Will the “X” Rebranding Reverse Twitter’s Implosion?
Last Sunday, at 12:00 AM Eastern Time, Twitter and its iconic blue bird were replaced by the company’s new name: “X.” For the past 20 years, billionaire Elon Musk has used the one-letter name across his portfolio of companies and products. The platform currently features an “Interim X logo.” However, the effort may be too little too late to reverse the company’s implosion.
Musk has redefined the company as the “Everything App,” positioning it alongside his other “X” businesses, which are listed here. The letter X has been present in almost everything Musk has been involved with for the last two-plus decades. For instance, X.com served as the original name for PayPal, and it’s incorporated into the name of his aerospace company, SpaceX, the X.Ai Tesla SUV, and even his son’s name, X Æ A-12. Finally, he is putting the X.com domain (which he repurchased from PayPal in 2017) to good use, although it currently redirects to the Twitter homepage.
As has been reported here, to support the rebrand and address the company’s plans to win back ad revenue, which has dropped by almost 60%, Musk has made a series of intriguing updates to the platform. First, he announced that the number of direct messages (DMs) for non-paying users will be limited. In addition, a new hiring feature reminiscent of LinkedIn appeared for Verified Organizations. But the most attention-grabbing revelation was that “X” would soon allow users to post “very long, complex articles” directly on the platform.
However, the question remains if these changes will be enough to regain users who have departed for Threads, which has gained over 100 million sign-ups to date.
“When a private citizen can pay $44 billion for a media company—’the world’s town square’—and both crash the civility of the discourse and incinerate 17 years of brand equity within 10 months, we have too much concentration of wealth in the hands of too few.”
Strategy Without Relevance
Professor Scott Galloway summarized the rebrand of Twitter.com thusly: “When a private citizen can pay $44 billion for a media company—’the world’s town square’—and both crash the civility of the discourse and incinerate 17 years of brand equity within 10 months, we have too much concentration of wealth in the hands of too few.”
It appears that Musk is trying to do almost anything at this point to resurrect the flailing platform. However, changing the name just for the sake of changing it and without defining the value it’s providing for users and advertisers can do more damage than good. Even before Musk acquired Twitter, the brand seemed to struggle with an identity crisis that lacked relevant brand differentiation to deploy its long-term purpose and benefits to the Twitter community and advertisers.
Here’s how relevant brand differentiation was explained: “Relevance is a key driver of purchase intent. Relevance means the brand-business is seen to be addressing current customer needs and/or solving customer problems. Relevance, along with differentiation, is necessary for defining brand-business value.”
As straightforward as this reads, Musk doesn’t appear to be checking off any of the items on this list against the X brand and platform, nor is he asking the following questions:
Who is X’s ideal target audience and what is its benefit to brands?
How is the platform focusing on users’ and brands’ specific needs and preferences to create relevance and strong brand differentiation?
What are the functional benefits and emotional rewards the platform should deliver to its users?
How can the platform shift customer perceptions and identify where it can win?
What is the platform’s functional benefits and emotional and social rewards that ladder up to the overarching brand-business promise?
What features and functionality haven’t we considered that will enhance the user and advertiser experience?
“Since Twitter went public in 2013, it has reported an annual profit only twice, in 2018 and 2019. Analysts say this reflects Twitter’s fundamental business struggle: getting people to use its service and getting advertisers to spend their money there.”
While the bigger endgame here has yet to reveal itself, the X rebrand of Twitter feels flat and unwarranted. The name, color and identity of the bird were iconic, to say the least. The problem itself is with the platform, which has struggled with growth and poor revenue.
This is further explained here: “Since Twitter went public in 2013, it has reported an annual profit only twice, in 2018 and 2019. Analysts say this reflects Twitter’s fundamental business struggle: getting people to use its service and getting advertisers to spend their money there. Facebook and Google have grabbed the lion’s share of online ad dollars by letting brands target people based on their interests and what they’re searching for. Twitter, on the other hand, hasn’t been able to convince many advertisers that it’s worth inserting themselves into the site’s fast-moving and often acidic reactions to events of the day.”
While Musk has promised change, his lack of brand safety, personal comments and his support of conspiracy theories have sent advertisers running and have alienated users. This is already in addition to the platform’s very poor targeting capabilities when compared to the likes of Google and Facebook.
Can the Implosion Be Reversed?
The lack of clear relevance and differentiation in the platform’s rebranding strategy raises concerns about its effectiveness. Musk’s approach seems to overlook important questions about the platform’s target audience, benefits for users and brands, and necessary functional features. Moreover, his controversial actions have further strained advertiser trust and driven away users. Without addressing these fundamental challenges, the “X” rebrand appears flat and unwarranted, overshadowing the platform’s original purpose and potential as “the world’s town square.”
Questions? Feel free to email me here. As always, thank you for reading.