Elon’s risky brand move brings Twitter back to headlines around the world

Twitter has made headlines again with its recent rebrand, simply "X", in favor of Elon's love for the letter.

Branding, Design, Brand Marketing, Marketing, Social Media

Staff Writer 26 Jul 2023
3 mins
Twitter Headquarters after the announcement of the logo changing to X

Elon Musk has done it again.

In his continuous bid not only to stay relevant, but to capture headlines, he’s unveiled a new — and risky — brand for Twitter.

Simply, X.

In a spontaneous launch that was teased over the weekend, X is officially the new logo for the long-serving bird app on Monday.

The move comes just after rival Meta (owners of Facebook and Instagram) launched Threads earlier this month, stealing not only the news coverage Musk seems to crave but millions of users desperate for a Twitter alternative as well.

The new brand is not solely driven by the need to respond to the threat posed by a new app in the landscape — after all, The Wall Street Journal reports that Threads has seen a drop off of 70% in user engagement already as it fails to meet expectations.

But the move is still set to drive speculation about just what the world’s most erratic billionaire is up to.

Musk has long had a fascination with the letter “X”, with the letter appearing all the way back to x.com, one of his first businesses and an iteration of the company that would later become PayPal.

We then have SpaceX, Musk’s space exploration company, the Model X car for Tesla, and even his first-born child who was named X Æ A-12.

Musk purchased his old domain, x.com back from PayPal in 2017, and it has sat unused since then, but now currently redirects users to Twitter.

What does all this mean for the app formerly known as Twitter?

X CEO, Linda Yaccarino, posted on the app shortly after the rebrand saying, “X is the future state of unlimited interactivity – centered 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.”

That’s a big call from a platform that has culled an estimated three-quarters of staff since Musk took over and which has seen spiralling issues with outages as well as on-again, off-again policy changes that sometimes are introduced and removed in a matter of hours.

There are no announced plans for some of the new services that will be offered by X, but if the current pace of how things have moved since Musk took over continues, it’s unlikely to be long until the next big play.

So, what should we think of the X factor? We asked two of our in-house experts.

Purple’s Chief Innovation Officer, Ruth Callaghan, a once self-proclaimed Twitter addict, quit the app not long after the takeover by Elon Musk.

She believes the move will further erode the trust users — including corporates, governments, public institutions and advertisers — have in the troubled site.

“This continues Elon’s attack on the brand he bought for $44 billion, which was an extraordinary deal that has been an unmitigated disaster for users.

“For advertisers, government and corporate users this now means making the awkward decision to direct traffic to a site called X.

“As a name, it is unGoogleable and far too close for comfort to a number of pornographic websites, for anyone serious about their reputation.”

“There’s also the frustration that comes with the cavalier attitude the platform and its owner take to change.”

“Just think of the enormous amount of collateral, advertising and content based on Twitter — the bird image, name and Twitter iconography appear on literally millions of documents, websites, apps, and digital content assets worldwide.”

“Every bit of that is now out of date or redundant, with no change management plan for this shift. It’s going to be a headache for marketing and social teams globally.”

For Purple design expert, Adam Elovalis, going off-brand for Twitter is on-brand for Elon.

He notes it didn’t take long for memes about the change to make it to the worldwide trending tab, something Musk knew would happen and embraced.

“It makes zero commercial sense to change but this is what makes Elon so fascinating.”

“Elon Musk has his own brand, and he is ‘Elonifying’ Twitter.”

“His brand is interesting, it combines his love of tech, his eccentricity, his love of the letter X, the sense of “what is going to happen next”, bombastic approach and unwavering confidence.”

“Twitter is now a sub-brand of the Elon Musk brand of business. So, its success will rise and fall directly on the perception of Elon’s success and failure.”

“Will it have any effect? I think it will be minimal. Some people will dislike Elon and x-it because of that, but like most changes he has made since taking over, not much will change.”

“Most people will still access the site from Twitter.com, and the user experience is currently the same — yet he has successfully gained PR from the world talking about it.”

Although the headline hysteria will eventually die down, Adam believes the real change may be yet to come.

“Generally, you rebrand an organisation to this degree to mark a distinct change in direction.”

“It will be interesting to see how his talk about AI and sending and receiving payments will be implemented and how they will work.”