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Twitter Brand Blunder or X Brand Genius?

The idea of destroying a $4 billion brand like Twitter is hard to grasp. It’s a huge loss, and the decision to rebrand it as “X” might seem puzzling at first. But to someone like Elon Musk, $4 billion is just a drop in the bucket, right?

The name change has already caused some trouble. The Apple App Store initially rejected it because single-character names weren’t allowed. But they made an exception for Elon. Why? Let’s explore.

Elon’s Unconventional Approach

Elon’s decision is unconventional, almost like an anti-brand, laughing in the face of rules. But maybe that’s exactly the point. He’s known for doing unconventional things like:

  • Naming Tesla models to spell S-E-X-Y
  • Shooting a Tesla into space
  • Smoking marijuana on the Joe Rogan podcast
  • Hosting SNL

He often zigs while others zag, taking the road less traveled to gain focus. This seems to be his strategy this time too, and it’s working.

Brand Ownership: Insights from an Expert

There’s a point to be made about losing brand equity by changing “Twitter” to “X” and the implications of trying to own a letter of the alphabet. I’m not a legal expert, but my friend Richard Rimer is. He’s a trademark and copyright attorney, and he shared some thoughts:

“X Corp wants to replace Twitter and Bird Mascot brands with X and a Stylized X Design. While he can’t ‘own X,’ only famous brands are ‘owned.’ For example, Coca-Cola has broad rights in its name, but Delta has narrower rights in Delta. X Corp could gain similar rights in X.”

If you want an interesting take on the legal side of this rebrand, Rimer’s posts are always a treasure trove of insight.

Free Publicity: A Clever Strategy?

What I don’t hear enough about is the free publicity this brand decision is getting him. Elon has a powerful following and a lot of visibility. Even now, I am writing a post about this, giving it even more buzz. This could be enough to create a strong, recognizable brand regardless of the ability to own it and the lack of flexibility in the mark and the name. He’ll own it in your mind, which is a big goal for any brand.

It certainly makes sense with all of the other “X” names he is in love with. X.com was the original Paypal, SpaceX, his son’s name is “X Æ A-12”, but they lovingly call him “X” and his newest venture xAI. These have the potential to create synergy with the collection of brands that Elon owns which can help strengthen the unownable “X” brand, formerly known as Twitter. 

Visionary Status: A Look at Elon’s History

Elon isn’t frivolous. He’s a calculated, strategic businessman. He’s been a visionary in many fields, from sustainable energy to space travel.

History Sets the Stage

Here is a list of some of the things Elon has been up to before he purchased Twitter:

Zip2 (1995):

  • Vision: Provide business directories and maps for newspapers in the early days of the internet.
  • Impact: Was one of the first to offer online business directories and maps, paving the way for future online navigation services.

X.com/PayPal (1999):

  • Vision: Create a global online payment system.
  • Impact: Became one of the world’s leading online payment platforms, facilitating e-commerce growth.
    • Note: They already owned X.com way before the Twitter change over.

OpenAI (2015):

  • Vision: Ensure that artificial general intelligence benefits all of humanity.
  • Impact: Conducts research in AI ethics and safety, and has released several influential models and tools in the AI community.

SpaceX (2002): 

  • Vision: Colonize Mars and make humanity a multi-planetary species.
  • Impact: Reduced the cost of space travel with reusable rockets, launched numerous satellites and has plans for manned missions to Mars.

Tesla (2004):

  • Vision: Accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy.
  • Impact: Popularized electric vehicles (EVs) with high performance and long range, leading other automakers to accelerate their own EV programs. Also involved in renewable energy solutions with products like the Powerwall, Powerpack and Solar Roof.

SolarCity (2006 now part of Tesla Energy):

  • Vision: Provide renewable energy solutions for households and businesses.
  • Impact: Became the largest residential solar installer in the U.S. and expanded the adoption of solar energy.

Neuralink (2016):

  • Vision: Merge humans with AI through brain-computer interfaces.
  • Impact: Still in early stages, but aims to address neurological disorders and eventually allow direct interfacing with technology.

The Boring Company (2016):

  • Vision: Solve urban traffic congestion through underground transportation.
  • Impact: Proposed several tunneling projects in various cities to reduce travel time and alleviate surface traffic.

Starlink (2018 a subsidiary of SpaceX):

  • Vision: Provide high-speed internet access across the globe, especially in underserved areas.
  • Impact: Launching thousands of satellites to create a satellite internet constellation.

xAI (2023)

  • Purpose: The company, xAI, is aimed at advancing artificial intelligence research and applications.
  • Collaboration: xAI has hired researchers from top technology firms, including Google and OpenAI.
  • Potential Applications: While specific details about the projects xAI is working on are not fully disclosed, there have been mentions of a “TruthGPT” application that Musk has teased in the past.
  • Competition: xAI is seen as a potential competitor to other major AI players, including OpenAI and Google.

The Big Questions

  • What makes this Twitter/X transition make sense for Elon’s empire?
  • What’s the ultimate goal?
  • How does Twitter’s existing brand align or clash with this goal?

My Theory

Not everything is always what it seems, you have to read between the lines. Is Elon just creating opportunities for the future? What is his game plan when his children become old enough to join the family business? Only time will tell. 

I think Musk is cleaning up the old Twitter platform to create an “everything app” as a mechanism to feed his new xAI company higher quality data that he has tighter control of. This platform is not meant to be what Twitter was or wanted to be, it is going to transform into something much bigger. There is a good possibility this is just one of many chess moves Elon is making.

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