The actual impact of Facebook’s recent rebrand might not be totally known for another five years, according to the very chief marketing officer who led the process.
Speaking at the 15th Annual Forbes CMO Summit last week at the Ritz Carlton Laguna Niguel in Dana Point, California, Facebook CMO Antonio Lucio admitted the company was “late to the game of creating a corporate rebrand”–especially since the company has had a number of subsidiary brands like Instagram and WhatsApp for years.
The new look, unveiled earlier this month, includes an all-caps logo for Facebook’s corporate identity that aims to both create a more unified feel across the parent company’s suite of apps. It’s also meant to increase transparency at a time when Facebook faces widespread criticism over its data-collection practices and recent decision to allow misleading political ads.
“The end of this argument will not happen until five years from now,” he said on stage during an interview with Forbes. “That’s how long building brands that stand the test of time is going to take. So we can discuss colors, we can discuss names. But at the end of the day, we all know that if you make a decision and you put on it a focused discipline and consistency, things are going to happen.”
Speaking to a room of more than 100 top CMOs ranging from the largest U.S. brands to newer direct-to-consumer startups, Lucio gave added insight into the process he went through working alongside other key executives including Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg, and head of communications Nick Clegg. The team evaluated trust for the corporate brand, the value of each individual app and the association people had with the Facebook brand as a whole, and Lucio said research revealed people had a higher perception of the corporation when they knew all of the apps belonged to Facebook rather than only the flagship app. While Facebook has been under a microscope from lawmakers and privacy advocates alike, Instagram, WhatsApp and Messenger have flown somewhat under the radar of skeptics.
“Mark is incredibly focused,” Lucio said. “He’s amazing. He’s like ‘I’ve got the strategy, I’ve got the research, now let’s go to the font. And literally he would work on it letter by letter. F...A…And he’d go ‘I have a problem with the ‘K,’ so we would adjust the ‘K.’ And he was right, by the way.”
Facebook’s strategy, according to Lucio, helps to convey internal changes along with the idea that it’s a “family of brands.” Before moving forward with the strategy, Lucio said the company had to decide whether to have a “tight, nice category” that every app fits under like Apple has achieved, a house of diverse brands like Procter & Gamble and Unilever have underneath their own parent brands, or a hybrid model like Amazon or Coca-Cola. He said the company decided to keep the Facebook name at the forefront because “we don’t need to run from anyone, we don’t need to run from any particular issue.”
"This is not about being liked,” he said. "This is about actually being understood. So people can agree or disagree with a point of view, but at least they know exactly what that point of view is. That’s the role of a corporate band and that’s why you need this corporate identity.”
The rebrand has already been met with plenty of skepticism. Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, who has been trading jabs with Facebook with increased frequency in recent weeks, mocked the all-caps look in a tweet. (Lucio said Facebook has a “love plus—I don’t want to use the word hate—relationship” with Dorsey.) Meanwhile, U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Massachusetts, wrote in a Facebook post that rebranding the company won’t save it from facing antitrust litigation.
Lucio, a self-described “liberal Democrat,” joked on stage that he took critique from Warren–who is also campaigning for the Democratic presidential primary nomination–as somewhat of a compliment.
“So Elizabeth Warren weighed in on my logo,” he said. “And I’m (like) ‘yes!’”
Lucio, who was named earlier this year to the 2019 Forbes list of The World’s Most Influential CMOs–as he has been for all six previous years–joined Facebook a little more than a year ago to focus on helping rebuild trust in the social media giant. In fact, his entire career has included a long track record of building and rebuilding brands at places like Visa, HP Inc. and Pepsi. However, he said his current role will likely be his last corporate gig. (After he’s done at Facebook—regardless of when that might be—he’ll focus on advisory and educational roles.)
Asked what made him want to join Facebook in the first place, Lucio said he’s “always been motivated to make impact and to make impact at scale.” However, Facebook’s products are in some ways much more personal.
“I tend to be attracted to those things and in this particular case, social media is an active part of my life,” he said. “It’s the way I connect with my friends and family. I have friends all over the world and these are categories that I use that I feel passionate about, and I fundamentally believe if I was able to get from people like Mark and Sheryl that they are going to take all the criticism that was due seriously and that there was going to be a commitment for change, I wanted to be a part of it.”
Lucio also gave his opinion on Facebook’s decision to allow false and misleading political ads on the platform. He defended the company’s stance despite widespread criticism from regulators and Facebook employees alike, but said he’s “very concerned with the way that the political discourse and conversations are happening.”
"I think that voice within the context of political discourse is a very important angle to preserve,” he said. “The way that our democracy has evolved, the way that our laws have encouraged, I think we’ve seen media in general have created a very different space for political discourse than for brands or commercials.”
According to Lucio, the aggregate total pool of Democratic presidential candidates have spent significantly more advertising dollars on Facebook so far than U.S. President Donald Trump’s re-election campaign. He said blocking out all candidates en masse could end up unintentionally supporting the incumbent.
“I believe that people should hear what politicians have to say,” he said. “I believe that people should see when they’re lying, and I believe that if we were to follow the same approach as Twitter, it would go against actually the democratic primary and in this point in time it’s one of the most important things this nation has to get right. We can agree or disagree with a point, but it’s a point we have decided to follow.”
Lucio was also asked about a variety of other topics including the recent rise of TikTok, the wildly popular social media platform that’s been a hit with younger and older generations alike.
“They’re good products,” he said. “No question about it. It’s wonderful that the category is very competitive and very vibrant.”
In addition to the corporate rebrand, Lucio has also been focused on improving diversity issues within Facebook. Although the company’s marketing division is “the most diverse it’s ever been,” he said that’s not the case elsewhere within the Silicon Valley giant. He acknowledged that black employees at Facebook in particular have faced issues that still need to be addressed.
“That problem is very specific,” he said. “I’m going to call it unconscious bias to be politically correct, but it’s more than unconscious. The level of micro- and macro-aggressions that our black brothers and sisters and Latinos are suffering across corporate America and including at Facebook is just appalling. We’re consistently being called aggressive, difficult, loud, and that needs to change. That paradigm needs to change. My next personal goal will be to reframe it from aggressive to passionate, and passionate is a good thing.”