Following the announcement that the company previously known as Twitter was rebranding to ‘X’ I thought I would pen a few thoughts about the rebrand and potential impact on its reputation.
X is not an entirely new vision for Elon Musk. In fact it has been part of his grand plan since 1999 when he co-founded X.com. This later merged with software company Confinity Inc in 2000, which then became PayPal. In 2002, eBay bought PayPal and then, in 2017, Musk bought back the domain X.com from PayPal.
Late last year, Musk tweeted (or should I say X’ed?) his vision that ‘buying Twitter is an accelerant to creating X – the everything app’. His aspiration being that X will become the western world’s WeChat equivalent (for those who might not know, WeChat is China’s app for everything).
This was a significant move. For the past 10 years, Twitter has been recognisable for its sweet blue bird logo. To ‘tweet’ became a verb and staff were affectionately known as ‘Tweeps’. And then with a blink of bird feather, Musk killed off the bird and X was born.
Such a sudden change comes with the risk of losing loyal customers. With the lack of a transparent communications strategy that highlights the company’s evolution while staying true to its core values, Musk increases the chances of eroding the brand equity the company has worked so hard to achieve. There will undoubtedly be a proportion of users who feel apprehensive, hesitant to let go of the familiar Twitter branding they’ve grown accustomed to – and in some cases grown up with.
The new X logo seems cold and harsh in comparison to the blue bird – which has been described as warm and cuddly. In addition, the name X might evoke feelings of detachment or uncertainty about the platform’s future direction. Since Musk took over Twitter there have been reports of a decline in user base. This is likely due to some of the changes implemented recently; such as the loss of the blue tick status for those unwilling to subscribe and limits on the number of tweets users can view each day.
It will be crucial for Musk to proactively address these concerns and explain how the rebrand aligns with the platform’s evolution while preserving its authentic values and essence in order to maintain a loyal following.
A successful rebranding effort hinges on two essential elements: transparent communication and a client-centric approach. Musk needs to explain the reasons behind the X rebrand and its potential benefits – and reiterate them to the market. Emphasising how the new identity will lead to a more enhanced user experience, along with improved security and privacy measures, will be crucial in reassuring users and gaining their trust and continued loyalty. By actively seeking and incorporating features and improvements based on user preferences, X can also demonstrate its commitment to putting its users first.
The timing and lack of public preparation means that the marketing team at X has a bigger hill to climb that most businesses which decide to undertake a similar exercise.
History is littered with examples of rebrands, some bigger than others and some more successful. Time is an important factor. Few people today would remember that Apple Inc was called Apple Computers Inc until 2007. This small, strategic move opened up the company’s market beyond desktop computers to include music, mobile phones, tablets and other devices. By maintaining its core values of innovation and simplicity, Apple has remained one of the most influential companies in the world.
Wholesale changes can take longer to gain traction, however. There remains a demographic for whom a Snickers will always be a Marathon, and a group that will forever refer to Opal Fruits even though every child knows them as Starburst.
Twitter was one of the companies at the forefront of the tech revolution, attracting world leaders, celebrities, religious figures and everyday people. Elon Musk has long been famous for his boundary pushing and innovation. He is a man certainly not lacking in ambition. Whether those qualities can translate into a successful rebranding and marketing campaign remains to be seen.
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