Feb 29, 2024 - Business

Mark Zuckerberg's brand bounces back from robotic to authentic

"Mark Zuckerberg. Photo: Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images"

Mark Zuckerberg. Photo: Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

Meta founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg's reputation as a robotic tech villain has started to fade due to a series of authentic and — dare we say —charismatic communication choices.

Why it matters: Zuckerberg's new way of presenting himself to the world is casting a halo effect on the company itself, which signals a major PR turnaround.

The big picture: To better connect with audiences, companies are increasingly positioning their executives to serve as the human faces or walking embodiments of their brand.

  • That's because CEO visibility leads to corporate visibility — which can help companies and brands have a leg up on the competition.
  • Plus, consumers and employees report wanting to hear from CEOs directly.

State of play: Whether it's his recent social media posts, media interviews or even his appearance before the Senate Judiciary Committee last month — we've never seen Zuckerberg act so ... real.

Zoom in: Zuckerberg prompted a viral moment when he delivered an impromptu apology to the families of child victims of online harm who attended the Senate hearing.

  • Even Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen commented on the shift in Zuckerberg's demeanor during his congressional testimony.

He's also created a lot of buzz across social media by challenging Elon Musk to a cage match and posting about raising cattle.

  • But his straight-to-camera review of Apple's Vision Pro received the most attention, with more than 250,000 likes on Instagram Reels.
  • Zuckerberg replied directly to commenters and generated more than 5,200 media stories for the effective critique of a competitor's product.

Yes, but: This is the same guy who used his VR avatar to tour Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria devastated the area in 2017.

  • It seems he has found a more authentic, less tone-deaf way of promoting Meta products while also sharing more about himself.
    • For example, earlier this week he posted a photo of himself eating at McDonald's in Japan, while wearing Ray-Ban Meta Smart Glasses.

Zuckerberg was known across the tech beat for being uneasy, unrelatable and cranky during interviews.

  • However, his recent 40-minute interview on the "Morning Brew Daily" podcasts — in which he discussed his cattle ranching hobby, tech trends and his "controversial" leadership style — is perhaps the most open we've seen him.

What we're hearing: Current and former Meta employees Axios spoke with say Zuckerberg seems liberated.

  • "Mark is just being Mark," said former Meta executive Campbell Brown. "He's a genuinely approachable guy and people externally are getting to know what people inside the company have known forever."

What they're saying: Meta declined to comment — which is maybe one thing that hasn't changed about its PR tactics.

💭 Thought bubble from Axios co-founder Mike Allen: "Mark is increasingly putting himself out there — his sports, his passions, his theories. No filters, no nets. People eat up anything that's real, daring and unguarded."

What to watch: Meta is boasting record profits and has found a way to position its products as strong alternatives to X and Apple.

  • But rough patches are inevitable — especially given the upcoming election and continued regulatory scrutiny. It will be interesting to see how Zuckerberg shows up and communicates during testier times.

Go deeper ... What's really hot about Zuck? That smokin' stock price

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