You might have heard that the social networking platform formerly known as Twitter is now called X. Owner Elon Musk executed the name change along with a new logo is less than forty-eight hours. No bothering with months of brand research and focus groups for this guy!
Not being a Twitter (X) user, my interest is from a branding standpoint. Is this a good business move?
The Twitter brand is embedded in our culture and in everyday conversation. That’s a rare achievement for a corporation. The word tweet has become both a popular noun (a tweet is a short little something that you write) and a verb (the act of writing that short little something).
Plus you can conjugate that verb: I tweet, you tweeted, we’re all tweeting. You can also retweet someone else’s original tweet.
But now what do you do instead of tweet? Do you X? As in: Did you see the most recent X from Elon? I re-Xed it. I also use X to X all my opinions.
There’s nothing wrong with rebranding, and in some cases it makes business sense if a brand name no longer fits the corporate mission or goals, or if the previous brand name was tarnished. Google (another corporation that became a verb!) restructured its business and created a new parent company called Alphabet because it’s not just a search engine. Kentucky Fried Chicken became KFC to shed that evil word fried. Facebook the company became Meta to reflect its focus on the metaverse, a virtual reality space that the company is investing in.
I thought the name Twitter was brilliant, and the bird logo was iconic, recognizable, and amiable looking even if the platform itself spewed a fair amount of vitriol. Now that the platform is a mouthpiece for Elon Musk’s agenda, the nasty content will likely remain, but the bird has flown away for good.
Musk’s move branding wiped out anywhere between $4 billion and $20 billion in value, according to analysts and brand agencies. I guess he can afford it. But why does he have to name everything X (he even calls his kid X)? X has associations with words and phrases such as “former, prior, used-to-be, has-been, had-been, past, in-the-past, past-its-prime, no-longer, bygone . . .” Not great connotations.
The rebranding is “completely irrational from a business and brand point of view,” said Allen Adamson, co-founder of the marketing and brand consulting group Metaforce. Adamson called it an “ego decision” on the part of Musk. “To me, it’s going to go down in history as one of the fastest unwinding of a business and brand ever.”
Musk explained his reasoning for the name change (on Twitter, I mean X, of course):
Twitter was acquired by X Corp. both to ensure freedom of speech and as an accelerant for X, the everything app . . . The name Twitter made sense when it was just 140-character messages going back and forth, like birds tweeting, but now you can post almost anything, including several hours of video. In the months to come, we will add comprehensive communications and the ability to conduct your entire financial world. The Twitter name does not make sense in that context, so we must bid adieu to the bird.Elon Musk
I think I’ll hold off on conducting my entire financial world on X. Farewell pretty blue bird.