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Facebook is officiallyrebranding Instagram and WhatsApp as “Instagram from Facebook” and “WhatsApp from Facebook,” according to The Information. The new titles will appear in Apple’s App Store and Google Play, but will remain unchanged on device screens. Business Insider Intelligence
Here are three ways to think about Facebook’s decision:
1. Change management: It’s an attempt to acclimate users to viewing Facebook’s apps as a unified offering ahead of the company’s push toward greater integration.
The brand unification is a mostly symbolic piece of Facebook’s broader push to unite the underlying infrastructure of its apps, and I expect more of these subtle changes in the coming months.
By more directly linking its other app properties under the parent brand, users will be primed to accept some of the big changes CEO Mark Zuckerbergoutlined earlier this year. In particular, the updated names could help prepare users for interoperability, which will enable users to communicate seamlessly across all of Facebook’s owned apps.
The rebranding is another hint that Facebook wants its other apps to be viewed as parts of the same organism, something further underscored by the company’s “Family metric,” which it now reports with earnings. The metric captures the combined reach across all Facebook’s apps including core Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp, which Facebook estimates is about 2.7 billion monthly active users.
2. Reputation management: The unification is meant to help Facebook rehabilitate its image by allowing its less damaged brands to act as “shock absorbers” for the parent.
By associating Facebook more visibly with the subsidiary apps, it can ideally glean some of their appeal by proxy. Core Facebook’s brand has taken numerous hits in recent years, that have only seemed to escalate in frequency and degree.
Meanwhile, Instagram and WhatsApp — despite having problems of their own — have managed to remain relatively unscathed. Although Facebook hasn’t lost any users as a result of scandal, its brand has likely taken a beating — Facebook’s user satisfaction ranking has fallen to the lowest score among social media companies ranked:63 out of 100, down from its 2015 high of 75, per the ASCI E-Business report.
That’s necessary: Instagram and WhatsApp are expected to be bigger growth drivers of the company overall in the future, but until that happens, Facebook is reliant on its core brand. WhatsApp’s 1.5 billion global users make it Facebook’s most popular app, and Instagram’s 1 billion highly engaged, purchase-happy users could make it Facebook’s most lucrative. But until the torch is officially passed, Facebook needs to ensure that it retains relative user affinity to protect what remains its biggest cash cow: News Feed.
3. Business model commitment: Rebranding is a signal— even if Facebook’s looking to its other brands for reputational help, it’s going to continue the “Facebookification” of Instagram and WhatsApp in a business sense.
Since acquiring both companies — Instagram in 2012 and WhatsApp in 2014 — Facebook had previously allowed the apps to operate independently, but that’s changed over the last year. The apps have seen major departures from their top ranks over the past year: Instagram CEOKevin Systrom and CTOMike Krieger; and WhatsApp CEOJan Koum and WhatsApp vpChris Daniels.
Each of those departures was described as having to do with fundamental disagreements about how Facebook was reimagining app operations. The so-called “Facebookification” of Instagram can been seen in Facebook’s aggressive moves to monetize Instagram and WhatsApp with ads, respectively.
Having maxed out inventory on News Feed, Instagram began flooding its main feed with ads. And having adapted and scaled the Stories format from Snapchat, Facebook is also pursuing growth from Stories ads.
Likewise, although WhatsApp is still ad-free, the crux of the disagreement between Zuckerberg and departed cofounders surrounded the eventual inclusion of ads in the app: Ads are expected to roll out first on the app’s Stories feature calledStatus sometime in 2020.
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