Branding Lessons from Myspace / My[___]

Myspace—the social breakthrough of the early 2000s, the cooler younger brother of Friendster, and the only place where you could publicly display your friends by order of importance (Top 8, anyone?). If none of this sounds familiar to you, we’re not surprised. The ailing social network hasn’t aged very well, and despite several rebranding attempts since the beginning of its decline in 2009, many people now think of Myspace as Facebook’s weird old uncle, if they think of it at all.

Myspace started out as the quintessential “place for friends,” when it was created in 2003. Unique visitors to the site increased steadily, shooting from 1 million users in February of 2004 to five million in November of the same year. By July 2006, it was the number one most visited site in the U.S, and in December 2008, unique U.S. visitors to Myspace peaked at 175.9 million. Its heyday was truly glorious for the time.

But as formerly devoted users began to migrate to the decidedly more relevant and intuitive social darlings Facebook and Twitter, Myspace recognized the need to keep up with the times. They tried to rise to the challenge by reinventing Myspace into a ‘social entertainment site,’ that focused on music and aimed to connect artists with their fans. Oh, and it wasn’t “Myspace” anymore, but rather “My_____.” That’s right. My_____. The abrupt logo and name change further alienated My____’s original users. By January 2011, Myspace had to lay off nearly half its staff. Rupert Murdoch’s conglomerate Newscorp, which bought the social network for half a billion dollars in 2005 and presided over the rebranding disaster, sold it to Specific Media in 2011 for a small fraction of that cost.


MySpace Logo RedesignThe infamous logo redesign

We can learn a lot about rebranding from Myspace’s relative failure. Here are a few lessons:

First, don’t just rebrand, rethink! Myspace was music-centric pretty much from its conception. Artists and fans had already set up shop when My_____ made the idea of social entertainment the crux of its makeover. If anything, the move was too blatant and ended up marginalizing the community that already existed. When retooling your brand, make sure you base your strategy around a concept that is new and fresh, not just a different version of the concept that no longer works or that doesn’t need saying.

Second, don’t change what works. If you make the decision to rebrand, there is probably a reason. Most likely, however, certain aspects of your brand are worth keeping, especially if they fundamentally represent the way your customers connect with you. In the case of Myspace, the extreme logo/name change removed the basic relationship that existing users had with the social network. Too much, too soon.

Finally, make sure rebranding is the right choice for you before you do it. This sounds awfully obvious, but all too often, companies decide to take the plunge without considering other options first. Creating a new brand for a company or product is expensive, risky, and difficult to reverse once its established. Now, Myspace clearly needed a new direction in order to stay relevant, but one wonders whether a full rebranding was in its best interest at the time.

As of 2012, Justin Timberlake is out to change Myspace’s fate with yet another rebranding. Justin and the team of young forward thinkers at Specific Media have re-imagined the idea of the ‘social entertainment site’ by integrating a photo stream, mixtape style playlists, and full Facebook and Twitter connectivity. We think it might have some potential. Take a look at this promo video. What do you think?

If you are considering rebranding and need help, call The Primm Company at 757-623-6234.