When a brand nears redundancy or moves with changing consumer trends, a company goes through a rebranding exercise. This makeover is largely considered successful if the brand achieves its objectives, better resonates with its target audience, and enhances the organization's overall value and reputation.
As per Upasna Dash, CEO & Founder of Jajabor Brand Consultancy, “Successful transitions often involve a gradual and creative shift, providing context for the change and building a new brand identity while honouring the old one's credibility.”
One of the biggest rebranding exercises of this year was when social media users bid adieu to the iconic blue bird. Does X, formerly Twitter, meet this criteria? Perhaps not. However, let's be fair. It's just been three months since Elon Musk rebranded the platform entirely. But the data hasn't been on his side either.
Post-rebranding, X's weekly active users dropped by 4%, indicating a sharp decline in user engagement. Employees were laid out, and some big advertisers lost trust in it, too.
Launched in 2006, over the years, Twitter became synonymous with everyday conversations and attained its own verbs like ‘tweet’, ‘retweet’ and others. Twitter became a platform that was driven by its strong community.
In July of 2023, Twitter dropped its name, colors, and logo — everything users identified it with. And as per Musk, the idea behind X rebranding represented his plans to create an "everything app."
Experts think that by disdaining this large audience base, Musk failed to take a crucial step in the rebranding process.
Shashwat Das, Founder of Almond Branding said, “It all [rebranding] comes down to respecting user experience. Musk's rebranding lacked the basic principles of consideration, patience, and respect for users.”
Marketers have often spoken about the importance of making decisions based on consumer insights. Musk also swears by Tw… X's polls. But do consumers feel included in the decision-making process?
As per a report by Brand Keys, X’s consumer loyalty fell from 47th place among the surveyed brands down to 92nd. The dip is reported to be a result of the recent rebranding effort.
Rohit Varma, Founder of Narrative said, “Rebranding should have a very strong reason. In this case, I could not find strong reasons for the rebranding. I wouldn't categorize X’s rebranding efforts as anything great.”
For close to two decades, audiences have been familiar with the brand name. With the sudden change, users have found it difficult to adapt to this change. A recent report by The Harris Poll and AdAge said that 69% of U.S. X users are still calling the platform by its old name and are still referring to its posts as “tweets.”
Sushmeit M. Nambiar, Design Director of Landor & Fitch also calls the black app - Twitter.
"Long-time users are going to find it hard to move to 'X' anytime soon," said Nambiar.
"Twitter was born in the golden generation of social media and is a category-defining coined name and networking platform," he added.
Rebranding = Retaining the past
If Amul were to rebrand and decide to leave its iconic Amul Girl in the past, it may not bode well for the brand. Yes, eventually, consumers will move on and get used to the new identity (please don't get any ideas), but there will be something major, the heart of the brand if you will, missing from its identity.
Experts say that a crucial step towards any rebranding is retaining elements from their past selves to preserve the audience from the past.
Speaking on what he would have done otherwise, Ashish Mishra, CEO of Interbrand India & South Asia said, “[I might] have explored retention of the iconic brand Twitter as an endorser or in a reinvented avatar for future business relevance.”
With Twitter’s rebranding, it was the first time that any social media platform with a strong history chose to rebrand. In the past, both Snapchat and Facebook went through name changes, but those were limited to their parent companies and the social media platforms retained their identities to preserve brand loyalty.
Similar to this, Shashwat Das suggested that X could’ve introduced a larger corporate identity. He said, “One alternative strategy could have been to introduce "X Corp" as a new corporate identity, primarily aimed at investors and employees, while preserving Twitter as the beloved brand that users have grown to trust. This approach might have safeguarded the substantial brand equity that Twitter had accumulated, rather than taking the risk of a complete rebrand.”
Pondering over the reason why X was really rebranded and sharing how he would have given Twitter a makeover if given the opportunity, Rohit Varma said, “I cannot understand the need for rebranding in the case of Twitter. I wouldn’t rebrand such an established brand that has millions of users. I will focus on the core of social media and look at evolving the platform so more and more users use this platform.”
As per Musk, X will gradually become an 'everything app'.
However, Ashish Verma was confused as to why the platform chose to revamp before the changes in functionality were brought in.
Verma questioned, “Could it not have been a migratory approach, which is a standard way of protecting past equities as one creates a new future? Was there a modification and endorsement possible that would have built upon the recognition and equity of the iconic brand?”
Next step for X
According to analysts and brand agencies, within a few days of this drastic change, Musk’s move wiped out anywhere between $4 billion and $20 billion in value.
Experts suggest the next steps that the platform can take to repair the damage.
Shashwat Das said, “To improve audience engagement, the platform should focus on transparency, content moderation, and addressing concerns around misinformation. Additionally, fostering a more inclusive and respectful online community is crucial.”
A crucial problem that users and experts both found with this rebranding exercise was its lack of clarification as to why the platform chose this step. Sushmeit M. Nambiar suggested a step towards answering that question.
"A sensible next step would be to set a date and craft a campaign that explains why Musk has moved away from a name and a symbol that is now a part of internet culture, and why users should buy into the ambitious vision that he up ahead has for the platform and the brand," said Nambiar.
Experts also said that consumers should be at the forefront of X’s rebranding approach. Neglecting what the users want from the platform might prove hazardous for the social media platform.
Upasna Dash said, “Understanding the pulse of this fresh audience, gaining insights, and fostering a sense of community is pivotal. It’s crucial to shift the focus from excessive marketing efforts, which might have led to confusion, towards simplifying the rebranding experience.”
While the bird has met its end, X's future, as per experts, depends on clearing the air.