Lessons on ruining an iconic brand overnight, as inspired by Elon Musk

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August 22nd 2023

Lessons on ruining an iconic brand overnight, as inspired by Elon Musk

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It’s official: the ‘bird app’ is no longer the bird app. Yes, you read correctly, Elon Musk did the (un)expected and completely rebranded Twitter. Admittedly, the interface of Twitter or… X *cringes* hasn’t changed that much.

Merely changing the name has left loyal users uneasy and unimpressed. One user posted, “So now whenever you talk about your Twitter account it sounds as if you’re talking about a lost love. Coincidence?”

It has been clear for years that Musk has an obsession with the letter X — Space X, X.AI and he even named his child X Æ A-Xii. But did he really have to re-christen the 17-year-old platform as well-known and loved as Twitter?

Up until Musk’s takeover – consistency had been key for Twitter. Aside from an increase in character count from 140 to 280, there weren’t any serious changes in the Twitter-sphere circa 2022. So, where did it all go wrong? This week on Parallel we explore four lessons every business should learn before drastically rebranding.

1 | Don’t ignore customer feedback

When it comes to being successful in your startup's marketing and branding, it’s similar to being in a relationship — romantic or platonic. Imagine this: Your friend or partner reaches out to communicate that you are doing something they don’t like and instead of listening, you dismiss it every single time… yikes!

So why listen? It communicates that your business values its customers. Which is essential because without customers, what are you? And while you don’t need to let your customers backseat drive, keeping an ear out to help with direction is a win-win.

2 | Remember your core appeal

Since the bird app first popped out of its egg, it’s been known as the home for those who love dark humor, playful trolling, news hot takes, and of course: memes. However, since Musk took over the app, it’s been nothing but business, business, business – which has left users wondering if they sleepwalked into the wrong house.

From the ‘scrolling’ limit to the subscription service, the push for publishers to charge for articles to the Ads Revenue Sharing feature – these installments have largely ostracised their long-term loyalists, leaving users dreaming of the good ol’ days, and finding it elsewhere.

3 | Be iconic or be innovative

It’s going to come as no surprise to you, but it needs to be said, innovation isn’t simply liking a letter so much that you rebrand every business you own with it. Ditching the iconic ‘Twitter’ for ‘X’ was a rebranding fumble… leaving users wondering where their favorite app is gone, and what exactly is it now. As @notbalin points out with some select screenshots, “capitalism breeds innovation."

Just when you think it can’t get any worse, another user shared a screenshot of a text sent to him from his wife asking, “Um, what is “X Premium” for $8/mo on the Chase card?” To which he replied, “…how do I explain this?” This lack of innovation on the rebrand has created nothing but confusion for users.

4 | Do not overprice your features

Whenever users of Twitter found themselves having a good laugh while on the app, it was a common thing to tweet, “How is this app free?” to express how much they are enjoying it! Elon Musk basically said, ‘Say less!’ and started making users pay to be able to fully enjoy all the features of the app!

Although the Blue check mark isn’t new, now it comes with a price tag of $8/mo. Oh hold on, there’s more… there’s the blue check, gold check and grey check which all come with a hefty price tag and different status. Putting a price on something that has been free for over a decade is an easy way to push users away and become less inclusive.

In a recent study by the Pew Research Center, they found that since the Twitter rebrand, 25% of users claimed that they will most likely ditch the app within a year. This further emphasizes the importance of not making hasty and drastic changes when it comes to rebranding as this can easily overwhelm loyal users.

So, if you plan on making changes in your branding, make it subtle like how Discord did in 2021 — they kept it the way people recognize it, kept the mission statement and messaging but just tweaked the styling of the logo.

This is all to say that the efforts you put into your marketing determines how far your business goes. Make it your priority to tend to your customers’ needs and wants — remember, they want to be seen, heard and understood! Create that space for them and they will be in it for the long run!

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