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X Marks the…What?
Is a brand no one recognizes still a brand?

As we have noted before in this space, there is nothing necessarily unusual or unstrategic about companies tweaking, twisting and tweezing their names. True, sometimes the change misses the mark—can you say Qwikster? But a rebrand driven by changes in a company’s market, direction or product platform can pay off in heightened relevance and visibility, not to mention increased profitability and ROI.

Of course, that’s not what has happened with Twitter. Since July 23, 2023, the day Twitter was rebranded as X, the words “Twitter,” along with “tweet,” and “retweet,” used as noun or verb, have become archaisms. The rationale for the change continues to puzzle; Elon Musk appears to have had an X fixation since the late 1990s, when he co-founded the online bank X.com. Later came SpaceX, an AI company called X.AI. and, in 2020, a son named X Æ A-Xii.

But one man’s obsessive love for a single letter of the alphabet may not be the best reason to discard a brand—especially one as widely recognized and as deeply embedded in the culture as Twitter. Many branding experts derided Musk’s decision as less strategic than ego-driven. “In one fell swoop,” said Forrester’s Mike Proulx, “Elon Musk has essentially wiped out 15 years of brand value from Twitter and is now essentially starting from scratch.”

But here’s the thing: Choosing a name that people don’t like is bad enough. Choosing one that people absolutely can’t or won’t glom onto is worse. Much worse. In 1998, when the Google brand was created, no one needed prompting that it had started out as BackRub. The new name had virtually instant recognition and memorability. The New York Times, and many other media outlets, evidently feel obliged to include the reminder that X was “formerly Twitter.” What’s more, the Twitter bird logo, supposedly as extinct as the great auk, continues to perch contentedly on some websites—including X’s, which, ironically, is still reachable by typing twitter.com.

Here at Carpenter Group, we’ve expunged references to Twitter and tweeting from our website. But a survey by the research firm CivicScience found that 72% of the general population still call the app Twitter. Chances are, they’re not going to stop anytime soon.

Considering a brand refresh? Carpenter Group can work with you to breathe new life—and value—into your brand without starting from scratch. Check out our work at Carpenter Group .