongest reputation for privacy in recent times and declared his commitment to changing that.
Now, this may not seem profound, but, when you’re the world’s largest social media platform with over 2.3 billion users, it is. Pair those statements with brand and product tweaks and you’re talking about an image restoration project. For a company with a market cap of $500 billion and the second largest digital ad contributor, this is not to be brushed off.
So, the question is, “Has Facebook taken the right steps from a product and branding standpoint to reflect this new face?
How does Facebook plan to accomplish this?
At the conference, Facebook announced several changes to the platform. However, in between all the new bells and whistles were a few vital pivots, some obvious, some subtle. These pivots signal the team’s overarching goal i.e. their commitment to overturning negative perception and winning back trust. So, let’s delve into Facebook’s strategy to address its present predicament.
No product should enter development without having a firm vision. It isn’t uncommon for individual product visions to mirror an overarching one. Zuckerberg listed six principles around which this new vision for Facebook is based.
- Private Interactions – Create intimate spaces where users can choose who they wish to communicate with. In addition what they say and do remains private.
- Encryption – Offer end-to-end encryption where everyone, including Facebook, cannot see what is shared.
- Reduce Permanence – Messages and stories are not stored longer than required.
- Safety – Facebook will do everything in its power to build safety before shipping its products.
- Interoperability – Use any app to reach friends and communicate securely across platforms.
- Secure Date Storage – Facebook will not store sensitive data in countries where it may be improperly accessed.
These principles in turn, stem from critical user concerns. One of the best ways of demonstrating your commitment towards a goal is by building it into your products and services. Although Zuckerberg has laid the foundation for future developments, time will tell as things materialize. This however is a good start.
Facebook made a few revisions to how its brand is represented. Visually the brand has undergone a slight makeover.
- A vibrant blue gradient has been selected for the brand and app logo.
- The mobile app now has a centered ‘f’.
- The user interface has switched to an all-white aesthetic.
Usually, company’s alter brand identity elements to reflect changes in the internal or external environment. Obviously, in light of recent events, Facebook intends to do the same.
A brand refresh comes not just in terms of identity but also in terms of how users experience Facebook’s products. If you caught the article on color psychology, you’ll see the merits in employing a white aesthetic. As for the brighter blue, blue has always been associated with stability, reputation, reliability, trust, calm and confidence. Moving towards the brighter side heightens trust, calmness with a hint of young playfulness. This is perhaps what Facebook was leaning towards.
The not-so-hidden messages
Brand communication involves visible and audible chemistry. While some would have spotted the visible tweaks, many would not have picked up on the subtle yet significant audible messages. Mark Zuckerberg’s keynote speech was filled with such messages.
Zuckerberg knew that Facebook had to address the elephant in the room. He did five important things during his time on stage.
- Acknowledged that there were genuine problems.
- Admitted that Facebook didn’t have the best reputation for privacy.
- Laid out solution based on six principles he believed would help resolve the matter.
- Set expectations by referencing a timeline (could be years)
- Noted the possibility that old issues would continue to be unearthed.
At the time of this article, Facebook’s desktop version remained unchanged which created a bit of brand inconsistency. Hopefully, that will be resolved soon.
In my opinion, Facebook should have gone for a deeper gradient (infused more black at the darker end) in its app logo, indicating a sort of transition that Facebook is going through. It would reflect the fact that Facebook still has some distance to cover. Perhaps, the current scheme would have been better utilized a few years from now to signify that change.