Twitter’s rebrand to X last week has caused quite a stir. While the social platform has been in the headlines for all the wrong reasons since Elon Musk’s takeover in October 2022, this rebrand was sudden, radical, and the public aren’t exactly on board. The lack of clarity and communication about the new direction points to an exemplary failure to rebrand.
This blog outlines the lessons we can take away from X’s (RIP Twitter) rebranding missteps and highlights the importance of effective communication and brand equity in a successful rebrand. Let’s discuss…
I’ll go out (not too far) on a limb to say that this is not only the worst rebrand of the year, it will be the WORST of the worst rebrands of the year.
A shit show over a dumpster fire inside of a looming train wreck. Will someone bring marshmallows for the bonfire afterwards? 🔥 https://t.co/RL93G38ROD
— Brian Collins (@briancollins1) July 24, 2023
The Value of Brand Equity
The ambitious decision to rebrand as X has eroded the strong brand reputation and widespread recognition that Twitter had built over time. The familiarity and recognisability established over 17 years are crucial assets that have been completely disregarded in this rebranding process.
Rebrands are huge strategic decisions to shift perceptions, rekindle feelings and build trust. To do that effectively, it is imperative that the visual and verbal language, along with your tone of voice, brand language and consumption behaviour markers, are considered. As we know, brands that stand the test of time are all about recall value translating to valuable brand equity, which has been completely overlooked with X.
“There’s a lot to be said for brand equity – Twitter’s reputation and recognizability weren’t created overnight,” says Becci Salmon, a design director at IPG-owned ad agency FCB London. “Twitter, tweets, tweeting – it’s all part of the vernacular, a familiarity that’s been built up over 17 years. [Musk is] ripping down a brand that’s been a cornerstone of social media … my gut reaction was that this is something only a billionaire on an ego trip would do.”
The Smoke and Mirrors of Musk
X’s rebranding strategy has relied heavily on creating mystery and hype, similar to Apple’s approach. However, without guiding users carefully in the new direction, the brand has managed to confuse, alienate and even scare its once loyal user base. It compels one to think whether this is just a mere smoke and mirrors situation with something bigger happening in the background—a distraction for us average folk.
The public doesn’t trust Musk and, thus, his platform, so was this rebrand ever going to be successful with him at the helm of the ship? Elon is a master manipulator who knows how to demand attention, and it’s undeniable that he has damaged the brand that once was among the most influential in carrying the conversation online. We do know Musk’s ultimate goal—to be an “everything” app called X. A one-stop shop for all your digital, social and banking needs. When you’re trying to be everything, you become no one. Your core is lost.
A Design Disaster
The design of the rebrand has been widely criticised by creatives and laymen alike. The hasty execution and lack of thoughtful design choices might have something to do with this. Here’s the timeline as a refresher:
4 June: Twitter announces they’re limiting views.
6 June: Competitor Meta launches its own version of Twitter – Threads and grows to 100M in 5 days.
23 June: Elon Musk runs a quick competition to find an X he likes so that it can be sent live the next day.
24 June: Twitter rebrands to X.
Rebrands take months, years even—trust us. Rounds of ideation, goal setting, designing, reviewing and starting again from scratch. When it comes to X, the design itself is confusing, to say the least. Becoming obsessed with certain letters isn’t unique to Musk—fair play, it’s worked out for the Kardashians. However, randomly dropping X into a rebrand for one of the most recognisable brands in the world is truly laughable. The fish and chip store around the corner gave it more thought.
We’ve all had those clients who think creating visual identities is like cooking up some fried eggs—quick and easy. The X rebrand doesn’t feel too far off from that. The uneven and messy brand roll could get designers fired in our world. A wordmark for a social media platform is a reflection of the community and the people who make it. People want something to relate to, for it to feel personal. Nothing about this rebrand is about that. It does one job well and that is to inflate the owners ego.
As a product designer, the new X logo just looks like a close button when in context. pic.twitter.com/hHeQ3tR7gA
— DANN© (@DannPetty) July 24, 2023
X carries so many connotations, it’s unlimited creativity, X rated, X = No. It’s hard to see an emotive connection to the letter X. Unless you’re looking at it as a representation of a kiss. The reaction from the design community is reflective of this with many designers and Twitter users alike expressing their views on how it lacks meaning and effective communication. When it comes to the colour palette, designers are constantly erring on the side of caution when it comes to stark black-and-white palettes, as it is often harsh on the eye and way too contrasting. The palette, coupled with its sharp edges, has been described as “overtly masculine, cold and even threatening”.
I am a graphic designer. The twitter bird logo/brand presented a kind, welcoming, open, light-hearted community. I think this new logo/brand is dark & sinister, overtly masculine, unwelcoming and threatening, not to mention rather self-obsessed. https://t.co/5hcCxqs6pI
— Anna Dillon (@Anna_Dillon) July 26, 2023
Twitter’s rebranding to X serves as a cautionary tale on how not to execute a rebrand. The lack of clear communication, disregard for brand equity, and design failures have left users and experts alike sceptical about the success of this endeavour and the overall legitimacy of the platform. Effective rebranding requires thoughtful strategy, effective communication, and a deep understanding of the brand’s identity and target audience, something we’re not quite sure Musk is capable of.
The letter X will be holding a press conference later today. #TwitterX pic.twitter.com/qXKNYLTqLe
— Sesame Street (@sesamestreet) July 24, 2023
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