With more than 2 billion users, WhatsApp is already one of the most popular messaging applications on the planet. But its largest markets are all outside the United States. Now Facebook, WhatsApp’s parent company that just rebranded itself as Meta, is hoping to change that.
Since the beginning of this year, Meta is launching the first marketing campaign in the country for WhatsApp, focusing on the privacy offered by the application’s encryption. The first television commercial has already been broadcast during various sporting events, taking advantage of the audience pull that the NBA has, for example. Similar ads promoting WhatsApp privacy will soon start appearing on billboards across the country and on online banners.
Put privacy at the center
The objective of this marketing strategy is to get more people on the continent to download WhatsApp by highlighting the security of the application in relation to other methods of text messaging such as the old-fashioned SMS (which, although it may seem incredible, are still tremendously popular in the country). More than 5 billion unencrypted text messages are sent every day in the United States. Much of that volume is likely to be spam and promotional messages, but SMS is also the default texting method for many Android phones, or used when someone on iMessage texts with an Android device.
Google is starting to push hard for the adoption of RCS, the long-awaited update to SMS that adds features like read receipts and, in some cases, encryption. But Apple has given no sign of wanting to add RCS support to iMessage.
Facebook is a brand that trades very low
Meta believes that the availability of WhatsApp on both iOS and Android is a starting point for those frustrated by the cross-platform texting experience. The company is working on making it easy to sync chat history from an iOS device to any Android phone and vice versa. And last year, WhatsApp implemented fully encrypted backups , something Apple has yet to offer with iMessage.
Given how frowned upon the Facebook brand is in the US compared to other parts of the world, the fact that this marketing push comes after the rebranding to Meta is certainly convenient for WhatsApp. Like the screen that appears when you first open the app, the TV ad that will air in the coming days says that WhatsApp is “from Meta” and not from Facebook.
As Meta knows from its own research, messaging apps tend to build strong network effects over time that can be difficult to compete with. Apps like Snapchat and iMessage, and even Facebook’s own Messenger, are much more popular in the country than WhatsApp.