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Will Killing the Bird help X or Its Users Fly?

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In Monty Python and the Holy Grail, as King Arthur seeks knights willing to join the round table at Camelot, a soldier asks where he got the coconut from to make the clip-clop sounds of his nonexistent horse. Arthur responds that it may have been carried by a swallow. This leads to a discussion of physics and how much weight a swallow could fly with.


This is relevant to Elon Musk’s decision to rebrand Twitter to X. If we take Musk and Linda Yaccarino, X’s CEO, at face value, it is the latest in a line of decisions to unburden Twitter from the weight of its past, “move at the speed of light”, and take a new direction. This has included decreasing headcount by 80%, paring lines of code, cutting content moderation, and now reducing the name from seven letters to one.


Rebrands are an opportunity for a reset. Wiping the slate clean is rare – unless a brand is so tarnished that it is no longer perceived as an asset. This is clearly not the case with Twitter – with more than 15 years of brand equity and more than 300 million monthly users. Given the continued strength of the brand, the logic of killing it off has befuddled and bemused many.


The answer to the core question for most users, “Is the brand the problem?” that needs to guide any re-branding process, for Twitter would be a resounding no. In fact, for many, Musk is at the core of Twitter’s current challenges. For acolytes, he is its savior. But, with a 50% decline in advertising revenue and, according to experts, a two-thirds drop in the platform’s value compared to the price Musk paid for it, the market has weighed in.


The rebrand defies normal logic guided by dollars and sense. But so did the creation and success of Tesla or Space X, so we have to be careful to bet against Musk. In the absence of a clearer vision that would compel a completely fresh start, the idea that the rebrand is motivated, at least in part, by Musk’s political ideology must be considered.


Looked at in this context, the rebrand may well be an opportunity to drive a wholesale shift from its perceived liberal base and as an extension of Musk’s war on what he has described as the “woke virus.” And, as much as he has argued that Twitter is a news source that does not have a political finger on the scale, his apparent blindness to the contradictions and seductive selectivity of arguments apparent in his April interview with Tucker Carlson, underscore the point of view he brings to the table.


For most entrepreneurs, the idea of alienating a big part of your audience would be an anathema, but when you are worth $240 billion (at the latest count), Musk has earned the flexibility to take a different path. And, although it is clear that this is not a primary motivator, billions in tax write-offs (if realized) from losses are not a bad thing to be able to carry forward. In other words, Musk can afford to lose a substantial portion of his audience with limited consequences, other than it may be harder next time to raise money for an acquisition.


We should not think about Twitter’s rebrand in the same way as Cadillac’s changing the design of its logo, Phillip Morris becoming Altria, or a communications agency or technology company mulling a name change, driven by the need to maintain brand equity, start fresh, or grow market presence. It also doesn’t make sense to look at this as a hail Mary, designed to right a sinking ship.


For now, for the die-hard Twitterati and Elon fans, after the noise about the rebranding has died down and we get used to the idea that the bird is no more, I suspect not much will change. Over time the direction X takes will become clearer and people will vote with their laptops and phones.


For those who may have been on the fence, questioning the benefits of the time and money spent on the platform, and with political and ideological viewpoints that conflict with Musk’s, the change will provide a reason to flee the coop. I suspect that may, at least in part, be the point. Having half answered the question “is it a bird or a plane”… time will tell if X will be able to fly without wings.


By Simon Locke


Read Also: Hours After Twitter Rate Limit, Meta Plans to Unveil a Rival App called Threads

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