Bye bye birdie: A lesson on how not to rebrand

by Katie Jones

There’s a famously fine line between genius and insanity, and Twitter's rebranding definitely falls in the latter category.

18th August 2023

So long Twitter, hello X.

After announcing Twitter’s shock rebrand a few weeks ago, Elon Musk is going full steam ahead with the makeover for the microblogging app.

However, the change has been met with mixed reactions.

Erasing an iconic internet brand was always going to be a bold move. Many saw it as risky, undoing years of branding behind Twitter’s iconic blue bird. Some of Elon Musk’s most devoted fans saw it as an exciting new direction for the company, as part of Musk's larger strategy to turn Twitter into a "super app."

But for an ‘everything app’ that is intended to bring people together, the only thing this rebranding has succeeded in doing is fostering division.

What went wrong

There’s a reason why Twitter's rebrand to X feels so jarring to users.

Given that Twitter was already facing a number of challenges, such as declining user growth and increasing competition from other social media platforms, you’d think they’d carefully execute the rollout of this new rebrand, right?


The change was sudden, unexpected, and rushed, with parts of the site referencing “X” whilst other parts still implored you to “search Twitter” or push a blue button to “Tweet.” Twitter was also still called Twitter on Android despite carrying the new icon, whereas its name had been changed to X on iPhone.

When a brand becomes so ubiquitous that its name becomes a verb, (google, tweet, etc.) you know you’ve nailed your branding. The new name, X, however, is not memorable or distinctive. It’s hard to see “I saw it on X” or “Did you see his latest X” becoming part of the common vernacular.

Naming a major company a letter of the alphabet can also be legally challenging. The letter X as a brand is already banned in certain countries because of its prevalence on.. adult content websites. Not to mention the letter X is associated with death, toxicity, and the concept of error…

This could’ve been Elon Musk’s big break, yet the disjointed rollout and lack of clear messaging were just two more examples of his inability to manage the platform effectively.

It’s unclear whether we’ll ever forgive Elon for getting rid of the blue bird, but it's definitely taught us all a lesson on how not to do a rebranding.

To rebrand or not to rebrand, that is the question...

Here's when it's NOT such a good idea to rebrand:

1) If your old brand is working perfectly fine: Consistency over time is a good thing in branding. If your current brand has strong recognition, loyalty, and positive associations among your target audience, it might not be wise to rebrand. Rebranding could lead to confusion, loss of trust, and alienation of existing customers who are attached to the current brand identity. Take a leaf out of Twitter’s X’s book…

2) If you have limited resources: Rebranding can be resource-intensive, involving changes to marketing materials, signage, websites, and more. If your business lacks the necessary time, budget, and resources to effectively execute a rebranding effort, it might be better to focus on other business priorities.

3) A drop in sales: A drop in sales can be alarming, but don't blow up your marketing and branding. Just eight days before the company relaunched as X, Musk reported that the app’s ad revenue was down 59% and that cash flow is negative. The timing of this rebrand was nothing short of chaotic. Instead of rebranding, you can evolve your brand by tweaking or updating your campaign messaging or visuals.

How do you know when is the “right time” to undergo a rebrand?

Here are five indicators that suggest now's the time for a new look:

  • You need to differentiate from your competitors
  • You're targeting a new demographic
  • Your brand vision has changed
  • You’ve outgrown your current branding
  • Your original branding was rushed

In short - consider carefully!

Rebranding is an essential marketing strategy businesses often undertake to revitalise their image, stay relevant or expand their customer base.

When done successfully, rebrands can breathe new life into a company and strengthen its position in the market.

But when it goes wrong, it can be disastrous.

Whilst legacy is important, so is relevance, so if you feel your brand is falling behind, it’s probably time to shake things up. If you do decide on revamping your look, remember that rebranding is a delicate process that requires careful planning and execution - there can be no cutting corners.

Need any help considering a rebrand? Or if you’re further down the line, we can help you create visual identities that stand the test of time. Get in touch today to find out more.

In the meantime, if this blog has you hyped up on great rebrands, you can take a look at our company portfolio here.