12 reasons why Twitter’s rebrand to X is a mistake
Our marketing columnist on the biggest branding move of the year: Twitter’s sudden transformation into X.
It’s a mistake because rebranding is always a mistake. Even if your brand is called Wanker or the Certified Union of National Transcribers, you keep your original name. The only reason you ever rebrand is because you have to for legal or ownership reasons, cf. Accenture.
It’s a mistake because Twitter is throwing away brand equity. While the debate rages over distinctiveness and differentiation, no one doubts that a significant – and possibly dominant – aspect of brand equity is derived from a brand’s ability to be recognised by its target market and to come to mind in buying/user situations. When you rebrand you lose all of this and have to rebuild it from scratch. This takes time. This takes money and a host of other resources.
It’s a mistake because the Twitter name and its associated brand were valued at 4.4 billion quid by Brand Finance last year. That makes Twitter’s brand worth significantly more than its annual revenues. That’s a big fucking asset to walk away from.
It’s a mistake because you need your distinctive assets – your bird, your name, your blue colour – so that you can stand out and claim a share of screen. The average iPhone user has 40 apps spread across three or more screens. That makes app usage just as visually competitive as any grocery store shelf and just as dependent on established, distinctive identity for usage.
It’s a mistake because your new name is ludicrously bad. Bad because X is already used by a plethora of other users and is almost certainly unprotectable across unnumerable business settings. Bad because X has a ton of negative, dark connotations that probably make it the 26th best letter to use. Bad because it’s a weird thing to say in both verb and noun form. Try “I’m going to X about it” or “I’ve just seen an X from Dave” or “I’m on X reading about it”.
It’s a mistake because you currently make all your money from advertisers who are scared shitless of getting involved in any kind of “weird Elon shit with an X in the name”. Twitter was never the hottest ad platform in social media but brands knew what they were getting for their ad dollars. With X there is just mystery and weird Elon stuff – and advertisers no likey mystery and weird Elon stuff when it comes to brand safety and media investments.
He is making these decisions alone. Running naked through the night. Fuelled by ego and a trenchant desire to make his mistaken acquisition a success.
It’s a mistake because you just ceded a huge advantage to Threads which was, until yesterday, the new brand trying to establish itself against an incumbent. Today it is the stable, established platform that users will move to because they are weirded out by X.
It’s a mistake despite the fact that a “super-app” offering multimedia offerings and payment services does make some sense. No-one has yet become the Western equivalent of WeChat and Musk clearly has been eyeing that space for some time. But why kill Twitter to land there? Launch a new brand and maintain Twitter and its billions of profits. Or take a leaf from Zuckerberg’s playbook and create a brand extension of Twitter that offers these functions to users. Rebranding and repurposing and relaunching all at the same time smacks of desperation even though the target category does appeal.
It’s a mistake that went unchallenged because Musk has built an empire of ignorance in which he is surrounded by those who will not challenge him. And his famed disrespect for marketing means that the humility of market orientation and a sensitivity for what users do and do not want, also escapes him. He is making these decisions alone. Running naked through the night. Fuelled by ego and a trenchant desire to make his mistaken acquisition a success.
It’s a mistake because Musk has bigger and more important endeavours to manage and protect. If X is a laughable failure it will not only reflect badly on X and on Musk, it will cast a long miserable shadow across the other bigger brands in his stable.
It’s a mistake that will only be defended by two groups. Musk acolytes who assume every decision he makes is genius, bro. And counter point cowboys who always jump onto LinkedIn or Twitter, er… X, to make some kind of insane justification for the unjustifiable so they can get followers and retweets, er… reXs… see what I mean?
It’s a mistake. One that did not need this column or the four hundred thousand other posts from marketers explaining why it’s a mistake.
It’s a mistake.