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Elon Musk's Bold Transformation: Twitter Becomes X in a High-Stakes Rebranding Gamble

Elon Musk, long fascinated with the letter X, is phasing out the Twitter name and its trademark blue bird. This bold move is part of Musk's initiative to mold his $44 billion purchase into something distinctly his own.


Musk envisions X to be similar to China's WeChat, a versatile app that people use for entertainment, e-commerce, social media, and messaging. This shift follows a period of unpredictable behavior by the world's wealthiest individual, which deterred users and advertisers and left Twitter financially unstable and susceptible to rivals.


Analyst Mike Proulx from Forrester warns that replacing such a well-known internet brand is "extremely risky", especially with emerging competition like Instagram's new Threads feature and smaller contenders like Bluesky attracting users.


Musk has "singlehandedly obliterated more than fifteen years of a brand name ingrained in our cultural vocabulary," Proulx commented via email. A spokesperson from the company declined to comment on this development.


This move isn't entirely unexpected. Musk had already rebranded Twitter's corporate name to X Corp, a subsidiary of X Holding Corp, as disclosed in an April court filing. Prior to purchasing Twitter last October, Musk expressed that the $44 billion acquisition would speed up the development of X, the envisioned 'everything app'.


The letter X holds a special place in Musk's portfolio, being featured in his space venture SpaceX, and previously in X.com, Musk's payment company that later merged with a competitor to become PayPal.


Brand name changes are not uncommon for well-known web companies. Facebook rebranded to Meta in 2021, and Google transitioned to Alphabet six years prior. But in those instances, the companies retained their core services' brandings to minimize user disruption.


Musk's strategy seems more radical: to completely replace Twitter. He unveiled the new X logo over the weekend and tweeted that they will "gradually bid farewell to the Twitter brand and all the birds."


Linda Yaccarino, appointed CEO by Musk in May, assured employees via email that they will "continue to provide our entire community with fresh experiences in audio, video, messaging, payments, banking – creating a global marketplace for ideas, goods, services, and opportunities."


Nevertheless, actualizing this ambition is a substantial challenge. Proulx points out that transforming X into a super app requires "time, money and people" - resources Twitter currently lacks. Musk admitted earlier this month that Twitter's advertising revenue has plummeted by 50% and that achieving positive cash flow is an immediate priority.


The platform's reputation has been marred by increasing incidences of hate speech and offensive comments, prompting some advertisers to reconsider their campaigns. Musk has attempted to compensate for this downturn with a premium subscription service. However, with a monthly fee of $8, it would require a massive subscriber base to offset the losses.


For the remaining advertisers, the shift necessitates a new language adaptation. The term "tweets," much like Kleenex, has become synonymous with Twitter messages, showcasing a branding success that many companies strive for.


Ralph Schackart, an analyst at William Blair, disclosed last week that none of the advertisers they surveyed recently indicated an increase in their Twitter ad expenditure. Yet, there seems to be an overall improvement in the digital ad market, according to the William Blair survey.


Jasmine Enberg from Insider Intelligence declared that the name change signals "a grim day for many Twitter users and advertisers" and marks the end of Twitter as it has been known for the past 17 years.


In Enberg's words, "Twitter's rebrand is a reminder that Elon Musk, not Threads or any other app, is and has always been the most probable 'Twitter killer.'"

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