By Vinay Menon / July 28, 2023
The first rule of rebranding: don’t confuse the world.
Watching Elon Musk run Twitter is like watching the Rock arm-wrestle himself. It is a pointless spectacle. On Sunday, Mr. Musk tweeted a photo of a giant X projected on the side of Twitter headquarters in San Francisco. After almost killing Twitter by accident these last few months, Musk has now done it on purpose.
The blue bird is officially a black X. And, somewhere, New Coke is crying laughing.
Musk is an enigma wrapped in a Jolly Rancher riddle. He revolutionized electric cars. He shoots rockets into outer space. He’s no dummy. But when it comes to media, he is a total moron. X marks the spot this week of his folly and haste.
Twitter was a global brand. Tweet was a universal verb.
Now that blue bird is a dead canary in the coal mine of his bad ideas.
Musk basically sacked half the staff when he took over Twitter. Then he blowtorched content moderation and safety protocols without realizing advertisers tend to frown upon marketing goods and services next to hate speech.
And now his silver bullet is to … rebrand Twitter as X?
It’s hard not to pity Linda Yaccarino. She is Musk’s hand-picked CEO. Her job description seems to be putting lipstick on a pig. I can only imagine the contents of her medicine cabinet as Musk texts marching orders and any deranged whims that pop into his head at 3 a.m. as he’s playing video games on edibles.
Ms. Yaccarino did her best to cheerlead the X rebrand: “It’s an exceptionally rare thing – in life or in business – that you get a second chance to make another big impression. Twitter made one massive impression and changed the way we communicate. Now, X will go further, transforming the global town square.”
Yes. Or burning the global town square to the ground.
Musk spent $44 billion on a social media company only to do a total rebrand nine months later? That is someone who does not know what he is doing. Does he really believe X can transcend Twitter when there is no evidence he ever understood Twitter beyond sophomoric memes and poop emojis?
We all have things in this world we love. The danger in branding is myopic overextension. I love the occasional martini. But not enough to name one of my daughters Grey Goose. That would be bizarre, self-indulgent and needlessly confusing – exactly what Musk achieved this week by rebranding Twitter as X.
From SpaceX to the Tesla Model X, this guy is too in love with the third-last letter of the alphabet. Before it was PayPal, Musk’s venture into online banking was X.com.
His son with former wife Grimes now answers to “X” after California authorities balked at the original name – X Æ A-12 – because it contained numerals. Whoops. Musk and Grimes also have a baby daughter who goes by “Y” after “?” was rejected.
These two have no business naming gerbils, let alone humans. You know your rebranding is a disaster when even “Sesame Street” is making jokes.
But Musk’s obstinance has strayed into self-sabotage. Users were already leaving Twitter like it was a toxic dump with an asteroid warning. If people don’t feel comfortable with text messaging, why would they trust a service for commerce or personal finance? Musk warns about AI. But now AI will power X?
This isn’t a rebranding – it’s an obituary: Twitter (2006-2023).
There is no question Musk overpaid for the company. And now that it has lost more than 60 per cent in value, he is trying to douse a kitchen fire with a can of kerosene. Everything Musk has tried on Twitter – from monetizing Blue Check verification to erecting possible bottlenecks on usage – has amounted to a reign of error.
He should stick to cars and spaceships. Social media is not in his wheelhouse. All this noble blather about free speech is a crock given how quickly Musk blocks, bans or fires those who disagree with him. He should be terrified that nobody in his inner circle had the guts to flag the stupidity in changing Twitter to X.
Musk wants to fight Mark Zuckerberg in a steel cage. He’d be better off asking why Meta did not rename the umbrella brands underneath such as Facebook, Instagram, Whats-App, Reality Labs and so forth. I suspect Zuck would give him a Marketing 101 on branding that includes cautionary tales from Tropicana, the Gap and Radio Shack. That is, assuming Zuck could keep a straight face after Musk has done everything in his power to sabotage his own foolish purchase and slow murder of Twitter.
Renaming it X only raises one question: Y?
The photo Musk tweeted – sorry, X’d – this week was reminiscent of when the Bat-Signal gets beamed into the Gotham sky out of desperation. But there is no caped crusader who can help him clean up the X-large mess he has created for himself.
Elon Musk believes X can be more than Twitter.
But under his watch, Twitter was less than it ever was.