Interbrand | Pg. 2Moving Beyond Utility:Facebook’s branding challengeby Lauryn BennettIt was the valuation heard multiplied against the role of brand — in astronomically when it comes to financial other words, the portion of customer’s performance with revenues of US $35‘round the world. US $50 decision to purchase that is the result of billion (Facebook’s revenue is estimatedbillion. Not bad for a decade- brand’s influence. Next, brand strength is at US $4 billion this year) but also earns examined. This looks at how likely it is that about half of its value from the role theold Facebook to go from a New the brand will secure these valued future brand itself plays at the time of conversion.England dorm room to one of earnings. All with a little bit of math that this For now, not only does Facebook fall short writer won’t get into to equal the value of when it comes to revenue, but it also couldthe highest-valued companies the brand itself. benefit from more focus on its brand.in the world. In many ways Facebook’s brand is as Winning an Old Game with New ToysBut Facebook’s business market value, now strong as they come: Its consistent, simple The social space is a totally new worldat almost US $100 billion, is mostly based in iconography, and clean, form-equals- when one thinks of the history of brandingspeculation. What is it delivering now? function design is instantly recognizable. It and marketing, and Coca-Cola andAnd even more importantly, what is its knows its users, what they need, and what Facebook need to be evaluated differently.brand worth? they don’t even before they do (see: even Coca-Cola’s value is built through news feed or profile updates) to deliver a beverages. Facebook’s is built through youWhile Facebook’s market value may be quite hyper-relevant experience that, so far, has and me – on our data, our demographics,high, its brand value is another story— been untouchable in the market. And maybe our behavioral patterns, and our socialsomething some are likely realizing, with most importantly, it is literally everywhere, graph. Yes, today Facebook makes itsrecent Reuters reports of Facebook investors all over the web, all over the world – money on ads, virtual goods, and Facebooklooking for exits. Brand value takes three a presence unrivaled by any other credits alone. While those billions ofthings into account: financial performance, social brand. dollars are nothing to scoff at, it’s nothingrole of brand, and brand strength. The compared to what it will be worth whenfinancial performance piece looks at the But compared to Coca-Cola, Facebook has it truly unlocks the power of us – of myongoing investment and management of a long way to go. To put it into perspective,the brand as a business asset. This is then Coca-Cola not only surpasses Facebook
Moving beyond utility: Facebook’s branding challenge Interbrand | Pg. 3information, of yours, of that of 500 million its category. Facebook is social networking; minds of consumers, they represent aof our closest friends and family. social networking is Facebook. Whether specific product or service rather than a you’re “friending” someone or “checking in” specific, ownable, higher-level message thatI’m not suggesting Facebook hand over the with said friend through Facebook Places we’re drawn to and passionate about.keys to your social security number or even or “viewing your friendship” to see youryour relationship status. That won’t happen. It happened to Nokia. Its brand was mobile own social graph laid out in the form ofBut what it will do is continue to use your phones, not the fulfillment of the promise photos, events, and more, you’re seeing thedata and my data to make our lives better. of hearing a loved one’s voice or expanding connections you already have in one neat and your network, your reach into the world.The Paradox of Creating Behavior tidy place. And its brand value dropped 15 percent thisFacebook’s value is, as Clay Shirky notes in It’s our social network that we’re emotionally year versus its Apple and Google competitionCognitive Surplus: Creativity and Generosity in loyal to, not Facebook. Facebook is not that saw huge brand value increases of 37a Connected Age, in creating new behaviors building its brand around any of the benefits percent and 36 percent respectively.that makes our lives better. It isn’t that it provides – like discovering new ways toFacebook is a tech novelty, simply making Sony too, is trying to back its way out of connect or exploring the world around you towhat we already do easier, but it is that it this very same problem, expanding its make you smarter. In many ways, this is thecreates new possibilities, whether this is brand from a product-based portfolio of exact opposite of most brands, which outputthrough Facebook Connect or the latest entertainment peripherals to one higher- a message, campaign, and tagline, then“send” button to replace email through an level message around the possibility of struggle to be able to deliver on what theyinstantly sharable pop-up. This is where its turning ideas into reality through its “make. promise. And yet, while Facebook may havevalue lies – and yet, this is also the brand’s believe” territory. Its brand value dropped the hard part taken care of and own the ideaAchilles’ heel. 12 percent in 2009 and another five percent of connection more than anyone, if it doesn’t in 2010 after launching the campaign. TimeThe creation of new behaviors should drive start owning, outputting, and messaging will tell if it can deliver on its promise, butloyalty, and to a certain extent it does, just around “connecting” and what that means it looks to be moving in the right directionnot to Facebook’s brand. Rather, it drives for its audience, it will remain a utility – and – but a long way from the Sony Walkmanloyalty to the utility Facebook provides. The that’s dangerous. domination, that’s for sure.difference may seem minor, but in reality, This is because, particularly in the technologyit is huge. The Facebook brand isn’t getting The Way Forward space, where the next hot thing oftencredit for any, or at least very little, of what On the other hand, we have companies appears in the blink of an eye, a strongit does. It acts like and is treated like a third like Virgin, whose brand was built around brand protects the brand from competition.party in its own world – facilitating our the idea of entertainment, on innovation Without a strong brand, Facebook is justconnections, our uploads, and our portal to with a fun, fresh spin. This positioning gives another social media site. Sure, it may havethe world. Facebook quietly lets us take it for it license to enter new categories from the most toys now (Beluga, Places, etc),granted; forgetting or ignoring the brilliance airlines to comic books to sustainability and but once something better comes along,of the information it provides us – for free, turn it on its heads under the promise that everyone will be jumping ship. Case in point?no less. you will have fun any time you experience Look no further than Groupon rapidly losing an element of the Virgin brand. It gives itSo why is this happening? Why are we all market share to LivingSocial. flexibility to stretch its brand all the whilenot writing fan letters and swearing our The Danger of Owning a Function gaining equity because no one else in itslife allegiance to the brand? It is because We’ve seen this dozens of times before: space can own this idea. It’s not easy, butFacebook has become synonymous with category leaders who die because, in the when strategically implemented, it pays offWithout a strong brand, Facebook is justanother social media site.
Moving beyond utility: Facebook’s branding challenge Interbrand | Pg. 4The trick for Facebook isn’tin credibly owning its brandmessage, it’s in outputting ititself so it gets credit for it..in spades – spades in the form of billions ofdollars, of course.The trick for Facebook isn’t in crediblyowning its brand message, it’s in outputtingit itself so it gets credit for it. Right now theonly time it is controlling its own messageis through blog posts, the occasionalZuckerberg interview, and its homepage,which states “Facebook helps you connectand share with the people in your life.” Itdoesn’t even take credit for the connectionsit makes possible on its one branded line ofcopy. That’s just not good enough.As it continues to grow the company intonew spaces – like deals and questions, whichstart to push the boundaries of “connection”– its offerings will become more and moresiloed, and it will need that one thread, thatone story that ties it all together, that givesit the credibility to push into these spaceswithout question, that builds mutual trustwith its users, so you and I don’t questionallowing our data to be used. Becausewe’ll know it’s all in the name of sharing, ofconnecting, of opening up our world in wayswe never knew could exist.We’ll know that Facebook and only Facebookcan deliver on that promise. And what morevaluable promise than one that connects usto a better world for everyone we love? ■
Lauryn BennettLauryn Bennett is a Senior Consultantfor Interbrand New York’s Verbal Identitydepartment. She has a strong passion forcreating simple, holistic brand experiencesthrough her brand messaging, voice, naming,and strategy development for online andoffline, B2B and B2C clients across industries.In her word-nerd-meets-tech-geek careerpath, Lauryn spent years in cross-functionalcontent strategy, copywriting, and productmarketing roles in the web start-up world.Here, she developed and grew a number ofbrands from dozens of domestic users tomillions of international loyalists. Laurynleverages her mastered balance of metric-driven strategy and creative vision to produceunique, usable verbal assets for her clients. Creating and managing interbrand.com brand value TM