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Twitter’s rebrand to X is more than the end of an era — it’s yet another headache for marketers

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Marketers are facing even more challenges on Twitter, as if they didn’t have enough already.

Nearly nine months after Elon Musk took the helm at the social media platform, the bird app is no more. It’s been rebranded as X. This sudden transformation poses a significant obstacle for marketers who had been relying on the platform as part of their social media strategies. 

Brian Chevalier-Jordan, CMO at National Business Capital, said he has been really put off. While his company doesn’t advertise on Twitter, or X, right now, his team was considering an ad buy in the coming months as part of a broader paid social media campaign. But this latest move to rebrand hasn’t exactly made him eager to advertise with the platform.

“I am concerned that Musk will continue to make random changes to the platform, either alienating more casual users of the service who tend to be people my company would market to, or change the advertising tools that allow us to target users,” he said. “If users start to defect, it reduces the usefulness of the platform and if the tools degrade, it makes it harder to find business benefits from it.”

Clearly, the speed of the rebrand took marketers like Chevalier-Jordan by surprise. Typically, such changes are introduced gradually, allowing marketers and users the chance to anticipate and adapt. However, this was not the case this time around. On Sunday, Musk announced that the platform would undergo its official renaming and rebranding to X — just like he’d always planned. By Monday morning, the iconic blue bird logo was scrapped and replaced across the site with an X.

In theory it makes sense. Twitter’s been in a state of flux since October, albeit a self-induced one, thanks to the chaos caused by its controversial owner. The rebrand seems like a clear attempt to close the chapter on that part of his ownership and open another on the next. He’s been vocal about turning Twitter into a so-called “everything app” like WeChat, where people are able to do all manner of things, from purchasing goods to talking to their friends. Twitter had a lot of baggage — some good, some bad — tied to its raison d-etre as a traditional social network. The rebrand should’ve been a moment of clarity for marketers.

So far it’s been anything but illuminating for marketers looking to understand what Musk’s plans are for his platform business. In fact, this most recent move has achieved quite the opposite effect, leaving advertisers feeling uncertain and unconvinced. Unsurprisingly, there was no prior warning or heads up of this latest (and significant) move, according to the six advertisers Digiday caught up with.

“What [marketers and users] all want from Twitter is consistency and this is anything but,” said James Greenfield, CEO and founder of branding agency Koto Studio. “All brand and name changes need to be done with care and control, where right now this is just more chaos. Elon [Musk] is using a ‘move fast and break things’ product mode with the platform brand and that’s got to have people worried on a trust front.”

Considering Musk’s track record with Twitter, this latest abrupt move only adds to those existing worries. Indeed, it further erodes any remaining trust, if there was any left at all, that marketers might have had in the platform. 

Marketers are worried about Twitter’s future

Casey Jones, founder and head of marketing and finance at global digital marketing company CJ&CO, noted that a key concern for a number of marketers, himself included, is how this rebrand will affect the platform’s functionality and their existing accounts. 

“We have invested significant resources into building our presence on Twitter, and any changes could potentially impact our engagement and reach,” he said.

The same goes for marketing strategist (consultant) Tereza Litsa, who expressed huge concerns over the fact that marketers don’t know anything about the rebrand, what it means and where the platform will go in the next several months.

“It makes it hard to plan ahead, maintain trust and even create marketing materials,” she said. “For example, I need to create all assets on the website and graphics that include Twitter’s logo and all the copy around these. It’s worrying that we don’t know how this will evolve, if it could even go back to being Twitter or if the platform will stop existing. All these questions make it hard to trust the existing or new brand.”

And, let’s not forget, it was only a week ago that Musk admitted that Twitter’s ad revenue is down 50%, clearly indicating that while marketers have returned to the platform, they aren’t spending even half as much as they were before. The trust simply isn’t there. And Twitter needs that trust given it’s still trying to break even. 

The timing of the rebrand seems questionable

All in all, the rebrand doesn’t appear to have gone down too well. Or rather, the way that it was executed hasn’t been well received. In fact, marketers feel as though the timing of the rebrand to X is simply a knee-jerk reaction to the positive press Meta has received, regarding its Twitter rival Threads.

“It feels like we’re watching a really long, and boring tennis match between Musk and [Meta CEO Mark] Zuckerberg, of who can create the least offensive text-based platform,” said Annie-Mai Hodge, director and founder of Girl Power Marketing.

But regardless of what the platform is called going forward, most users and advertisers have likely already decided whether to remain on Twitter — or rather, X — and put up with the uncertainty, or ditch it for somewhere else. Why? Simply because marketers still have concerns over the potential disruptions to their existing strategies and account performance. After all, the rebrand is just another sign of uncertainty on the app. And if the intent for X is to be an “everything app,” that leaves a lot of questions about what that means for the core business, said Stephani Estes, chief media officer at Goodway Group.

What is clear is this is the end of the text-based app as we knew it. As Jasmine Enberg, principal analyst, social media, at eMarketer, pointed out, the rebrand is a clear signal that the Twitter of the past 17 years is gone — and it’s not coming back.

Twitter did not respond to Digiday’s request for comment.

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