X-ed: No more tweets

Cheh Chuan Low

1 Aug 2023

Quick overview: On 23 Jul 23, the iconic blue bird (Twitter) was killed by its equally iconic owner, Mr Elon Musk. He announced a shocking major rebranding exercise for Twitter that will basically wipe out whatever that were once associated with the Twitter brand: the company name, the logo, and effectively terms that Twitter users used endearingly such as ‘Tweet’ and ‘Retweeted’, etc. What could have driven Elon Musk to make such a drastic and abrupt decision? What would the impact be for the Twitter brand?

His reasons in brief include: the advertising revenue of Twitter remains nearly half of what it was after all the shake-ups following his buy over of the company. This leaves the company with a negative cashflow and heavy debt load. On top of that, his business intent in longer term is to turn Twitter or now called X into a super app that offers a wide range of services like WeChat in China and Gojek in Indonesia. With an aging group of Twitter loyalists on one hand and the need to attract new Gen Z users for the new super app on the other, he made an executive decision to abandon the old brand and to embrace the new for a new future.

Calculated risks or pure ego? The sudden abandonment of the Twitter brand with an estimated $4 billion brand value according to brand valuation consulting firm Brand Finance or $15 billion to $20 billion by Vanderbilt University is somewhat bewildering for many in the branding industry. According to Allen Adamson, co-founder of the marketing and brand consulting group Metaforce, it’s “completely irrational from a business and brand point of view,” and “To me, it’s going to go down in history as one of the fastest unwinding of a business and brand ever.” (Source: Quote is from an Article from Time ). The obvious question is whether this move would alienate Twitter’s loyal users and drive them and advertisers even further away. Or is Musk convinced that people will get over their initial disappointments and their habits would compel them to continue using X in spite of their unhappiness with the brand change. And along with the rebranding and new capabilities that X will be offering, they would help him capture younger, newer users.

Total abandonment or gradual change? Some may argue that it would have been easier for Twitter followers to accept if the brand change was a refresh with some elements of the original brand being retained. This is after all what major brands conventionally do. The key word we need to note is ‘conventionally’ because Mr Musk is the exact opposite of convention. And we need to recognise that Elon Musk himself is a high profile brand. The brand value of the companies under him thrive on his personal brand. He is an influencer CEO with 140 million followers on Twitter/X. He is known to be polarizing, controversial, and makes moves that few dared. In short, Elon Musk is the super anti-hero with an ‘anti-brand’ charisma. He is undoubtedly, the Deadpool of the business world. The conclusion would be straight forward if it was a decision made by someone less influential. But in this instance, we are speaking about Elon Musk and we can’t discount the Musk effect and his loyal fanbase. So, was it a right move or not? I guess only time will tell.