Opinion | What’s in a Identify? Musk/Twitter Version


I’ve (well-managed) arthritis and take ache reducers daily. I usually purchase generic acetaminophen; however many individuals nonetheless purchase brand-name Tylenol, although it prices way more.

There’s a long-running debate amongst economists about why persons are keen to pay a premium for title manufacturers. Some emphasize ignorance — one influential examine discovered that well being professionals are extra probably than the general public at massive to purchase generic painkillers, as a result of they understand that they’re simply as efficient as title manufacturers. Others recommend that there could also be a rational calculation concerned: The standard of title manufacturers could also be extra dependable, as a result of the homeowners of those manufacturers have a repute to protect. It doesn’t need to be either-or; the story behind the model premium could depend upon the product.

What’s clear is that model names that for no matter cause encourage buyer loyalty have actual worth to the corporate that owns them and shouldn’t be modified casually.

So what the heck does Elon Musk, the proprietor of TAFKAT — the app previously often known as Twitter — assume he’s doing, altering the platform’s title to X, with a brand new emblem many individuals, myself included, discover troubling?

It’s vital to tell apart between company rebranding — altering the official title of an organization — and altering the names of the corporate’s merchandise. Google renamed itself Alphabet, presumably to convey to traders its aspiration to be greater than a search engine, however the search engine itself remains to be named Google. Philip Morris renamed itself Altria, presumably partly to decrease its perceived affiliation with lung most cancers, however its prospects nonetheless smoke Marlboros.

Altering product names is extra problematic, as a result of it dangers shedding buyer loyalty, so it tends to occur solely when there’s an actual downside with the prevailing title. It was undoubtedly a good suggestion to vary the title of Bib-Label Lithiated Lemon-Lime Soda to 7Up. It’s really exceptional that it took PepsiCo so lengthy to understand that in an America that has modified (for the higher), the Aunt Jemima model title needed to go. However absent such good causes, wise companies hold the model names their prospects hold shopping for.

So what was improper with Twitter as a model title? Nothing, so far as I can inform. It was friendly-sounding and a bit humorous, and resonated with the position of the platform as a spot for folks to chatter about quite a lot of topics. The Twitter emblem was additionally superb — distinctive, immediately recognizable and with none apparent destructive connotations.

However Musk has nonetheless ditched all of that in favor of X, a harsh-sounding title with no relationship to what the platform does.

Moreover, the brand new emblem — a barely embellished model of the letter X — is problematic in a number of methods. It in all probability can’t be trademarked, as a result of it’s roughly indistinguishable from a lowercase x in an current font. Many TAFKAT customers say that they’re embarrassed by the emblem, which makes them really feel as in the event that they’re visiting a porn web site. My response was a bit completely different. To me, and I’m positive others, the brand new emblem has the vibes of an authoritarian political image, just like the Z emblem of Russians invading Ukraine — or another historic symbols I’m positive you may consider.

Trendy companies usually give lots of thought to selecting model names and logos. So what was Musk considering along with his renaming of TAFKAT? It’s actually arduous to see any enterprise rationale for junking a superbly good model id and changing it with a reputation and emblem nearly everybody finds off-putting.

Properly, every part we all know means that he mainly wasn’t considering. For some cause he has at all times had a factor concerning the letter X — his rocket firm is SpaceX and he tried to get PayPal to rename itself X.com (and was ousted as C.E.O. instantly afterward, maybe as a result of his colleagues thought it gave the impression of, sure, a porn web site). And that terrible emblem didn’t undergo the same old design course of (Twitter’s hen emblem developed over seven years). It was casually outsourced — he requested his followers to recommend symbols and selected one he appreciated.

However then, Musk’s sudden change of brand name title and image, with no clear rationale, suits the sample of every part else he’s executed at TAFKAT.

He clearly suffers from a extreme case of Tech Bro Syndrome, that bizarre mixture of hubris and conspiracy theorizing so prevalent in his social set. He accused Twitter of censoring conservatives, ignoring the truth that in a MAGA-ridden nation any try and restrict the unfold of harmful misinformation will hit the suitable more durable than the left. He bought Twitter within the perception that his private brilliance may simply make the corporate worthwhile, no want for arduous interested by enterprise technique.

And he’s been flailing wildly ever since.

Will the Xification of Twitter lastly be a flail too far? Social networks are typically particularly sturdy as a result of — like worldwide currencies — they profit from self-reinforcement: Folks use them as a result of different folks use them. It’s going to take many dangerous selections to push TAFKAT to the tipping level the place folks abandon it for an additional platform.

However Musk is engaged on it.


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