Featured Article : What The XXXX Does It All Mean?

9th August 2023

Elon Musk has stated that his “𝕏” social media platform will cover the legal expenses and initiate lawsuits on behalf of individuals who have been treated “unfairly “by their employers due to posts or likes on the site, previously known as Twitter. Presumably, he is trying to reinvent champion the platform as a bastion of free speech and everything seems to be getting turned upside down, so with Elon Musk re-branding Twitter, we look at why the rebrand has happened, and what rebrands can do for companies.

As an aside, the symbol “𝕏” is part of the Mathematical Alphanumeric Symbols block in Unicode. It represents a double-struck capital letter X. In mathematics, double-struck letters are often used to represent special sets or spaces. For example, the double-struck capital letter R (ℝ) is commonly used to denote the set of real numbers, and the double-struck capital letter C (ℂ) is used for the set of complex numbers.

The symbol “𝕏” itself might not have a universally recognised meaning, but it could be used in a specific context within mathematics or physics to represent a particular set or space.

For ease, we’ll stick to “X” for the remainder of this context.

From Twitter To X – What Happened?

At the end of July, Twitter replaced its familiar blue bird logo with a white X on a black background. The change is now visible in all Twitter/X accounts. What were termed ‘tweets’ will now be called “x’s.

A Slight Hiccup 

In one unfortunate incident during the rapid re-brand, the replacing of the new sign at Twitter’s/X’s San Francisco headquarters was interrupted as the police were called over a ‘mistake’ about a possible unpermitted street closure.

Why Rebrand?  

Elon Musk explained the reason for the rebrand as: “Twitter was acquired by X Corp both to ensure freedom of speech and as an accelerant for X, the everything app.” This indicates Musk’s intention to turn what was Twitter into a ‘super app’ such as China’s ‘WeChat’.

Super apps, like WeChat, are essentially like several apps rolled into one, thereby allowing the user to open just one app to do almost everything, e.g. from messaging, payments and manging subscriptions to paying bills, ordering groceries, buying travel tickets, and more.

Creating a super app called ‘X’ was something Elon Musk had in mind when he bought Twitter, saying that buying the social media platform was an “accelerant to creating X, the everything app.”

As Musk went on to explain in a tweet / an x: “This is not simply a company renaming itself, but doing the same thing. The Twitter name made sense when it was just 140 character messages going back and forth – like birds tweeting – but now you can post almost anything, including several hours of video. In the months to come, we will add comprehensive communications and the ability to conduct your entire financial world. The Twitter name does not make sense in that context, so we must bid adieu to the bird.” 

Other Reasons? 

It’s true that Musk was eyeing the super app / everything app idea when he took over Twitter, but he may also feel the time is right for a change following the many troubles and bad headlines since he took over. For example, job cuts (moderators, bosses, and workers), warnings from America’s Federal Trade Commission, key advertising partners leaving Twitter followed by a massive 68 per cent drop in media traffic, Microsoft dropping Twitter from its advertising platform, and a user vote wanting replace Musk have been just some of the high-profile bumps in the road. The decisive factor that may have helped accelerate the rebrand may well be Meta’s success in launching a competitor to Twitter in ‘Threads’ which gained 100 million sign-ups in just five days.

To Re-Brand Or Not To Re-Brand? 

Rebranding for Twitter, given its high profile and what’s at stake, could be seen as a high-risk move, or an opportunity to move forward in a new and better direction.

Rebranding can have both positive and negative outcomes for companies. Here are some of the main strengths and weaknesses of rebranding. For example, some of the key strengths of rebranding are:

– A Fresh Start. Rebranding can allow companies to reinvent themselves and start anew. It can breathe new life into a stagnant or declining brand or (hopefully) help a company to get away from negative associations with the previous brand or something negative it may have been involved in and made the news for.

– Differentiation. A successful rebranding can help a company stand out from competitors and help to emphasise their USP(s) and positioning.

– Market Expansion. A re-brand can facilitate entry into new markets by adapting the brand to suit the preferences and cultural nuances of different regions.

– Relevance. Rebranding can make a brand more relevant to current trends and consumer preferences, thereby appealing to a broader audience.

– Publicity and Attention. A well-executed rebranding generates media coverage and attention, which can increase brand awareness and engagement.

There are, however, some well-known weaknesses of re-branding. These can include:

– Brand Confusion. A poorly executed rebranding can confuse existing customers, leading to a decline in customer loyalty and sales.

– Costs. Of course, a rebranding exercise can be very expensive, involving changes to logos, packaging, marketing materials, and more. If not managed well, it could strain financial resources.

– Loss of Brand Equity. Unfortunately, rebranding may also lead to the loss of accumulated brand equity, especially if the new image does not resonate with the target audience.

– Negative Associations. Rebranding may not always succeed in shedding negative associations linked to the previous brand identity.

– Market Resistance. In some cases, consumers may be resistant to change, and a drastic rebranding can alienate loyal customers, leading to a temporary dip in sales.

Examples Of Where Re-Brandings Have Gone Well, And Not So Well… 

Re-branding is not particularly uncommon and, in fact, as part of perhaps playing down his decision to rebrand Twitter, Elon Musk shared a Tweet by Jon Erlichman (from Bloomberg) who listed many examples of now well-known brands that resulted from re-brands. For example: “Amazon: Cadabra Best Buy: Sound of Music eBay: Auction Web Facebook: Meta Google: BackRub Instagram: Burbn Netflix: Kibble Nike: Blue Ribbon Sports Pepsi: Brad’s Drink Playboy: Stag Party 7-Eleven: Tote’m Stores Snapchat: Picaboo Starbucks: Cargo House Target: Goodfellow Tinder: Matchbox”.  

Interestingly, Elon Musk’s original online banking business was called x.com before it was rebranded to PayPal in 2000 and you may recall that (before it was required to be changed by law) Musk’s baby was originally called X (First name) AE A-XII (Middle name) Musk. Clearly the symbol has significant meaning for Mr Musk!

It’s true, of course, that there are many examples of where rebranding has helped and tuned out well but, unfortunately, there are examples of where things haven’t gone to plan at all. With this in mind, here are a few high profile examples from recent history:

Rebrands that went well …. 

– A very famous one – Apple’s rebranding in the late 1990s is often cited as a successful example. They shifted from the colourful Apple logo and a confusing product lineup to a minimalistic, monochromatic logo and a focused product range. This move emphasised simplicity, which resonated with consumers and helped to contribute to their resurgence.

– In 2011, Starbucks dropped the word “Coffee” from its logo, symbolising their expansion beyond coffee products. This rebranding showcased their diversification into other beverages and food items. The change was subtle but effective, signalling the company’s evolving identity.

– Uber rebranded in 2016, shifting from the black “U” logo to a new design featuring a white circle and stylised “Uber” text. This rebranding aimed to represent the company’s global presence and versatility. It was generally well-received and helped signify a more mature and evolved brand.

Rebrands that didn’t go quite so well …

– In one that many people might remember, in 2001, the UK’s postal service, Royal Mail, underwent a rebranding to become “Consignia.” The rebranding was supposed to emphasise the company’s expansion into a broader range of logistics and communication services. However, the name change received widespread criticism and confusion from the public. The decision was expensive, and within a year, due to the negative response and lack of public acceptance, Royal Mail reverted to its original name. The failed rebranding was considered to be a costly and embarrassing misstep for the company.

– Wonga, a (controversial) UK payday loan company in the, attempted a rebranding in 2013 to appear more responsible and customer friendly. Despite introducing a new logo and advertising campaigns, the rebranding was met with scepticism and critics argued that the underlying issues of high-interest rates and predatory lending practices were not addressed. Public perception didn’t improve, leading to regulatory challenges and reputational damage. In 2018, Wonga went into administration, showing that rebranding can fail if it doesn’t address core problems authentically.

– In 2010, Gap attempted a rebranding by introducing a new logo, replacing their iconic blue box. However, the new design received overwhelming negative feedback from consumers and the design community. As a result, Gap quickly reverted to their original logo.

What Does This Mean For Your Business? 

Twitter’s re-brand is another big deal for the company in what has been a bumpy road since Musk took over.

Rebranding is a strategic move that has the potential can breathe new life into a company – if/when it’s done right but it’s crucial for businesses to keep some essential considerations in mind. Rebranding should serve a clear purpose and be in line with the company’s vision and values. For Twitter(‘X’), the re-branding appears to fit with Musk’s original vision of turning it into an ‘everything app.’ It’s also essential in rebranding, however, to put the customer at the centre of the rebranding process, ensuring it resonates with the target audience.

Authenticity is a key consideration and successful rebranding addresses underlying issues and avoids superficial changes. With all that’s happened at Twitter in recent times, Musk’s tried to make this change appear as non-superficial as possible, saying the platform is going to be completely changed in scope. Planning and executing a rebranding with a strategic approach is also vital, considering all aspects of the business, and many people may have been taken a little by surprise at the sudden announcement and the contrast of twittering birds with the bold black and just a mysterious X. For re-branding, businesses must also be aware of potential risks, like customer confusion or negative perceptions, and take steps to mitigate them but with trouble at Twitter recently and with the arrival of Microsoft’s Threads, it may have been more of a case of not worrying too much about that now.

A rebranding should be seen as a long-term investment in a company’s growth and reputation and, as it has done for many companies, can yield significant benefits when done right. There are, however, many examples of where it hasn’t worked out for many large businesses and Musk is gambling with high stakes that the transformation to an ‘everything app’ pays off.

It’s still early days in the rebrand – watch this space!