Bayes academics react to Twitter’s rebrand

Bayes Business School academics react to the news that Twitter is rebranding to “X”

Elon Musk announced on Sunday night that Twitter is revamping its logo and replacing the iconic blue bird with a simple “X”. In response to the news, marketing experts from Bayes Business School (formerly Cass) have commented on the significance of the move.

Will Musk change radical rebranding as we know it?

Dr Manto Gotsi, Senior Lecturer in Marketing at Bayes Business School, said:

“Radical rebranding is often the first signal of business transformation. It’s the first step of 'becoming': reaching new markets, expanding services, breaking away from a past... But it's also very hard. It's risky, it's costly, it needs time and lots of effort, and it takes away attention from 'running the show'. Twitter's rebranding into X - whether temporary or not - is likely to surface known and less-known questions:

“1) Why? Clarity over a solid rationale is important, and needs to address the needs and concerns of different stakeholders. Musk has discussed in the not-too-distant past his vision for an 'everything app'. But the link to X, or whatever the Twitter brand will become, or any other explanation for the rebranding, is still open to interpretation.

“2) How? Musk seems to be carving new rebranding territory: there's clearly a playful attitude when it comes to (re)branding Twitter: an element of surprise, an unexpected openness. It was only a few months ago that an image of a Shiba Inu replaced Twitter's iconic blue bird, and Musk has noted that X 'probably changes later, certainly will be refined'. This is not a typical rebranding process. It seems to be ongoing, abrupt and experimental - not the usual approach discussed in branding textbooks.

“3) What will happen? Extant knowledge inside the lecture theatres and outside in the business world suggests that radical rebranding is too hard, and often fails. Twitter's radical rebranding approach opens a new chapter. Are brands with celebrity founders/CEOs more equipped to see it through? Do companies with core competencies around innovation, controversy or change stand better chances at riding the wave of radical rebranding?”

Cancelling a cultural icon

Professor Zachary Estes, Professor of Marketing at Bayes Business School, said:

“By killing Twitter, Musk has cancelled a cultural icon. Twitter carefully crafted its brand image over many years, with great success. Twitter’s branding had even infiltrated our vocabulary: On other social media we merely ‘post’ or ‘share’ content, but on Twitter we ‘tweet’ and ‘retweet’. To many people, the Twitter bird was a friendly source that we could trust.  

“Musk’s goal of developing an ‘everything app’, which he calls ‘X’, may sound exciting. And the choice of ‘X’ is wise in that Musk and colleagues can instantly own everything about that letter, and consumers will instantly know that X means Musk. On the other hand, the logo is more ominous than exciting. With its sharp and aggressive font against a black background, the new ‘X’ logo looks far more likely than the friendly Twitter bird to steal your data and sell it for malicious purposes. Consumers care about brands, but this abrupt rebranding seems careless.”

More than a name and logo change

Professor Caroline Wiertz, Deputy Dean and Professor of Marketing, said:

"Radical rebrands are always costly, effortful, and time-consuming. And they will always cause upset among invested stakeholders. My general branding advice is to avoid them if possible and rather try to evolve your existing brand. If they are unavoidable, they should be executed with great preparation and great care.

"Twitter’s rebrand to 'X' is one of the most radical rebrands I have seen in a while. It is very different from recent rebranding exercises of other digital media companies, such as Facebook’s rebrand to Meta or Google’s rebrand to Alphabet. In these cases, only the parent company rebranded, but the actual products did not. Facebook and Google are still around. Twitter, however, will cease to exist. It is clear that we are talking about more than a name and logo change: The intention is to create a different product and to implement a completely new business strategy.

"How successful this will be remains to be seen. On first sight, the company has made a few big errors that suggest the opposite of preparation and care. For example, it will be difficult or even impossible to trademark 'X' across international territories and even the relevant social media handles do not seem to be available anymore. I also worry about timing: Threads has only recently launched as a credible alternative to Twitter. Killing off the beloved little blue bird might be the final straw for many remaining Twitter users and motivate them to switch."

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