Twitter's 'X' sign is taken down in San Francisco after neighbors filed 24 complaints


After 17 years, Twitter has undergone a name change and rebrand to X, as announced by Elon Musk this week. Musk's goal is to transform the micro-blogging platform into an "all-in-one" app that combines social media, messaging, banking, and payments. However, the success of this transformation remains uncertain, and the new name has already raised concerns as Meta and Microsoft also hold trademarks to the letter, according to Reuters.

Martha Marchesi, CEO of JK Design, a full-service creative agency based in Hillsborough, New Jersey, describes the name change as a bold move, considering the company's plans for expansion. However, others, like Angeli Gianchandani, a brand strategist at the University of New Haven, who has worked with major companies such as Samsung, find the decision puzzling. Gianchandani believes that Twitter's brand equity was a key factor in the value Musk paid for the platform, questioning why such a powerful entity would be dismantled.

While the outcome of Twitter's rebranding as X and its competition with Meta's Threads remains to be seen, the move offers valuable lessons for leaders contemplating their own rebrands.

One crucial aspect of a rebrand is conducting consumer research. Raoul Davis, CEO of the branding firm Ascendant Group, emphasizes the importance of weighing the potential gain against the short-term loss of existing customers. Davis suggests using a test group to gauge consumer perception of the current business, their views on a potential rebrand, and the untapped opportunities the business might have. This research can help determine whether a rebrand is the right decision. Marchesi provides an example of a client who discovered considerable brand loyalty within two separate businesses after conducting consumer research post-acquisition, leading the parent company to maintain their independent identities.

The costs associated with a rebranding effort must also be considered. Apart from the expense of consumer research, businesses need to factor in the costs of changing websites, marketing materials, and visual identities. Gianchandani highlights the substantial expense involved in rebranding and the need for a dedicated team to ensure a smooth rollout. The cost can reach hundreds of thousands for small to medium brands and even higher for larger, global brands. The time investment is equally significant, with rebranding taking four to six months for smaller brands and a year to 18 months for larger brands. If research indicates that the return on investment won't be significant, Davis suggests businesses should explore alternatives like updating visuals or refining messaging instead of a complete rebrand.

Another critical aspect is effectively communicating the rationale behind the rebrand to avoid confusion. Marchesi recommends that businesses clearly convey their reasons through their website and marketing channels. Davis suggests involving the CEO as the "chief storyteller" to provide a human touch and make the rebranding effort more relatable. Properly explaining the reasoning behind the rebrand before customers have a chance to become skeptical is crucial, as it can make or break the success of the endeavor.

In conclusion, a rebranding effort should be approached with careful consideration of consumer research, cost assessment, and transparent communication of the reasoning behind the decision. 

Twitter's new "X" sign was taken down on Monday after the city of San Francisco reprimanded the company for installing a giant, flashing sign above its building without a permit.

The San Francisco Department of Building Inspection said it received 24 complaints about the sign, including "concerns about its structural safety and illumination."

A building permit is technically required to dismantle the sign too, but the removal was allowed to proceed "duty to safety concerns," Patrick Hannan, a spokesperson for the department, told NPR.

The signage was the latest effort in the social media platform's rebranding since the sweeping changes were announced last week.

The removal comes less than three days after a city inspector went to Twitter's headquarters on Friday to alert the company of its permit violation and to evaluate the sign located on the roof, according to the city's complaint.

A Twitter representative denied access but explained that the structure is "a temporary lighted sign for an event." The inspector clarified that any signage without a permit must be removed.

The inspector came to the headquarters again on Saturday to visit the roof. But upon arrival, "access was denied again by the tenant," the complaint said.

Twitter did not immediately respond to NPR's request for comment. But to a tweet alleging that San Francisco authorities were trying to force Musk to remove the "X" sign, the Twitter owner replied on Saturday with a laughing-crying emoji.

Twitter was already in hot waters with the city of San Francisco last Monday for removing Twitter's original sign, which includes its name and iconic blue bird, without proper permits or taping off the sidewalk as part of pedestrian safety measures.

X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter, has threatened to sue a group of independent researchers whose research documented an increase in hate speech on the site since it was purchased last year by Elon Musk.

An attorney representing the social media site wrote to the Center for Countering Digital Hate on July 20 threatening legal action over the nonprofit’s research into hate speech and content moderation. The letter alleged that CCDH’s research publications seem intended “to harm Twitter’s business by driving advertisers away from the platform with incendiary claims.”

Musk is a self-professed free-speech absolutist who has welcomed back white supremacists and election deniers to the platform, which he renamed X earlier this month. But the billionaire has at times proven sensitive about critical speech directed at him or his companies.

The center is a nonprofit with offices in the U.S. and the United Kingdom. It regularly publishes reports on hate speech, extremism, or harmful behavior on social media platforms like X, TikTok, or Facebook.

The organization has published several reports critical of Musk’s leadership, detailing an increase in anti-LGBTQ hate speech as well as climate misinformation since his purchase. The letter from X’s attorney cited one specific report from June that found the platform failed to remove neo-Nazi and anti-LGBTQ content from verified users that violated the platform’s rules.

In the letter, attorney Alex Spiro questioned the expertise of the researchers and accused the center of trying to harm X’s reputation. The letter also suggested, without evidence, that the center received funds from some of X’s competitors, even though the center has also published critical reports about TikTok, Facebook, and other large platforms.

“CCDH intends to harm Twitter’s business by driving advertisers away from the platform with incendiary claims,” Spiro wrote, using the platform’s former name.

Imran Ahmed, the center’s founder, and CEO, told the AP on Monday that his group has never received a similar response from any tech company, despite a history of studying the relationship between social media, hate speech, and extremism. He said that typically, the targets of the center’s criticism have responded by defending their work or promising to address any problems that have been identified.

Ahmed said he worried X’s response to the center’s work could have a chilling effect if it frightens other researchers away from studying the platform. He said he also worried that other industries could take note of the strategy.

“This is an unprecedented escalation by a social media company against independent researchers. Musk has just declared open war,” Ahmed told the Associated Press. “If Musk succeeds in silencing us other researchers will be next in line.”

Messages left with Spiro and X were not immediately returned Monday.

It’s not the first time that Musk has fired back at critics. Last year, he suspended the accounts of several journalists who covered his takeover of Twitter. Another user was suspended for using publicly available flight data to track Musk’s private plane; Musk had initially pledged to keep the user on the platform but later changed his mind, citing his personal safety. He also threatened to sue the user before allowing him back on the platform under certain restrictions.

He initially had promised that he would allow any speech on his platform that wasn’t illegal. “I hope that even my worst critics remain on Twitter because that is what free speech means,” Musk wrote in a tweet last year.

X’s recent threat of a lawsuit prompted concern from U.S. Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., who said the billionaire was trying to use the threat of legal action to punish a nonprofit group trying to hold a powerful social media platform accountable.

“Instead of attacking them, he should be attacking the increasingly disturbing content on Twitter,” Schiff said in a statement.

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