What is the pinnacle of brand recognition?
Twitter had reached it. People across the world had widely referred to the brand name as a verb, i.e., “to tweet,” for a decade and a half. For most, all discussions of a rebrand would have ended right there, and for good reason. That is the holy grail for companies: to be so permanently seared into the global lexicon that your made-up word ends up in the dictionary.
But now, the Twitter brand – bird symbol and all – is out in favor of X. It’s like telling FedEx or Uber to rebrand – a bold move that requires confidence and direction. So if you’re puzzled about the state of the most consistently relevant social media platform of all time, this blog is for you.
Let’s discuss the new logo in context with the one it is replacing. Elon Musk has said that this logo is an “interim” X logo, which is fine and good, but it still begs the question of why it would be launched in the first place and mounted on top of the company’s San Francisco headquarters in bright, beaming light. We asked our graphic designers at Fortress for their thoughts on the mark, and the shared sentiment that it is too plain, uncommunicative, and forced.
“Twitter is such an iconic brand, even down to the blue color they use. This just feels forced and random.”
– Aubin Dyer, Creative Director
Even more so, an X is inherently negative in many contexts, online and off. We’ve been trained to click ‘X’ when we’re looking to exit a page or a website, not when we want to spend more time on it. Phonetically it refers to something that’s in the past tense, like your “ex” boyfriend, girlfriend, employer, etc. When something is X-rated, it’s often frowned upon or indecent. Right now, the X logo is incomplete and dull, and the eventual final product will have to address a lot of thematic and stylistic questions.
On the contrary, the former bird logo that represented Twitter since its early days was far more meaningful. Why? because it symbolized what the goal of the app was and the action people take on the app, which was to communicate in short, casual and cute messages, just like a bird. If Musk and his team have their hearts set on the name X, they need to create a logo that incorporates the X but doesn’t lose all meaning in doing so.
It wouldn’t be productive for us to sit here and bash Musk’s choices without trying to understand them and offering solutions to the problems we identify. The best counterargument for this rebrand is that despite the negative connotations discussed earlier, the letter X has been used in ways that are powerful across history. With the right marketing and user experience, he could pull potential from that foundation.
X is unique in being both a letter and a symbol. One could argue that the symbolism of X as a metaphor for endless possibilities is an apt and exciting representation of what Musk wants Twitter to be. If he truly believes that he will transform the platform into an “everything app” similar to China’s WeChat, involving payments, shopping, booking, and more, then perhaps it shouldn’t be called Twitter any more after all. That said, right now, that vision is nothing but a lofty goal that has shown no tangible sign of materializing.
Names matter. User experience matters. How you present yourself to the world matters. It’s about effective communication, which is what makes marketing authentic, and right now, Musk is breaking more bonds than he is forging. This is not to say that X will nullify all of the social relevancy that Twitter accumulated and that the rebrand will be an utter failure. Rather, we believe that a rebrand must be smoother and more intentional than this, and the team behind X will have to work hard to regain the element that makes companies successful: trust.
At Fortress, we are in the business of transforming brands and changing lives in the process. We have executed numerous successful rebranding projects as well as brand discovery from scratch. Our rule of thumb for ourselves and our clients is to not rebrand until you know who you are. If you’re not there, we will help you get there via our Brandstorm process and the rest of our Branding and Corporate Identity services. Get in touch with us today.