How The Social Network Movie Will Damage Zuckerberg’s Brand

PeoplePersonal Branding

The Social Network movie is coming out on October 1st and has already received substantial reviews from the likes of Rolling Stone Magazine and other influential publications. Rotten Tomatoes gave it a 100%, which is extremely rare for this type of movie, or any movie in general. The New York Post says “It’s the finest film in many years to open the New York Film Festival.” The film is based off of Ben Mezrich’s bestselling book “The Accidental Billionaires: The Founding of Facebook.” The movie showcases how Facebook was created by super genius Mark Zuckerberg, with a great cast, including Jesse Eisenberg, and Justin Timberlake, who needs to release a new album already. Facebook didn’t cooperate with Ben or Aaron Sorkin (the writer), while they were filming the movie, but Facebook did open their doors to David Kirkpatrick, who wrote The Facebook Effect, which was also successful. This movie is stirring the media up, and Zuckerberg is scared about his reputation.

PR Stunt or Honest Philanthropy?

Zuckerberg is now one of the richest people in America, securing the #35 spot on Forbes Magazine’s list this year, with a net worth of $6.9 billion dollars. As a twenty-something, Mark’s cover has been blown and now everyone knows exactly how much he’s worth. When you become that wealthy, a lot of people want you to donate to charities. Recently, Mark donated $100 million dollars to the Newark, New Jersey public school system and presented the present on The Oprah Show, with NJ Governor Chris Christie and Newark Mayor Cory Booker. The timing of his gift coincided with the release of The Social Network, a movie that will soon paint a negative portrait of him.

I believe that this was a major PR stunt because Mark has absolutely no connection to that school district. If he chose something that he really cared about and that was somewhat aligned what he believed in, there would have been a stronger connection and impact. Matt Miller, from The Washington Post, talks about this in his opinion piece. Even Oprah points this out during the show. There’s no doubt that Zuckerberg cares about his image and how he’s represented in the media.  His PR team should have spent more time choosing the right cause, crafting a better story, and then announcing it at a different point in time.

Zuckerberg’s Personal Brand – then, now, and after October 1st

With the amount of lawsuits Zuckerberg has had over Facebook, one can only suspect how he behaved at Harvard, and if he stole the idea in the beginning or not. The movie makes Zuckerberg out to look like a jerk, who stole the website idea from his colleagues, after they asked for some help with the programming aspect of the website design. Within one week, he will go from a genius beloved billionaire to a vindictive schemer, whose only looking out for himself. Also, Mark used to wear a nametag with “I’m the CEO B*@#,” and one of my friends met him in person and he came off like he was better than everyone else.

While some people will overlook The Social Network movie because they really love Facebook, and don’t really care about the founder, others will have a very negative view of him. People who really didn’t know of Mark before will have this movie be their first impression of him. At some level, this will all be part of how he’s remembered, both online and through other media. Something tells me that this movie is going to make over $100 million at the box office, and take Zuckerberg down with it. But, in all fairness, he’s made billions, and we haven’t. He’s developed something that we all use to connect with everyone in your lives. I’m not going to hold a grudge, are you?


In Mark’s defense, it must be hard to handle thousands of employees, investors, board members, and billions of dollars when you’re young and not completely mature. He’s doing his best, but the media does have an incredible impact on brand reputation and Zuckerberg will take a major hit. The movie is rated PG-13, which means that the younger audience will be watching this film as well. For people who aren’t in the technology space, this will be the highest point of visibility for Zuckerberg (and his character), so it’s how he will be remembered in most cases.

Your turn

Do you think The Social Network movie will have a long-term negative impact on Zuckerberg’s personal brand?