Mark Zuckerberg's Makeover: Midlife Crisis or Carefully Crafted Rebranding? | TechCrunch - Latest Global News

Mark Zuckerberg’s Makeover: Midlife Crisis or Carefully Crafted Rebranding? | TechCrunch

For Mark Zuckerberg’s fortieth birthday, his wife gave him a photo shoot.

Zuckerberg smiles mischievously at the camera while sitting in the middle of a carefully crafted replica of his childhood bedroom. It’s appropriately childish — a lava lamp, a participation trophy, a white stuffed dog — and yet the setting foreshadows the culture-changing, technological force that Zuckerberg would create. Amid thick tomes on C++, Java, and Windows 95, we see a framed, sepia-toned photo of what looks like a young Zuckerberg, posing in his desk chair just as he does now: one arm draped over the back of his office chair, the other hanging over his spread legs.

This series of photos, based on different phases in the CEO’s life, shows how far Zuckerberg has come: Once a scrawny kid learning to code, he’s now one of the richest men in the world… but that’s not the most important takeaway The photo drew publicity from it. Instead, they ask themselves the question: Does Zuck have the IV?

For the first time in his life, Zuckerberg looks a little too cool for all the retro tech paraphernalia. A thick gold chain hangs around his neck, but it’s not so long that it obscures the large gothic-style text on his graphic T-shirt: Carthage must be destroyedor, Carthage must die.

Zuckerberg’s sudden change in style is noticeable – for about thirteen years now he has been wearing the same gray shirt and jeans at most public appearances, because he naturally focuses on such big issues that are beyond comprehension for us laypeople who are not so rich It’s because we just spend too much time getting dressed. When Zuckerberg posted an Instagram Reel in April about updates to the Meta AI assistant, viewers focused on Zuckerberg’s frat chain rather than the intricacies of the Llama 3 model. Someone altered a photo from Zuckerberg’s video and put a beard on his face and it went viral because he looked surprisingly good! And now the top comments on the video are urging him to actually grow his facial hair.

At a recent star-studded wedding in India, Zuckerberg wore a beaded suit by Alexander McQueen, to which he added a luxe organza shirt the next day by Rahul Mishra, one of India’s top designers. The shirt is so intricately embroidered that the price is listed online as a “request price,” as if it were a freshly caught lobster at an upscale restaurant. In his sparkly tiger shirt, Zuckerberg was photographed next to Bill Gates, whose outfit would be acceptable under my elementary school’s dress code.

Zuckerberg’s outfit choices may seem reckless, but they influence how the public perceives him and his company. That’s not something to take lightly when you’re the CEO of one of the largest tech companies in the world, especially one that has come under fire for child safety issues and addictive design. If Zuckerberg is suddenly a fashionable MMA fighter rather than an idiot profiting from our personal information, could this suave style shield him from scrutiny?

“Personal style is a means of communication,” Amber Venz Box, fashion blogger and founder of shopping platform LTK, told TechCrunch. “We have spoken and written communication, we have body language and we have ‘drop’ – our appearance says a lot about us and influences the way people think about us.”

This is not the same man we saw with a ghostly face and wide eyes as he testified before Congress about Facebook’s potential to undermine the electoral process. Remember two years ago when we all enjoyed this photo of Metaverse Zuck in front of the Eiffel Tower? And now we’re thirsty because of his lack of beard? Zuck’s lighting up happened about as quickly as we stopped caring about Horizon Worlds. Now he’s an avid MMA fighter who modestly brags on Instagram about completing a 21-minute 5K run. He no longer looks like the boy who was bullied in high school, but more like the boy who did the bullying.

“Maybe he stopped caring,” Avery Trufelman, podcaster and fashion historian, told TechCrunch. “He’s like post-Reputation era Taylor Swift.”

Trufelman’s comparison of an unusually strong computer geek to a record-breaking pop star may seem far-fetched, but in an age when tech companies control our attention for hours every day, tech CEOs are something of a celebrity.

The most dominant celebrities like Swift and Beyoncé rarely speak to the press. They don’t have to. Instead, fans search the lyrics for secret messages, as if they were Talmudic scholars carefully reading ancient texts. It’s not all that different from techies listening to Meta’s quarterly earnings calls and studying the rare glimpses we get of how Zuckerberg talks about his empire.

“This is kind of what fashion discourse has become — image decoding or armchair psychology,” Trufelman said. “Should it be that important? I don’t know. But I think that, particularly for big, intimidating public figures, this is one of the few open windows we have into their inner lives, and so we try to exploit it in every way we can.”

Zuckerberg didn’t just wear that Carthage must be destroyed Shirt because it looks cool. The phrase is a nod to the CEO’s early days as a fledgling startup founder, reminding us in his photo shoot that he slept in a plain bedroom with a mattress on the floor until Facebook reached 100 million users (of course he would have done that). I just got a bed frame and some light decor second hand, but then he wouldn’t be able to shine his Sigma grind set in a possible 40th birthday photo shoot.

The hostile nature of his old bedroom and its allusion to the destruction of Carthage make Zuckerberg appear as a rebel against the tyranny of the old technology companies. According to Business Insider, Zuckerberg made the statement Carthage must be destroyed at Facebook in 2011 when Google introduced Google+, which was considered the Facebook killer at the time. Zuckerberg put his team into “lockdown mode” – another “era” portrayed in his photo shoot, to use Swift’s term – where he had his team working tirelessly to crush competitors.

This Latin phrase comes from the ancient Roman politician Cato the Elder, who concluded all his speeches by calling for the defeat of Carthage. But Rome wasn’t exactly the underdog during the Punic Wars, and Zuckerberg isn’t exactly the underdog either – the Republic emerged victorious in all three of those wars, but it wouldn’t rest until Carthage was completely wiped out. That’s a slightly more violent saying than “move fast and break things,” but then again, Google+ doesn’t exist anymore. It worked.

Zuckerberg’s desire to establish himself in the history of American business is evident in his photo shoot. In one photo, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates is strangely present, sitting on a tiny chair next to Zuckerberg in a model of the Harvard dorm where he founded Facebook.

The picture is disturbing. Gates is dressed like he’s about to go running: He’s wearing a hoodie, gym shorts, Adidas sneakers and tube socks. Zuckerberg, sitting in a taller chair, looks like he’s judging the tech icon. At this point, Zuckerberg is richer than Gates.

Zuckerberg has always seemed to understand that he cannot take Meta’s dominance for granted, nor be content with his place in the company – the board is set up so that Mark can never be ousted against his will. The bloodthirsty slogan on his T-shirt still applies: At the moment, Meta’s biggest competitor, TikTok, is fighting for its survival.

Meta is constantly reminded that it’s hard to stay on top forever – just look at the massive stock drop in 2022 when it became clear that Zuckerberg’s big Metaverse plans weren’t as inevitable as he was making them made appear. One such reminder is embedded in the entrance to the corporate campus. When the company first located in Menlo Park, it retained the entrance sign from SunSystems, the property’s previous tenant. The company simply flipped the sign over and slapped Facebook’s “thumbs up” on it, intentionally leaving the SunSystems logo visible from behind.

“I always thought it was so poetic to capture these memories of empires rising and falling, and Zuck definitely has that Ozymandias mindset,” Trufelman said. “I think he definitely sees his place in the story.”

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