X is Elon Musk’s New Coke
“I’ve never been as confident about a decision as I am about the one we’re announcing today.” That’s what David Keough, the president of Coca-Cola, said on April 23, 1985, which was the day the company held a press conference at New York City’s Lincoln Center to announce the introduction of the company’s “New Coke.” Keough’s confidence was grounded in some data that indicated consumers would prefer Coca-Cola to be a bit sweeter (like Pepsi). So Coca-Cola locked away the old formula, New Coke was introduced — and consumers soon besieged the company with angry phone calls demanding that the company bring back the old formula. What went wrong? With presumably solid data as their guide, how did Coca-Cola screw this up? “[C]onsumer research,” said Keough, “on the new Coca-Cola could not measure or reveal the deep and abiding emotional attachment to original Coca-Cola felt by so many people.” Two months later Coca-Cola reversed course: they pulled New Coke and brought back the old formula.
By contrast, when Elon Musk bought Twitter and said some major new changes would be forthcoming, he announced these changes with zero data indicating that people wanted Twitter to change. If anything, users wanted things to stay the same but with some added features, such as the ability to edit tweets. Instead, Musk just barged in with his purchase and began imposing himself. No one asked for a name change. No one asked for the ability to not block certain accounts, which, as of this writing, Musk has threatened to do. As Reuters reported, “Researchers have found an increase in hate speech and antisemitic content on the platform since he took over, and some governments have accused the company of not doing enough to moderate its content.” And this increase in hate speech has driven lots of people away, which includes major advertisers. Perhaps Musk isn’t so great at business after all, at least as far as owning and running a social network is concerned. The man paid forty billion dollars for Twitter, changed the company’s name, and then saw the value of his company go to four billion dollars. That’s Musk’s math, not mine.
Does Musk not understand the value of not messing with an established brand? Apparently not. Companies would kill to have a brand name turned into a noun or verb. “I…