Halo insight 01
March 2018
5 Mins
Paul Bailey Brand Strategy Director

How Brand Utility Shields Facebook

Why do people remain loyal to a brand? There are a myriad of benefits that brand experts claim people want from a brand – collaboration, service, innovation, relationships, and the current favorite, purpose. Obviously there are many reasons people are loyal to a specific brand, but what about when a brand is simultaneously extremely successful and unpopular with the people using it? Why would people remain loyal to a brand they didn’t like?

Just in case you’ve been hiding under a rock for a few weeks I will fill you in – the Facebook brand has been taking a bit of a kicking recently. Without going in to detail (the plethora of issues are too confusing to be honest, but Cambridge Analytica and the misuse of 50 million sets of peoples’ information are pretty high on the list) it seems that Facebook haven’t been all that great at being a trustworthy brand.

Does brand trust matter?

People have essentially been giving their data to Facebook for years, but the lack of care Facebook have taken with this data is now coming into sharp focus. The hashtag #deletefacebook has gained notable traction on social media, and the Bank of America has slashed the Facebook share price forecast citing this hashtag ‘movement’ as a reason. Although the hashtag, and the sentiment to leave, has been widely shared there is little evidence people are actually leaving in huge numbers. In a recent interview Mark Zuckerberg responded to a question on the #deletefacebook campaign by saying that they haven’t seen a meaningful number of people leave the platform.

Brand Utility = Brand Armour

This is the key point regarding Facebook. What can easily be forgotten in shaping brand is the simple factor of utility. What does the brand (and business) allow people to do, and what value does this represent to them?

Facebook has so embedded itself into modern society, that in deleting it people wouldn’t simply be leaving a brand, but would be losing friendships and communities. If society is formed by our shared space, then Facebook has managed to make itself integral to our digital society. In fact, the dictionary definition of society – the aggregate of people living together in a more or less ordered community – pretty much defines Facebook’s utility in the digital sphere.

Some commentators have mentioned that other social platforms had their time in the sun but were eventually replaced (MySpace, Friendster, Orkut) and that Facebook could go the way of these. I’m not convinced of this, and the reason is the utility of the brand. Facebook has placed itself at the center of an incalculable number of relationships, many of which would simply would not exist without it. The brand has little competition right now, and the sheer number of people on the platform means that it remains in a dominant position.

Brand Utility > Brand Trust

It is this unique utility Facebook offers which seems to continue to outweigh any issues people might have with trust in the brand. The opinion of the Facebook brand must be at an all time low right now – many people don’t trust the content they are shown on it, or what Facebook will do with their own data. In fact, Facebook is the big tech company that people trust the least, with 80% of people in one survey saying they don’t trust Facebook with their data.

However little the Facebook brand is trusted right now, it is going to be very interesting to see how long the value of the utility of this platform remains greater than the lack of trust in the brand. Only when this equation reverses – when the requirement for trust outweighs the utility on offer – might we actually see people #deleteFacebook.