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Exploring Human Potential

Mark and Sheryl’s “Meta”-Mania.

Posted on | October 29, 2021 | 1 Comment

Mike Magee

At the 2010 World Economic Forum, marketing powerhouse Fleishman-Hillard reported that “3 out of 5 chief executives believe their corporate brand and reputation represent more than 40% of their company’s market capitalization.”

But what happens when your brand becomes synonymous with misbehavior, dishonesty, deceit, and deception? For C-suites behind the management curve, or ones ethically compromised, choice number one is to abandon the brand. But timing is critical.

Take Mark Zuckerberg’s announcement this week that Facebook is now “Meta.” As reported in Forbes,Mark Bayer, president of Bayer Strategic Consulting, noted that, ‘A name change now—when Facebook is under intense scrutiny—reinforces the perception the company is trying to elude responsibility for its lengthening list of misdeeds. Even if disconnected from the current crisis, the name change will be seen as a clumsy PR move. It’s a gift for comedy writers everywhere.’ ”

Zuckerberg on the record comments this week didn’t exactly chart new ground. He timidly contended that “Over time, I hope that we are seen as a metaverse company. I want to anchor our work and our identity on what we’re building towards.”

Metaverse? The term was coined in 1992 by writer Neal Stephenson in his dystopian novel Snow Crash.  It is an invented word (the prefix “meta” meaning beyond and “universe”) to a vision of how “a virtual reality-based internet might evolve in the near future.”

Metaverse” is all the rage today, referenced by the leaders not only of Facebook, but also Microsoft, and Apple, and many other inhabitors of virtual worlds and augmented reality. The land of imaginary 3D spaces has grown at breakneck speed over the past three decades, and that was before the self-imposed isolation of a worldwide pandemic.

In rebranding Facebook “Meta”, Zuckerberg is banking on futurists who say that the metaverse remains a future-facing concept that has not yet approached its full potential. But everyone from gamers to academics say it is gaining ground fast, and igniting a cultural tug of war.

Zuckerberg is far from the only enthusiat. Jason Warnke of giant consulting firm Accenture sees the “metaverse” as a power enhancer and multiplier. He says “…we believe we now have the opportunity to bring our people together in ways never before possible in the physical world.”

Not so fast, says Esther O’Callahan, the Gen-X founder of the online recruitment firm Hundo, who must feel just a bit violated this week. She says the term is“… owned by young people who care more about community than profit and use it for the good of the real and virtual world. And if that sounds ludicrously naive and optimistic about it – I am and I’m not sorry!”

Karinna NobbsCEO of The Dematerialized, envisions the coming metaverse as a societal builder referring to it as “the next significant third space.” In doing so, she is appropriating a term made famous by sociologist Ray Oldenburg in his 1989 book, “The Great Good Place”. In it, the author advocates for investment in public spaces, outside of home and work that encourage congregation, civic engagement and relationship building. Karinna sees her virtual company as a “third space” to converge and nurture the emerging digital fashion ecosystem.”

Not surprisingly, many health entrepreneurs must be viewing Zuckerberg’s Meta-mania with concern. They have been all over the metaverse as well, with new ventures attracting investor demand, selling marginal moves in telemedicine, robotics, behavioral health, consumer wearables and the like.

Deloitte & Touche LLP report that digital health investment has quadrupled in the past four years, including $21.6 billion in 2020. They see health tech invasion of the metaverse as “a prescription for disruption by a growing base of health technology investors armed with funding from special-purpose acquisition companies (SPACs).” Investors are literally betting on an idea since SPACS go public without any existing business operations. They play to profit, not to disrupt.

Of course, so does Facebook, manipulating algorithms to juice up profitability, even as they have disrupted what had previously appeared to be a rather stable form of government, democracy.

Rebranding might distract, and even excite some Facebook fans. But it is no more likely to be a successful rebranding strategy than Phillip Morris’s morphing into Altria while simultaneously targeting with e-cigarettes the same crowd that got Mark and Sheryl into so much trouble – teens.

Comments

One Response to “Mark and Sheryl’s “Meta”-Mania.”

  1. Aiyana Bose
    November 1st, 2021 @ 2:39 am

    The name is unique and sensible for what the company is trying to do. Whether we like it or not, people do prefer to live online rather than in the real world. Building a meta-verse is a very good idea.

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