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Escape from the Past : X’s Struggle to Break Free from its Twitter Roots

A new identity, but with lingering traces of the past

In July 2023, billionaire Elon Musk rebranded social media giant Twitter as X, in an attempt to usher in a new era for the platform. However, more than six months after the change, vestiges of the old brand still linger on the platform and in public consciousness.

Despite the logo being changed out and updated verbiage introduced, various reminders of Twitter remain. For instance, billing reminders sent to X Premium subscribers still mention ‘Twitter’ — a sign that the transition is still not complete.

Public perception struggles to catch up with the change

Outside the platform itself, there is evidence of confusion or reluctance to adapt to the rebranding among users. News outlets sometimes refer to it as “X, the platform formerly known as Twitter” or variations thereof, betraying an unwillingness to fully let go of the old name.

Marty Neumeier, Director of CEO Branding at Liquid Agency, says this difficulty likely stems from the strong association between the brand’s name and the behavior it represents. “The name Twitter meant something to the users,” he noted.

The legacy of Twitter in contemporary culture

Twitter became one of the few brands whose name was synonymous with a specific behavior. People “tweet,” just as they “google” or “uber.” This unique position made Twitter an integral part of popular culture and online life.

The platform’s powerful impact can be seen in how victims of child exploitation, discussing their experiences with social media platforms, referred to it as “Twitter, or now X.” The lingering impact of Twitter’s legacy may be difficult for the new management to move away from.

What can X do to shed the remnants of Twitter?

  • Stronger marketing: A comprehensive and strategic marketing campaign could help solidify the new brand identity in public perception.
  • Update stakeholder communications: Ensuring that all official correspondence — emails, billing reminders, contracts — refers only to the new brand will contribute toward consistency.
  • Align products and services: New and existing offerings could be rebranded under X, allowing customers to experience the shift first-hand.
  • Create a compelling narrative: Sharing stories that highlight the impetus behind the change might give users reason to embrace it more wholeheartedly.

The challenges faced by other big rebrands

X’s struggle is not unique; other well-known companies have faced similar difficulties when attempting a rebrand. For example,

Google to Alphabet:

In 2015, Google announced the creation of a new parent company named Alphabet, with individual Google subsidiaries retaining their original names. However, most people still tend to use “Google” when referring to the overall organization.

Kodak to Moment:

Traditional photography company Kodak tried to reinvent itself in the digital age by rebranding as ‘Moment’ but struggled to break free from its roots as an established name within the industry.

Conclusion: Can X fully escape the shadow of Twitter in time?

Rebranding can be complex and challenging, especially when attempting to reposition a renowned platform like Twitter. To truly transform into X, the company must work hard to shed its old identity and convince users that this new version is different and worth embracing.

Time will tell if X can rise above its past and forge a distinct path. However, one thing is certain: It’s not just about changing names; it’s also about creating an emotional connection that allows customers to associate positive attributes with the new brand. Only then can X hope to rival the heights of its predecessor.

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