Renaming eXtreme: Twitter becomes X

For Elon Musk it's easy: he pops out a new name for a world-famous brand, and no one can do anything about it. One might think. In this case, it would have been advisable for the Twitter owner to listen to a few assessments and let them run through his head. The brand world has probably never experienced anything like this before.

Many branding professionals consider the renaming of Twitter to X to be the "worst renaming" of all time, Anthony Shore speaks of a "Debranding". Brand expert Karsten Kilian calls the Renaming "simply amateurish".

What happened at Twitter before?

1. Billionaire buys one of the biggest social platforms called Twitter.
2. He redesigns everything possible there or pushes through all kinds of changes with a crowbar.
3. Advertisers pull out, revenues drop, and Twitter loses significant reache.

Whatever problems a company faces now, there are many ways to turn things around. But slipping under the guise of a new name and logo has never been a good idea.

Okay, Twitter is a lot different than "normal" companies. There is an autocrat with a seemingly endless budget and a still loyal, sometimes unshakable fan base. But now loyalty is waning because Twitterers from the early days feel left out and need help understanding the new course.

Let's assume that the renaming is not only intended to distract from the current problems and the impending decline. So why all the fuss about the name? Musk plans to make Twitter X an "app for everything," following the lead of WeChat from Asia: an app that can do pretty much "everything" from making payments to filing for divorce. That would mean that Twitter, as we know it, is indeed history. "X" could, therefore, try to achieve this goal with plenty of PR behind it. This is the first time anyone can predict whether this will succeed, and it remains to be seen.

Is X suitable as a stand-alone brand name?

For me, as a name finder, it is initially astonishing that a new brand name is being used that only consists of a single letter. It's excellent for Elon Musk to be able to put an X on his business baby, just like his son. But can this work in terms of branding and communication?

X-Bild new

Twitter becomes X - Namestorm becomes N? No, I'd rather not.

After all, Musk already owns the priceless domain That's a great thing and a vital asset if it weren't for the over 250 registered trademarks with the letter "X" in the EU and another 900 in the US. The first law firms have already been called in on behalf of other "X" trademark owners, so Mr. Musk is likely to receive many nasty letters with warnings soon. It is about damages and the attempt to prevent or restrict the use of the name.

Maybe Elon Musk has looked into the trademark registers or has been made aware by his lawyers that there could be some problems. These little things are not stopping him, though. One is reminded of Facebook's renaming to Meta  (here is an interview of mine about the Meta renaming); Mark Zuckerberg didn't let such trifles stop him either.

It has become quieter about the protection of the Meta trademark, and a look at the trademark databases shows some national trademarks that have been successfully registered. However, EU-wide protection or one in Germany, is still pending. Without going deeper, one can imagine that this is a challenging and expensive matter." But "expensive" doesn't seem to be an issue, and since the rebranding has been done for a long time, they seem to assume in Menlo Park that they'll get it all sorted out sooner or later. Elon Musk should be similarly bold and confident of victory. There is only one problem: the X will be much more complex, and in an emergency, Elon Musk could be banned from using "X" in the EU, for example..

Logo für Streamingdienst

By the way, Namestorm has also used the strong "X" - for Sky Austria. The brand was more prudently protected as "Sky X" throughout the EU.

From a communicative point of view, what about the letter X as a name? A sentence with X? It would certainly be easier if the X didn't stand alone in space but had the protective umbrella of a brand above it. So Musk has an enormous task ahead of him: He has to get the mini-name into people's heads so that everyone will eventually associate it only with this app, of which further plans have yet to be made known. It sounds like a real marketing or product miracle needs to happen. All name seekers who have a smaller budget than Mr. Musk are strongly advised not to do so.

The cult and beloved verbs "Twitter" or "tweeted" also look bad: "I'll ex it" or "let's ex this" doesn't sound good (in German). And the "tweet" - that is, a post on Twitter - is then also history. A similarly catchy noun derived from the brand name will be more challenging to find.

What can other companies learn from the renaming?

You can see that a renaming can make big waves. Although this is extreme here with X-Twitter, other brand name changes are also reported and discussed in the respective industry or niche. This can be a great opportunity if you stick to a well-thought-out process and the reasons for a new name align with an honest rebrand. Under no circumstances should you forget how sensitive regular buyers or fans of a brand can be if their favorite offering suddenly looks or is called something else.

The double renaming of the dishwashing liquid "Fairy Ultra" shows that this cannot be done with a crowbar. This was temporarily renamed "Dawn" in the course of international standardization. However, the owner of Procter & Gamble did this renaming without the customers. They didn't like the new product name and bought from the competition. As a result, the original brand name "Fairy" was returned, and sales went up again.

Sometimes, renaming has to be done if there are weighty and understandable reasons for it, such as legal issues or because the products no longer fit under the old name. The new name can be successfully introduced and established if customers, employees and partners are brought on board early and part of the process. It should be noted that finding a name is demanding, and replacing an old name with a new one is even more challenging. Therefore, the most important tip is to plan enough time and not to approach the topic with a crowbar. Instead, empathy is called for.

What's next for the X? In addition to the other thousand X brand owners, Musk has tangled with Microsoft, Sony, Panasonic, Adidas and the rock band Metallica, which also owns X brands. Mark Zuckerberg's Meta also wants the X from Alphabet. Which of the two giants will win the race? Here is a foretaste of the trademark battle between Musk and Zuckerberg. We are curious!

Is a renaming coming up soon, or is your company thinking about it? Feel free to contact us with questions about the renaming process or other topics related to name development.

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