Why Twitter’s rebrand to X is a mistake

Rupert Price, Chief Strategy Officer of DDB Group Aotearoa, delves into the controversy surrounding Twitter’s rebranding to ‘X’, exploring the implications for users and the broader social media landscape, and ultimately, whether this gamble will pay off or become a cautionary tale.

Twitter is estimated to be worth $US41bn at current market valuation. This value is based on the size and quality of its audience. This audience is the most valuable asset the business owns; it’s valuable to advertisers, to politicians or just about anyone else who benefits from shaping public opinion.

It has taken a long time to build this global audience and this global audience obviously values the Twitter platform, as the preferred channel to share and gather the views and opinions with others. 

Around the world, Twitter has become the platform that people of influence reach for when they have something to say. So much so, people often tweet before they think. How many times have we seen people retracting their tweets as the pull of the platform has been so strong, they can’t resist the opportunity to share their views, no matter how impulsive or ill-considered? For many Twitter has become a habit, the first platform they reach for when they want to know what’s going on in the world, or to share with the world. 

Rupert Price.

‘Tweet’ is now both a noun and a verb in the Oxford English Dictionary. Not many brands can claim they’ve created new language alongside new habits.

However, brands often make the mistake of confusing the habits of its customers with loyalty. Brand loyalty is often believed to be the holy grail of branding, creating an unreasonably strong relationship with customers where they will forsake other brand choices in pursuit of their preferred brand.

However, empirical data tells us the opposite. The most influential factors in brand choice are salience and physical availability (Byron Sharp, How Brands grow). In fact, in most categories physical availability is the strongest determinant of brand choice, (correlation .91). What does this tell us? Consumers are lazy and have relatively weak relationships with brands. They will happily substitute one brand for another, especially where its more convenient or easy to do so. Consumers happily shop from a repertoire of brands, where habit and availability are most often the most common driver of brand choice.

So what does this mean for Twitter? Well, following the previous logic it could be argued that the Twitter audience is lazy, the behaviour is ingrained and therefore whatever it is called will not impact on their decision to use it. However, in this case I would argue the opposite. Unnecessarily disrupting a relationship with a brand that people are already satisfied comes with great risk. The risk being you force people to reappraise their habit. 

It’s clear Twitter has had many negative PR stories since its acquisition by Elon Musk, a controversial character at the best of times. By re-naming the brand ‘X’ and potentially bringing it closer into the Musk stable of brands, alongside Space X etc, may force many users to re-evaluate their relationship with the platform. 

Twitter and Tweeting was open source, agnostic of its owners and a truly user generated platform. Under Musk’s ownership and making that ownership more obvious to more of its users through rebranding, could drive much of that audience away. Where once Twitter users were happy to be seen as Tweeters, they might not be so comfortable to be labelled X rated.

About Author

Avatar photo

Rupert Price is Chief Strategy Officer at DDB Aotearoa.

Comments are closed.