Facebook’s rumored name change follows months of negative revelations regarding the company’s treatment of misinformation and the adverse impacts of its various apps on users. Whistleblowers Sophie Zhang and Frances Haugen have exposed that company leadership is aware of the harm that Facebook and Instagram cause yet appear uninterested in doing anything to mitigate it.

That the company is eager to rebrand and reposition itself makes sense, given pressures from the public, investors and regulators. By placing Facebook under a larger umbrella organization, much as Alphabet did with Google, the company appears poised to make its beleaguered social media platforms components of a portfolio rather than the face of the organization.

Yet, although brand strategists and crisis consultants promise a clean slate, rebranding is a Band-Aid solution to a much deeper problem. It is a form of reputation management that allows executives to assume the issues facing a company emerge from outside rather than within it. The history of brand repositioning suggests that even if the strategy yields positive gains, the deeper problems driving negative public opinion will persist.

In 1972, advertising executives Al Ries and Jack Trout published an ambitious op-ed in the pages of Advertising Age under the headline “The Positioning Era Cometh.” Throughout the 1960s, mass communication and the proliferation of endless product options had overloaded consumers with both information and choice. The sheer number of media messages made it hard for marketing managers to get the right messages about their product through to the public.

Ries and Trout proposed “positioning” as a solution to this problem. To successfully communicate in an “overcommunicated society,” your idea — a product, brand, institution or person — had to be carefully positioned in “the mind of the prospect.”

Positioning meant taking what people already understood about your organization and capitalizing upon it. The approach, they explained in their 1982 book, “Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind,” was “not to create something new and different. But to manipulate what’s already up there in the mind. To retie the connections that already exist.”

The concept aligned with a pressing concern of mid-1970s marketing: explaining how the actions of a firm affected public life. Over the previous decade, American public trust in institutions, both corporate and government, had been shaken by the Vietnam War, social unrest at home and the revelations of the Watergate scandal. As a 1973 Advertising Age editorial on Watergate’s impact on advertising put it, “What the Nixon advisers, and also many advertisers, fail to realize is that there has been a rising expectation on the part of consumers and citizens in regard to the conduct of all our institutions — government, business, labor, and every aspect of society.”

With public trust in corporations falling to new lows, political scandals like Watergate and ongoing social movements had heightened public expectations for corporate actors. Pepsi-Cola marketing executive H. Naylor Fitzhugh suggested that pressures from the Black freedom struggle, consumer rights advocacy, second-wave feminism and environmentalism were changing the marketing landscape. He called for renewed attention to “today’s emerging customer-consumer-citizens” and warned that professional marketers “must not only market products and services; we also concurrently must sustain and improve the practices of marketing firms and the private business system itself.”

Through the deregulatory climate of the 1970s and 1980s, marketing and brand strategists turned to positioning as a strategy to protect the legitimacy of the corporate image. Public opinions were mostly solidified and hard to change, especially when journalists were covering organizations beset by crisis. Positioning promised a set of strategies for navigating this reality: a company could be repositioned along those axes that consumers found appealing, even if overall press coverage was negative.

Ries and Trout pointed to Monsanto’s 1978 “Chemical Facts of Life” campaign as an example of a successful repositioning strategy. In the early 1970s, public opinion had largely turned against large chemical manufacturers like Monsanto. An ongoing green movement, alongside spectacular coverage of the Love Canal disaster — in which long-buried industrial chemical waste drums leaked into groundwater and caused illness among residents in Niagara Falls — had soured public perceptions of chemical giants. Opinion pollsters Yankelovich, Skelly and White had concluded that the chemical industry had come to “stand out as a principal villain” in the area of public health.

The Monsanto campaign aimed to reposition the firm by connecting the chemical industry to natural processes. Beginning in the late 1970s and extending well into the 1980s, the “Chemical Facts of Life” campaign sought to convince the public that synthetic chemical products were no different from the naturally occurring chemicals that made life possible. “Some people think anything ‘chemical’ is bad and anything ‘natural’ is good” suggested one pamphlet; “Yet nature is chemical.” Conjuring up examples like plant photosynthesis and human breath, the campaign promised “to find a clear path through the labyrinth of information and misinformation about chemicals which may help or harm health and the environment.”

And the strategy worked — at least in shifting adverse press coverage. Ries and Trout pointed to a 1978 New York Times article, “The Case of Useful Carcinogens,” which questioned congressional regulation of cancer-causing agents. A year later, in 1979, Business Week recognized the chemical industry’s successful “movement into the image-building arena.” Monsanto Chairman John W. Hanley “saw that chemicals came out the villain every time and decided it was time to do something.” Other industry heavyweights soon followed. DuPont, Business Week reported, had already committed $4 million to a similar image-building campaign.

While brand repositioning made sense as a marketing strategy, it was not effective for addressing the social ills that emerged from a company’s operations. Positioning assumed that the company, product or service on offer was inherently good. It taught marketing professionals to believe that the problems the public identified were mere misunderstandings. As Ries and Trout put it, positioning encouraged a manager to “look for the solution to your problem not inside the product, not even inside your own mind” but rather “inside the prospect’s mind … concentrate on the perceptions of the prospect. Not the reality of the product.” It was a method for glossing over whatever pressing issues concerned the public.

By the late 1990s and early 2000s, brand position had become a company’s most important asset for framing itself and explaining its actions to a consuming public. Adopted into standard marketing textbooks and presented on at major marketing conferences, positioning strategy tasked managers with reflecting on where their firm ‘fit’ in a broader industry and encouraged them to make the most of that position via a relaunch.

Social media both shifted this situation and amplified its stakes. Anyone on social media could quickly communicate frustrations to followers, post negative reviews and make claims undermining a company’s image. Just as Ries and Trout had warned in 1972, a corporate image belonged not to the company but to the public, whose shared preferences and opinions defined a brand’s identity in public life. Just as social media sped up our collective sense of the news cycle, it also intensified the relationship between brand position and user sentiment and engagement.

The risks of social media for brand positioning have had knock-on effects inside of organizations, too. The shifting tides of public sentiment could drive share prices down, undermine employee morale and undercut recruitment strategies.

Ironically, as more people have flocked to platforms such as Facebook, social media companies themselves have been forced to reckon with a media system that is harder to manage — and in turn, with reputations that are less easily controlled.

Chief among the advice offered by proponents of positioning in the 1970s and 1980s was that to be successful, an organization in crisis had to continue to deliver something of meaningful value to the audiences it served. As Ries and Trout put it in 1982, a new position cannot be built from nothing. Rather, it must “retie the connections that already exist.”

As with Monsanto, Facebook’s problems run deeper than its brand name and position. The history of brand strategy and positioning tells us that a new name might provide a temporary shift in negative coverage but will do little to remedy the harms generated by the company’s business model. Platforms like Facebook pull us in through a combination of social obligations and incendiary content designed to capture and hold our attention so that it can be sold to advertisers. So long as maximizing user engagement continues to define the social media giant’s bottom line, a name change will make no difference.