Was switching from Twitter to X a good move?

Brian Grossman
By Brian Grossman
Brand / Strategy Director
Brand Strategy, Branding

On July 22, 2023, Elon Musk announced that Twitter would be rebranding itself to X. This is so widely known now that making an “under the rock” joke doesn’t even cover it. You would need to be under a rock on one of Jupiter’s moons. Still, we’re talking about it because Twitter’s branding made it one of the most iconic brands of the digital age. Tossing all that brand equity in the garbage seems like a waste.

But is the rebrand a bad idea?


The Before



Just for fun, let’s take a jaunt down memory lane and refresh ourselves on the highlights of Twitter’s branding.

We won’t dig into Twitter’s actual original logo, but the first official one was launched in 2006. It was a simple, playful type treatment, usually set in cyan with a white outline. At the time the mark was created, they also bought a small stock illustration of a bird on iStock (created by Simon Oxley) for $15. They named him “Larry” after Larry Bird.

Just in case you don’t know, artwork on iStock isn’t meant for logos. They figured that out for themselves and then, in 2010, updated their mark to use a more simplified silhouette of the bird. The silhouetted bird was originally created by Biz Stone, then Philip Pascuzzo and Douglas Bowman refined the design into something that could be used as their new logo.

Messy drama makes logos better.

Anyway, in 2012, Martin Grasser was hired to update the logo again. His simplified version also came with a color update (#1da1f2) and a move that not many businesses make: the type was officially dropped. The streamlined logo operated well without any typography for 11 years. The one thing you cant see in the simplified Twitter bird is the shear size of the balls it took to drop the name.

Twitter’s branding extended beyond their visual identity, though.

Twitter also built a smart, congruent vocabulary as part of its verbal identity. Communications on Twitter, of course, were not “messages” or “posts”; they were tweets. Reposting a tweet was not “reposting”; it was “retweeting.” I would have loved if there were even more bird references, but terms like “Twitterverse” and “Twitter Blue” still felt smart and well-crafted.


The Ruckus

We don’t need to dig too far into the current state of affairs because we’ve all watched it unfold.  To summarize, Elon Musk dramatically completed his acquisition of Twitter in October of 2022 and immediately began making a mess. Some of the broad strokes include:

  • Blocking alternative ways of viewing the platform.
  • Adding a “For You” tab on the iPhone where X decides what to show you.
  • Reinstating Kanye, Andrew Tate, and Donald Trump to the platform.
  • Selling check marks when they used to be awarded to accounts of note.

That brings us to the topic of this article: the rebrand to X. In a series of then-tweets, Musk asked users to design logos, and Sawyer Merrit (founder of an apparel brand called Twin Birch) created the current logo that Musk has described as “art-deco.” Musk has said this logo is an interim solution and that it will be refined as time goes on, but it’s not clear what that means.

So why would Musk scrap such an iconic brand?


Why Should You Rebrand?

Your branding, through time and repetition, builds equity. If you have a strong, positive reputation, you are accruing brand equity. Brand equity is a perceived commercial value that people associate with your brand because of its reputation.

As your brand equity grows and your business grows, you build greater brand value. Brand value is the financial cost for a new business to go from $0 to wherever you are. If you rebrand, you’re hitting reset on your logo, tagline, visual assets, etc. Your brand reputation is no longer built up on your current brand; it’s left sitting on the previous one.

You’re gambling with your brand value, especially if your new brand is viewed negatively. So why rebrand if you run a risk like that?

Rebranding is a good idea when there is a major strategic shift in the business that means a reset is the better play in the long run (if it’s done well). The reset gives you a chance to close a door on where your business was and to move in a new, better direction. Some good reasons include:

  • A major change in leadership
  • Changing from a local to a global market
  • Changing markets entirely
  • Repositioning your brand
  • Ensuring your audience doesn’t see you as outdated
  • Distinguishing you further from your competitors
  • Separating yourself from a bad reputation

You might have noticed the first reason there was a change in leadership. Does that mean X was the right move?


Why X?



Using the letter X as a brand name poses a number of challenges, not least of which is the fact that Microsoft, Google, and Meta are among the long list of competitors with trademarks registered for the name X.

Frankly, the vibe of the word “X” for a social network isn’t right. Twitter is messy, social, and casual. X is the opposite of all those things… it’s intense, overly serious, and professional. It’s not impossible to restrategize the personality of a brand, but there is a culture baked into Twitter that you can’t ignore.

It would be like changing the name of LinkedIn to “Girly Pop” and giving it a nail care emoji for the logo. LinkedIn’s culture is genderless and corporate, not feminine and fun.

So why X? My guess would be Musk just has a thing for the letter X.

SpaceX, xAI… even the logo for Neuralink looks a bit like an ‘x’. Musk also was the founder of an early online bank called X.com. After a merger, the new business that resulted was rebranded as PayPal (a name that actually made sense), but Musk bought back the rights to X.com due to its “sentimental value.”

X didn’t make sense for PayPal, and it doesn’t make sense for Twitter. It makes sense to Musk, and that’s why he’s trying to make it happen.



So does the rebrand make sense?

From a strategic standpoint, now is an appropriate time to make some kind of change to the Twitter brand. The change of leadership and clear change in Musk’s vision for the platform are two factors that are worth communicating to the new, conservative audience that Musk is interested in using X.

As iconic as the Twitter brand is, if his goal is to show his new base that they’re welcome (and show everyone else that they’re not), then a dramatic rebrand would be the way to do it.

Does that mean “X” is a good name? No. It’s a shit name, and, importantly, the brand could have been updated without changing the name at all.

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