Just Jess: When X Doesn’t Mark the Spot (3 Things to Consider Before Rebranding)

Let’s talk about brands. I recently started watching Yellowstone (yes, I’m way behind the times), and branding is serious business on that show. I mean, they don’t just brand cattle; they actually brand people—ouch! Luckily in the world of marketing, we aren’t quite that extreme. But we do take branding seriously. And we know that if you have to add “formerly…” to your brand, something has gone terribly wrong.

Creating a company brand is hard. One of the toughest things I’ve ever done was develop the Write Connection’s brand. It’s also something a company has to think about constantly because, unlike a logo, a brand is wrapped up in everything you do. It’s baked into every part of every interaction, both internally and externally, from the cadence of your website language to the look and feel of your social media to the way you greet your clients.

Every day, in my emails, I see messages that say, “X (formerly Twitter),” which makes me chuckle out loud. It’s also why I’m writing this blog post today. Despite his politics, Elon Musk has been a wunderkind of global proportions. But lately, he seems to be treading into “the emperor’s new clothes” territory, especially when it comes to “X (formerly Twitter).” Have you noticed that “formerly Twitter” is now the unavoidable tagline for “X?” Yeah, that’s called bad branding.

It reminds me of when Prince (aka the artist formerly known as Prince or TAFKAP), a genius, made a branding decision. Changing your name to an unpronounceable symbol for two years can significantly damage your brand if you’re anyone other than TAFKAP. 

So, you may be thinking, Who cares, Jess? What does this have to do with me? Well, it has everything to do with you! Because it happens all the time, and not just to giant brands like Prince and X (formerly Twitter). We also see and hear about small businesses changing their name and brand seemingly on a whim. I’m not saying a company should never change its name or update its brand. But there are a few things to consider before you do so.

  • Don’t Be A Copycat (even on accident): As a business, you want your name and your brand to stand out. You don’t want to be confused with another company. We just started using an app called Loomly (this is not a paid ad for Loomly; it’s just a tool we love), but every time we use it or tell our clients to use it, we laugh because it sounds so close to Lume, which is a feminine hygiene product. I highly doubt Loomly (a social media scheduling product) or Lume (a female hygiene product) wanted to be confused with each other when they chose their name, yet here we are.
  • Avoid the Acronym: Successful business names that are also acronyms are rare, but not unheard of (i.e., IBM, Aflac, CVS, and IKEA). However, you are probably not the IKEA of your block, so avoid the acronyms. Having to explain what your new name stands for every time you introduce yourself won’t help your brand, trust me. If you only have seven seconds to make a first impression, you don’t want to spend 30 seconds explaining the acronym.
  • Clear Over Clever: This may seem like the last one, but it’s a bit different. That being said, it’s founded on the same principle. If every time you say your company’s name, you have to explain why it’s called what it’s called or how to pronounce the name, you’re going to have a problem. (When I tell people I work for “Write Connections,” I often say, “Write like I write you a letter because we’re storytellers.” Yeah, I get the irony. But you see my point.)

Finally, before you change your business name or brand identity, I hope you’ll consider the reason behind the change. Because unless you’re brand new to the game, you probably have friends, followers, and customers who already know you by your current name and brand. I do not recommend confusing these folks—the very folks who help pay your bills—if you can avoid it. Because you might just end up signing off every correspondence, “X (formerly Twitter).”