Elon Musk’s Brand Universe, Inspired by Five Tweets.
The rebrand of Twitter to X is big news in the brand world. Rather than pile on to the punditry, I thought it would be fun to add to the commentary about this change by sharing broader observations about his branding choices drawing from the content of five of his recent tweets (X’s?).
1. “Futuristic Art Deco”
Elon mentioned this phrase in an earlier tweet saying, “If X is closest to anything it should, of course, be Art Deco”.
Is this meant to be inspiration for the visual identity? I’m not seeing other related visual changes to the Twitter/X experience. A major identity change for a company without a corresponding change in the experience is tough for people to follow. Low coherence makes people feel uneasy. This feels like meaningless inspiration that hasn’t been applied anywhere other than as a fleeting reference for a random logo choice.
2. “Motion graphic from Doge Designer”
Two observations come to mind with this one…
The first is there’s a frame that literally shows “XXX.” Many people have highlighted the fact there’s a risk X is perceived as related to adult content. This risk was confirmed 23 years ago by focus groups when Elon tried to rebrand another company to X. This unfortunate design choice makes an explicit association to porn that can’t be unseen.
Next, the motion graphic was created by DogeDesigner, which brings up Elon’s crypto currency crush. If X is meant to “become half of the world’s financial system” (one of Elon’s many ambitions), then the next question is what currency is he thinking of using? Dogecoin started as a joke currency, but he keeps referring to it. It’s up 9% in value since more of his cryptic tweets linked X to Dogecoin. Is there a method to the madness? Dogecoin founder Jackson Palmer has called Musk a “self-absorbed grifter” so maybe not. Let’s also not forget Elon replaced the Twitter logo with something else earlier this year: the Doge meme. It might have been an April Fool’s joke, but the massive loss in the financial value of Twitter since Elon’s purchase is not.
3. SpaceX retweet – “Propellant load tests recently completed for Starship Super Heavy Boosters 9 and 10”.
Again, two thoughts here…
Given the erratic and incomplete nature of this rebrand, I would not go to space in one of Elon’s rockets. I’m increasingly worried about the safety of a Tesla car, and a Tesla battery.
The SpaceX logo is another interesting branding choice by Elon. It looks like he stole two thirds of the Reebok logo, inverted it, and called it good. Thinking about his expanding empire of X named businesses, he now also has a visual identity challenge in that he has two “X’s” that don’t family well together. Maybe X.com doesn’t have extraterrestrial aspirations and will remain limited to Earth, so it doesn’t matter? One X for Earth and one X for space? Sounds good for now I guess. Perhaps a future rebrand could restore interplanetary brand harmony.
4. Starlink retweet – “Starlink is now available in Malaysia etc….”
Besides the gold verified stamp for Starlink (what does gold vs. blue mean again?), there’s also a small icon of the SpaceX logo. That’s because Starlink is a division of SpaceX. Do people know that? Do people care? The logo is a bit confusing. Maybe all these companies can be divisions of X in the future?
Since Elon is clearly obsessed with X, I see another opportunity for a quick rebrand. There are multiple Starlink satellites, so why not rename the company “StarlinX”? What type of “X” to use in the logo could be solved by crowdsourcing ideas and paying a $30 licensing fee for the chosen icon (probably not a typeface). Now that I think more about it, finding a way to connect the new X to the rest of the StarlinX word could be hard, though. He might have to hire some professionals.
5. “Our headquarters tonight”
The use of “our” is hard to take. Elon has laid off 80% of Twitter/X staff, and it doesn’t sound like employees who are left had much say in the new name of the company. Knowing Elon still owes $500 million in unpaid severance for those he laid off just makes me feel sad. This is a hollow building and a hollow brand. Companies and brands need teams of inspired people to make them run. New brands are empty vessels that require meaning to be built into them over time. I hope the employees who remain can find a way to make it theirs, not just his.
Thinking more broadly, if Elon truly does want to “transform the global town square,” he’s going to have to welcome us all back in. The main question is, does anyone want to enter Elon’s universe anymore?