“A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”
Elon Musk may have this painted on the wall of his office right now, right next to a giant letter X.
The transformation has already begun at Twitter, with the friendly blue bird disappearing from Twitter’s app and website. Soon, all will be “X”.
But at what cost? Let’s take a look
Twitter was a brand we all knew. The colour scheme, the logo, the fonts, the purpose – they were all well established and instantly recognisable.
We all remember the time that a hashtag led to hundreds of people grabbing their brooms to clean up after the London Riots. We picked up the big news of the day on Twitter before we heard it on the TV. A single hashtag would have us scrambling to check that our favourite celebrities were still alive.
We knew what Twitter was.
Do we know what “X” is?
Rebranding is a tricky process and needs to be handled with some care. We’ve done plenty of it here at Apparatus so we know the tightrope you need to tread.
People get very attached to brands. People identify with them.
The Co-Op changed became “The Co-operative” for many years only to, inevitably, revert all the way back again. People had a fondness and an attachment to the original brand. People liked the cloverleaf logo.
Coca Cola has also made many attempts to mix things up but none have ever worked: the red and white, with their specific fonts, have always made a comeback.
Nobody really knows what “X” is yet and that’s a problem, at least in the short term. It feels quite sudden. There wasn’t much warning or pre-preparation. Package that with the turmoil of Musk’s ruthless leadership and it’s easy to see how the whole endeavour could go belly-up.
But, as car and space executives have discovered time and time again, it’s never a good ideal to bet against Elon.
The plan is to turn Twitter into an app like WeChat – a furiously successful Chinese app that combines Twitter-like microblogging with cash transfers, ticket booking, card payments and much more. A literal “app for everything”.
That certainly doesn’t sound like Twitter. It also doesn’t sound like an app that is currently popular in the West. Musk, however, thinks it is the future and his crystal ball has a habit of getting it right.
If we are truly ready for an app that does everything, “X” might one day be seen as a genius rebrand. If not, it will seem a (very) rich man’s folly.
Whatever the outcome, Twitter will never be the same. Very soon, it won’t even be Twitter.
And that makes me a bit sad.