Facebook Rebrand: A look at other corporate name changes
Facebook announced Thursday that it is changing its name to Meta Platforms Inc., joining a long list of companies that have tried to rebrand themselves over the years.
A corporate rebranding strategy sometimes works, but sometimes can fail disastrously. Here are a few such examples:
VALUJET TO AIRTRAN(1997)
A ValuJet plane crash in 1996 with 110 fatalities left the brand tarnished. It acquired AirTran Airways in 1997 and took on the name of that airline. Southwest Airlines bought AirTran in 2011 and AirTran flights ceased in 2014.
ANDERSEN CONSULTING TO ACCENTURE(2001)
Andersen Consulting was a successful consulting spinoff from accounting firm Arthur Andersen. Friction with its parent led to a legal battle that concluded with Andersen Consulting not being legally able to use the name Andersen, so it rebranded to Accenture. The timing of the rebranding was fortunate when Arthur Andersen became embroiled in the Enron financial scandal later in 2001.
PHILIP MORRIS TO ALTRIA(2003)
Tobacco giant Philip Morris changed its name to Altria to try to focus the public perception more on the consumer food products it owned under the Kraft brand rather than tobacco. But people still equated Altria with cigarettes, and Altria ended up spinning off Kraft in 2007 and refocusing on tobacco.
NETFLIX TO QWIKSTER(2011)
In 2011 Netflix announced that it was going to split into two services, with the online service we know today remaining Netflix, and the physical DVD rental service, known for its red envelopes, renamed Qwikster. Coming on the heels of a price increase for customers who suddenly had to pay for two services instead of one, subscribers were in no mood to humour the whimsical name and lambasted it online. Netflix dropped the name a few months later.
CVS CAREMARK CORP. TO CVS HEALTH(2014)
The company now known as CVS Health bought pharmacy benefits manager Caremarkin 2006 and became CVS Caremark Corp. It changed its name to CVS Health in 2014 and stopped selling cigarettes in a bid to rebrand as a health-conscious company, not just a drugstore chain that makes money on prescriptions.
GOOGLE TO ALPHABET(2015)
In 2015, Google was facing increasing complaints from investors that its forays outside of its core search business, dubbed “moonshots,” weren’t transparent enough. It was also facing growing antitrust concerns over its advertising business. So the company rebranded itself as Alphabet, a conglomerate that breaks out more financials for its operations beyond search.
TRIBUNE PUBLISHING CO. TO TRONC(2016)
Tribune Publishing, founded in 1847 with a storied history as a publisher of the Chicago Tribune and other major daily papers, was trying to stave off an acquisition bid by Gannett and increase online ad dollars, announced a name change to Tronc Inc., which stood for “Tribune online content.” The name was widely ridiculed, and Tronc changed its name back to Tribune Publishing in 2018.
VERIZON’S OATH TO VERIZON MEDIA(2017)
Verizon spent about $9 billion buying AOL and Yahoo over two years starting in 2015, housing the media companies in a division it called Oath. But the hoped-for revenue from the ageing online brands didn’t materialize. The year after buying Yahoo, Verizon wrote down the value of the combined operation, roughly the value of the $4.5 billion it had spent on Yahoo, and renamed it Verizon Media. Verizon sold the division earlier this year to a private equity firm for $5 billion, and it was renamed again, to Yahoo.
PRICELINE GROUP TO BOOKINGS HOLDINGS(2018)
Priceline’s name change to Bookings Holdings reflects the shift in popularity from Priceline.com, which started out selling flights, to Booking.com, a Dutch hotel and vacation rental site Priceline bought in 2005, which is now the company’s most profitable site.
WEIGHT WATCHERS TO WW(2018)
Shifting from a name to initials is a popular way to rebrand: Kentucky Fried Chicken to KFC or Restoration Hardware to RH, for example. Weight Watchers switched to its initials in an effort to get away from the idea that it is a diet company, as people increasingly become aware dieting isn’t healthy and that weight isn’t necessarily tied to overall wellness.