After first making waves in 2006, Twitter didn’t take too long to make itself synonymous with all things trends.
Over the years, this sprightly little bird became more than just a platform we could visit to know what was happening around us. Aside from the wealth of information dished out through thread after thread, anybody who wanted to voice an opinion found themselves starting conversations that could lead to nothing or everything all at once.
When Elon Musk took over, Twitter was already in a state of ‘unlimited interactivity’ — which is what X CEO, Linda Yaccarino, now envisions for its future.
Since then, Musk has turned the verification process on its head, best testified by the brilliant verified parody account in his own name. The platform now prioritizes the newly verified (read paid subscriber) accounts over the rest, thus limiting interactivity to some degree for everyone outside the 640,000 Twitter Blue subscribers as of April this year.
While the team at X may have a lot in store for old-time users as well as the fresh young ‘X-people’ streaming onto the platform, their rebranding operation so far offers us all a fantastic case study on what not to do when you’re executing a rebrand.
But before we break it down, it looks like even the largest organizations in the world might need a rebranding 101. So, how about we begin with a quick refresher on rebranding, why organizations need it, and when it might be better to stick to your existing brand?
A second look at rebranding
Organizations might seek to rebrand for several reasons. The organization’s values today may not be aligned with the values portrayed by the brand, its products or services may not be sufficiently represented by the brand, or the brand may simply need a refresh to excite its community again.
Whatever the reason behind a rebrand, there are some things every organization needs to do before they decide to revamp its identity.
Things to do before a rebrand
1. Research, research, and more research
Rebranding isn't about slapping a new logo (however ‘Art Deco’ it may be) on your product and calling it a day. It's a meticulous process that requires in-depth understanding and strategic planning. Research is the first and biggest piece of the puzzle — anything you do for your brand will be incomplete without it. Dive deep into the world around your brand and understand everything that can affect its positioning. Only then can you craft a rebrand that truly resonates.
What kind of research?
For a successful rebrand, there are three vital areas you should focus your research on:
- Market trends
- Your competition
- Your customers
Understanding market trends is crucial as they dictate the direction in which your industry is heading. This could be anything from a sudden surge in popularity of a certain type of product or service to societal changes that impact consumer behavior. By staying ahead of these trends, you can ensure your rebrand doesn't just fit in but stands out in the current market.
Next, you need to take a hard look at your competition. What makes them successful? What do their customers appreciate about them? On the other hand, where do they fall short? By doing this, you can identify opportunities that your competitors have missed, and make sure your rebrand takes advantage of these gaps in the market.
Last, but definitely not least, you must understand your customers. Who are they, what do they want and need, and why do they choose your brand? This can be done through surveys, customer interviews, or even through studying your customer reviews and feedback. The insights gained from this will help ensure your rebrand aligns with their needs and expectations.
2. Clarity: The beacon in your rebranding endeavor
Heading into a rebranding exercise without clarity is like diving into a pool blindfolded; you might hit the water, but you might also smack into the edge of the pool. The importance of clarity in rebranding cannot be overstated. It serves as your guiding light, keeping your brand's essence intact while navigating the murky waters of change.
Your audience needs to understand every aspect of your rebrand effortlessly, or you’ve got twice the work to do as you establish your Brand 2.0. Clarity in rebranding is all about knowing your brand's identity, values, and target audience like the back of your hand. You're not just changing a logo or a tagline; you're laying down a new path that your brand will travel on. It's a delicate balancing act of maintaining the essence of your identity while also evolving according to market trends and customer needs.
3. Make sure you really, really need one
Rebranding isn't a band-aid solution for deeper, structural issues within your business. Nor is it a shiny new coat of paint to cover up outdated practices. If your core product or service is lacking or if internal processes are flawed, rebranding won't magically fix these problems.
What rebranding does beautifully is realign your brand with changing customer needs, shift in market dynamics, or a significant change in your business strategy. It allows you to create a fresh narrative around your brand, attracting new customers while re-engaging your existing ones. However, this should be based on a well-defined, crystal-clear strategy and not a spur-of-the-moment decision.
What did (and didn’t) X do?
It all started when Twitter was unceremoniously merged with X Corp after Musk acquired the platform, as reported by Bloomberg last year. The merger came to light when the company submitted documents in connection with a lawsuit against the company and Jack Dorsey, its former CEO.
Musk had previously hinted at an ‘everything app’ to be called X, which was speculated to be similar to WeChat — the popular Chinese social media platform owned by Tencent Holdings that now has over a billion monthly active users.
Things were relatively quiet since then — until the time came to suddenly ‘bid adieu to the Twitter brand and, gradually, all the birds.’
While Musk and team might have felt that ostensibly edgy humor could tide over the complete lack of a rebranding strategy, one look at the platform today is enough to implore otherwise.
Read the room (and the replies)
Ahead of the rebranding announcement, Musk picked out a ‘temporary logo’ from an impromptu invite for submissions. Of all the interesting submissions on the thread, the logo that was picked didn’t even appear to be the most popular of the lot and looked quite similar to the letter ‘X’ from Monotype’s Special Alphabets 4.
Implementing direct inputs from your customers and community may not be essential for a well-executed rebrand, but it’s important to understand what they do not want to see from your brand going forward. By ignoring voices across the board while rebranding a platform sharply dependent on its users, X may have driven itself into risky territory already.
More to it than just a name and a logo
While this should go without saying, it looks like we need to say it anyway. Sure, X may have a long roadmap ahead, but your rebrand needs to be planned and phased properly to make the right impact.
Right now, the platform paints a strange picture — with a logo that does not match its user experience and a name so ambiguous that it could mean just about anything. In fact, it seems like Musk’s failed desire to rebrand Confinity (now PayPal) using the same name and domain (x.com) might have influenced his latest rebranding effort. History can teach a lot, but only if we’re willing to learn.
Not a plan in sight
Not enough of one, anyway. Even if we ignore the issues with the rebranding strategy (or the lack of one), it's hard to ignore the fact that a lot of the issues plaguing the newly ambiguous brand could have been easily avoided or anticipated with at least a little bit of planning.
While the close likeness to a commonly used font may not be a concern, X will find itself amidst a sea of trademarks on the letter. Interestingly, both Microsoft and Meta have already trademarked the letter under different categories of products and services, while introducing financial services to the platform might even pit it against apps like XTrade or XInsurance. The hasty change of logo has also seen the San Francisco HQ bump into trouble with the city officials as the new installation seems to have gone ahead without the required permits, while the old logo was being removed without the prescribed precautions in place.
Rebranding is a complex operation, and perceptions play a huge role in how your new brand grows and evolves. This is why it is essential to make sure your execution can go ahead without too many such instances that could affect how users feel about the exercise.
How can you rebrand effectively?
If you want to oversee a smoothly executed rebrand, there’s a lot that needs to come together behind the scenes during the strategizing and planning stages of your operation.
Gauge the temperature
Before you even decide on a rebrand, you need to be absolutely sure you need one. Measure your brand equity to understand where your brand stands today, how your users and community feel about it, and whether a rebrand will improve or hamper your growth as an organization.
How do you measure brand equity?
There are two ways you can go about this:
1. Studying operational data
This is where you look at the financial side of your business. For X, this would have meant looking at numbers like monthly active users, advertising revenue, and paid subscribers. It can also include sales data and HR data among others, depending on the nature of your business.
This would help you measure the performance of your brand with some hard numbers and make it easier for you to calculate the true cost of your rebrand beyond the invested costs that would be sunk into it.
2. Studying experience data
This is a more qualitative look at how your brand has connected with your users over the years. Twitter, for example, had built up significant brand value with ‘tweets’ even entering the dictionary and cementing the brand’s unique identity. The little blue bird that we all knew and loved was a classic embodiment of well-built brand equity.
Studying experience data involves analyzing user behavior and taking into account their feedback and opinions on your brand. For X, this would have meant (for starters) actually reading tweets around the rebrand, tracking platform usage statistics, and user growth over time.
Combining your operational and experience data will give you a clear picture on your true brand equity and help you decide whether you really do need a rebrand, and if so, how do you go about it most effectively.
Establish an all-round identity
Do not go gentle into that good night, but definitely do not go into a rebrand without a complete identity.
It’s really not that hard. In fact, tools like Artwork Flow’s brand guidelines solution make it extremely easy to set up your guidelines online and make them accessible to everyone in your organization well before you go live. This would involve everything from your logo and graphic elements to the experience you create with your products.
If your product is an app, you can include your UI design elements here and standardize their usage effortlessly. This way, your users will get a rebrand they can understand, with clarity around every aspect of your identity and it would be easier for them to get on board with your efforts over time.
Cover all your bases
Be ready for any and all possibilities. Prepare yourself and your team for the legal intricacies involved, the operational challenges you are bound to face, and the worst-case scenarios that you might need contingencies for.
While some situations may be hard to face or predict, you can certainly shore up on all fronts and help your team maximize their efforts as they execute the rebrand. Using collaborative tools like a brand asset management system or a creative proofing software will help your team stay connected throughout the process, organize and access any brand assets they might need without wasting time, and ensure that any creatives or collateral you create are going out free of errors.
With Artwork Flow’s brand asset management and creative proofing solutions, you will also be able to automate brand compliance, maintain regulatory compliance, and proof over 160+ file types, including videos, so nothing goes out without a thorough check and approvals from every stakeholder.
Launch all at once or wait it out
If you’re not ready for a full rebrand just yet, there’s no need to rush into one. You’re only going to make things worse with an identity that is neither here nor there, like X’s platform which seems to be evolving a little bit every day.
The platform only just changed ‘Tweets’ to ‘Posts’ and ‘Retweets’ to ‘Reposts’ and still retains elements from the Twitter UI. And now with Musk suggesting X would switch to dark mode only before rolling back and chipping in with an option to switch to light mode, it appears there is still no clarity on some of the nitty gritty that makes up the rebranding roadmap.
A well-executed rebrand would clarify each and every detail that makes up this monumental shift in style and messaging, and ensure that the user experience is not hampered significantly during the process.
History is often kinder to most of us than the present and one can only hope Musk reads this blog or listens to his branding team (if there is one) before making any more sudden moves as X sees this rebrand through.
Rebranding is hard work, and we empathize with the team at X for the challenges that still lie ahead of them. However, there are many ways to make your job easier as you go about this gargantuan exercise. Setting up an in-house brand ecosystem with a comprehensive creative management solution like Artwork Flow can allow your team to operate seamlessly, communicate without silos, and optimize the use of critical resources when you need them most.
If you’d like to know how your brand can build value and cement its equity over time with Artwork Flow, our experts are just a quick call away to give you a personalized tour of the platform. Book your slot now to know more!