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Public Relations (PR) Twitter Marketing

Why Elon Musk may still have the X factor

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By Gordon Young, Editor-in-Chief

July 25, 2023 | 6 min read

Gordon Young, editor-in-chief and co-founder of The Drum, has a hot take about Twitter you may not ‘X'pect. Musk’s fast-paced frantic action may be necessary for the network's survival.

Elon Musk X

We have endured two questionable rebrands within days. The Royal Mail PLC - arguably the world’s oldest social network (it was founded in the 1,500s) - changed its name to…er…. As I write this, I can’t quite recall (but I bet you can’t either)*. And only yesterday, Twitter, (a more modern equivalent) changed its name as well. I remember that. X.

Gazillions of column inches and broadcast hours have been dedicated to analyzing the Twitter rebrand. And despite the fact most of this coverage has been negative, there is no doubt the new name has cut through.

It could have set a record for new brand awareness if such things could be measured. They can’t? Well, let me be more assertive. It HAS set a new World Record, one that doesn’t flatter the man.

Now, most of the analysis has made the point that Musk has also broken almost every branding rule. He has moved to junk what has been seen as an iconic, widely recognized brand. Even the cute little bird is being culled - its little chirp is to be silenced (mind you, its absence from documentaries that feature Tweets is a blessing). Some claim he can’t even trademark the new logo.

Musk, the man who wants to go to Mars, is alienating his user base and is even forcing them to change their day-to-day language; they will no longer be ‘Tweeting’ but ‘X-ing.’ Exiting, more likely, say the naysayers.

But is Musk once again outsmarting his critics? The bottom line is Twitter loses a shed load of money - and has for most of its existence.

The business in its current form just isn’t viable. Users are quick to offer Musk business advice, but few are less keen to offer cash.

As an advertising proposition, it needs to be stronger. The brand may have a profile, but it will not be able to turn a profit in its current form.

So the big plan for Musk is to create an everything app in the image of China’s WeChat - the world’s largest stand-alone app - which currently has no equivalent in the West (although Meta has tried and tried again).

It has a wide range of functions, including messaging, video conferencing, gaming, payments, shopping, ID and file sharing and broadcast.

Musk is already making inroads into the broadcast side using the app for the Ron DeSantis campaign launch. OK, that was seen as the worst presidential launch in history, but it was a sign of the direction of travel.

And so is the news that Tucker Carlson - the well-known TV host - has launched a new show on the platform after being fired by Fox.

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If Musk is to evolve Twitter into an app for everything - then calling it X app does make sense. And, of course, what he has certainly factored in is Twitter’s low user base relative to the likes of Facebook, YouTube and Instagram.

There is a huge potential audience out there. He may feel that in terms of engaging them, the pre-conceptions around what Twitter was is more a hindrance than a help.

The name change is a huge gamble. But there is a huge prize at stake. It may look crazy. But many who have called out Musk’s crazyness in the past, have ended up looking stupid.

*Royal Mail PLC’s new name? International Distribution Services… now that may lack the X factor.

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