We now know another thing about Elon Musk from his latest controversial decision – this time to rebrand Twitter as X. He clearly does not understand the value of a brand. In his haste to build some kind of everything app like WeChat, Musk has – once again – thrown the baby out with the bathwater.
Goodbye to the brand equity of Twitter, that silly little bird logo and of the way it owns the word “tweet” in the way Xerox came to mean copying or Google captured “search”.
There are many ways to estimate the commercial value of a brand. Forrester research director Mike Proulx points out that Twitter “has become a verb. That’s the holy grail. This is a brand that has secured a place in our cultural lexicon”.
Musk, he adds, “has wiped out over 15 years of brand equity in the Twitter name”.
The most astute comment was by Insider Intelligence analyst Jasmine Enberg, who stated the obvious that is now common cause: “Twitter’s rebrand is a reminder that Elon Musk, not Threads or any other app, is and has always been the most likely ‘Twitter killer’.”
The Washington Post’s headline summed it up: “Twitter is turning into X. Analysts don’t see the treasure map.”
“For most users and advertisers and folk in the tech world, the product itself is the problem,” Boston College communications professor and branding expert Michael Serazio told the paper.
“Putting a new name on it doesn’t change that in any material way.”
Serazio also highlights how few examples of such rebrand successes there are.
“How many times has that worked in the past, where there is a big rebrand based on an original product failing? Where they rebranded to a larger strategy and pulled it off?” he asked. “None come to mind.”
But over at Twitter, or X, the electric Kool-Aid is flowing.
“It’s an exceptionally rare thing – in life or in business – that you get a second chance to make another big impression,” the new CEO Linda Yaccarino tweeted.
“Twitter made one massive impression and changed the way we communicate. Now, X will go further, transforming the global town square.”
She went on: “X is the future state of unlimited interactivity – centred in audio, video, messaging, payments/banking – creating a global marketplace for ideas, goods, services and opportunities. Powered by AI, X will connect us all in ways we’re just beginning to imagine.”
And on: “For years, fans and critics alike have pushed Twitter to dream bigger, to innovate faster, and to fulfil our great potential. X will do that and more. We’ve already started to see X take shape over the past eight months through our rapid feature launches, but we’re just getting started.”
And on some more: “There’s absolutely no limit to this transformation. X will be the platform that can deliver, well… everything. @elonmusk and I are looking forward to working with our teams and every single one of our partners to bring X to the world.”
What’s also clear is that hyperbole has replaced a business plan.
It seems as if the phrase, “train wreck in slow motion”, was invented for Musk’s abortive $44bn acquisition of what he calls the internet’s “digital town square”.
His tweet-reading limit scandal forced 150 million people to sign up for Meta’s dismal Threads app, albeit most have already abandoned the poor user experience of Facebook’s so-called Twitter competitor.
Musk has already admitted Twitter/X is worth half of what he paid for it, while US advertising fell almost 60%.
This is how you blow the other $22bn. DM