Facebook unveiled a new logo yesterday that’s meant to represent the parent company that owns Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, and more. The logo just says “Facebook,” but in a really bland and generic font that looks like it would fit well on a credit card. A GIF shows the wordmark displaying in different colors to represent the different brands — blue for Facebook proper, green for WhatsApp, pinkish for Instagram, and so on.
The logo is supposed to be put to use in the “coming weeks” within Facebook products and marketing materials. We’ve known for a couple months that Facebook would soon add “from Facebook” within some of its other apps, and it turns out we’re going to see this logo instead of the traditional blocky blue Facebook wordmark.
Facebook has always used its social network’s wordmark to represent the company as a whole. But 15 years on from its founding, Facebook is now far more expansive as a parent brand, and the company apparently felt it was necessary to distinguish itself from the social network it was built upon.
The new logo uses custom typography and is “designed for clarity,” with the goal of creating a “visual distinction between the company and app,” the company says.
Facebook says the goal of including “from Facebook” is to let people know that its apps have “shared infrastructure” and rely on many of the same teams. “People should know which companies make the products they use,” writes Antonio Lucio, Facebook’s chief marketing officer.
At the same time, the new logo feels like it might also be an attempt to keep Facebook’s different brands a little bit more distinct amid almost nonstop controversy. The different logos seem to say that Facebook the company is not entirely defined by Facebook the social network — they just happen to share the same name and controlling interests.
Lucio told Bloomberg that changing the parent company’s name was considered, but decided against because Facebook didn’t want to appear to be hiding from its problems. Instead, the rebranding is more about trying to color Facebook with some of the goodwill associated with its other brands, like Instagram and WhatsApp. When people learn Facebook makes them, Lucio tells Bloomberg, they start to like Facebook more, though it also puts a “brand tax” on the other app due to the association.
Facebook began its rebranding process in June, adding “from Facebook” taglines to its products. The Information reported Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg was unsatisfied with the credit Facebook was getting for owning Instagram and WhatsApp.
Zuckerberg “double-downed” on that sentiment during this month’s earnings call as a response to questions about anti-trust investigations against the company that could seek to force a spin-off of its acquisitions. Zuckerberg noted that it was Facebook’s resources in areas like anti-spam, internationalization and ads that helped turn Instagram from a sub-50 million user product to a billion-plus one today.
Some see Facebook as preemptively mounting a defense against antitrust action. Beyond rebranding, it’s working on making Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp and Instagram Direct a unified interoperable and encrypted messaging system where users can chat across the apps. Building them all on a centralized infrastructure could make Facebook tougher to break up.
Yet from another perspective, the rebranding efforts feel ham-handed and egotistical. Facebook likely benefits from the fact that most people don’t actually know it owns Instagram and WhatsApp. A recent Pew study found only 29% of Americans correctly named the two as companies owned by Facebook.
Given Facebook’s rash of data security, developer platform, election interference and ongoing privacy scandals, it’s probably better off if people think they can escape the toxicity by using Instagram. The acquisitions effectively acted as a brand lifeboat for Facebook.
Now it seems Facebook is happy to burn down some of the credibility of its younger apps if it builds up the central company. Autonomy at the acquired companies has seemed to wane since Facebook installed loyal lieutenants like Adam Mosseri and Will Cathcart to run Instagram and WhatsApp, respectively.
The big problem for Facebook, beyond government regulation? If current/potential talent view Facebook as choking the potential of its subsidiaries, top workers might be hesitant to join or stay at the family of social networks.
A wordmark, word mark, or logotype is usually a distinct text-only typographic treatment of the name of a company, institution, or product name used for purposes of identification and branding. Examples can be found in the graphic identities of the Government of Canada, FedEx, Microsoft, and IBM. The organization name is incorporated as a simple graphic treatment to create a clear, visually memorable identity. The representation of the word becomes a visual symbol of the organization or product.
In the United States and European Union, a wordmark may be registered, making it a protected intellectual property. In the United States, the term wordmark may refer not only to the graphical representation, but the text itself may be a type of trademark. In most cases, wordmarks cannot be copyrighted, as they do not reach the threshold of originality.
The wordmark is one of several different types of logos, and is among the most common. It has the benefit of containing the brand name of the company (i.e. the Coca-Cola logo) as opposed to the brandmark used by, for example, Apple.