Naming in an A.I. Age Episode #12
Renee Yeager (00:04):
Hello everyone. Our, our topic today is really to make sure your rebranding works. So anybody that’s going through a rebranding exercise or thinking about a rebranding exercise, there’s some things that obviously need to be considered and this recent Twitter change to x to us is an opportunity to discuss some of these things, right? And so what we’re gonna try to do is, you know, use this as an example, what to do and more importantly, perhaps what not to do. Because I think Elon Musk has gotten a lot of criticism largely justified in our opinion but perhaps not all justified. So I have on our podcast today, Renee Yeager, she’s co-founder of Yeager Marketing, and has been doing this for quite some time. And Renee, could you just tell us a little bit about your background and your firm and the kinds of things that you guys do?
Mike Carr (00:57):
Yeah, thanks Mike. It’s a pleasure to be here. I’ve been a marketer of technology, products and services for 25 years. I cringe a little saying that, but it is true <laugh>. And for the last 14 years I’ve had my own agency, Yeager Marketing. We specialize in working with B2B Tech companies. We work with the industry leaders, the most innovative ones out there, and helping them solve their biggest marketing challenges. Whether that’s building a brand, creating content that convertsor driving demand that help them fuel their pipeline and drive their revenue growth. So that’s where we specialize.
Renee Yeager (01:38):
Okay. So you are a good person then to talk about this whole Twitter to X change. And, you know, maybe start with some of the things that, you know, Musk didn’t do right? Or at least you didn’t follow best practices. Just any thoughts about that kind of stuff to get us started?
Mike Carr (01:57):
Yeah, there’s been so much said about it <laugh>. But you’re right. I think the consensus is leaning towards it really wasn’t handled the best possible way. I mean, a couple of things really stood out for me. First of all, the lack of focus on the customer or the partners. There was really no, you know, communication that it was happening, when it was happening, what was going to happen. I think it really set people back on their heels. And while the tactical nature of the platform hasn’t changed that much other than the logo in the corneras a marketer and an advertiser, I think it’s really continued to erode trust that was already eroding. So not great from that standpoint. I think they also, just based on the news stories, really didn’t do their research or their homeworkbefore they started planning it, planning this, if they planned itthey really didn’t look into their global markets.
They’ve been banned in Indonesia. There are other, many other trademarks for X, including Google and Meta other tech companies in the space. So they’re going to have to deal with some trademark violations and possibly lawsuits from that. And that’s something you really don’t want in a rebrand. you wanna kind try to mitigate things like that as much as possible. So, but I think this is just kind of true to Elon Musk’s history. He’s a rebel and he doesn’t like to play by the rules. and that’s really what happened here. the last point I would say is just consistent messaging. So even after it’s happened, you know, there’s talk about it online and there’s certainly lots of talk in the media but it doesn’t seem like there’s any real direct to customer communication. they did roll out an update to their, their ad services, which I think is, is hopefully going to try to win some advertisers back for them. But overall, no real communication strategy is apparent here. and it’s a huge miss.
Renee Yeager (04:08):
I think a couple things you said are, are really interesting. You know, he is known as being, you know, that, that maverick, that renegade and he’s proven the critics wrong more than once. You know, I, I can remember, you know, a lot of the bad press that Tesla got, right? You know, really an electric, electric vehicle’s gonna take on General Motors and Ford and all the, the foreign competitors. And nobody, nobody thought, I don’t believe that he could do this. and then SpaceX, I mean, no one is gonna be able to, you know, have the financial wherewithal, the engineering chops that Nassau has, right? How in the world could you ever think? And in both cases, he proved the critics wrong, but that doesn’t mean he did it the right way. And I think it even goes back to Steve Jobs when he started Apple.
You know, there was concern back then that, well, there’s Apple Music out there and, and the Beatles sort of own a lot of that. And then he got into the whole music thing with the music platform and ran into trademark issues. And it ended up costing a whole lot of money, I think, to resolve that issue. And it’s like he could save himself so much friction and so much grief and he just done things a little bit differently. So it’s not so much he has to change who he is. He can still be that maverick and that renegade. And I think that’s part of his appeal for a lot of the folks that follow him and are his supporters. But with just a little bit more mindfulness and intentionality on how you do things and okay. You don’t have the attention span for that. We’ll find someone or a group of folks inside that can sort of take that over so they, they avoid the ruffled feathers, if you will, and all the other things that you talked about that he didn’t, that he didn’t do.
Right. one of the comments I think that you made was not adhering to the norms and how bring brands operate and this recklessness. And do you feel today, ’cause you’ve been doing this, as you said for many years, do you feel today that you pay a much higher price but the sins aren’t forgiven quite as quickly when you sort of go down the path that Twitter went down because of how visible everything is than say, let’s say 10 years ago or when you first started the agency? Or do you think No, it’s still, I’m just be interested in your thoughts on that.
Mike Carr (06:32):
Yeah, and it’s funny ’cause I could see two sides to that, right? I could see some people being really, really put off by what happened. And you’ve already seen it. Like, there, there are people abandoning the platform, right? But then I also think that in our world today, change is constant and we also anticipate it. Like even though this wasn’t done the right way, I, I don’t know, I think this may play out for a couple of months and people may gradually go back. It’ll be interesting to see how threads shows up. The timing is pretty amazing. <laugh> there, you know. but I, I think we’ve become accustomed to change and maybe we roll with it a little bit better than we did in the past.
Renee Yeager (07:17):
You think about X as, as the brand you know, ’cause our, we’re bringing to the table a very niche perspective on the name itself, and you have a much broader perspective on the whole brand holistically and how you make that work and in communications. But to e to us X comes across as a much harsher, potentially colder sterile brand, especially the way he depicted it, you know, on some of the early pictures in the New York Times and whatnot. Whereas Twitter was a very high touch, sort of inviting, friendly brand. Now, one could say that, well, look, X has got a lot going forward in terms of it can be, you know, extreme disruption or an extraordinarily new experience or something that’s extending the capabilities of Twitter. You know, so you’ve got that X embedded in extreme and extraordinary and extended mm-hmm. <affirmative>. Yeah.
But from a branding expert standpoint, what observations would you make there about, well, Twitter had this going for it, and I think you already mentioned the equity that it had to make X work. And, and maybe over the couple months you mentioned it’s gonna work effectively, but what are some watch outs or some gotchas for anybody that’s listening to this and going through a rebranding that if you take something that’s as well known as a Twitter and you change it to something that’s as radically different and perhaps not as emotionally inviting as an X, what would you suggest that people be concerned about or questions they should ask? Is there anything like that that comes to mind?
Mike Carr (08:52):
Yeah, I, I think it goes back to his vision for what he wants this to be, right? So Twitter was this communications platform, and that was the nature of it, and that’s what it was gonna be. From what I understand, I don’t know if you’ve heard the same thing. His vision for what X is, is much more aligned to like what WeChat has in Asia where it has much more functionality. It’s a very different platform where communications is one piece of it. and there’s much more there. It will take time for him to build that though. So is he going to alienate his existing audience while he does that? Will they see merit in that? Will they want that? I think a big consideration is around who your customer is today and who your customer is gonna be tomorrow. And for me, he’s playing the long game here.
He is focused on who the customer’s gonna be tomorrow and what he wants to build or what they want to build, I guess. but not really thinking so much about right now. And, you know, for a visionary type person who’s looking to make transformation happen, that’s not unusual. It’s just what’s the cost? What’s the cost to revenue, what’s the cost to customer value, brand equity, all of those things that are starting to kind of erode right now. While he does that it would be nice if he communicated more about the vision of what he wants it to be and kind of what the timeline for that is. just that might keep people engaged in the shorter term.
Renee Yeager (10:37):
Yeah. To me it’s, it’s really interesting if it wasn’t Elon Musk or maybe a handful of other people that have the persona and the recognition could be, could even pull this off, right? Yeah. <laugh>, because that always sense. Yeah. It’s, it’s, it’s not as easy today and, and at least I don’t think it’s as easy today. And a lot of our clients, they underestimate the value of an existing name or an existing brand because it does have that recognition and that equity and yeah, granted Twitter hasn’t been around for 30 years, but it’s been around long enough to build that global base and awareness to try to duplicate that today is so, so hard. ’cause it’s just, oh yeah. So much noisier mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And, and so for someone that wasn’t Elon Musk, okay, so Elon might be able to pull this off. ’cause Elon Musk and he can get a lot of press in the way he does his, his tweets or, or whatever they’re now gonna be called with the x I dunno if you can call Xes or whatever they
Mike Carr (11:37):
Are. Exes Yeah,
Renee Yeager (11:38):
Mike Carr (11:40):
I heard that. Yeah. I don’t know,
Renee Yeager (11:42):
I don’t know either. For someone else though, you know, for for anyone else that’s listening to this that’s thinking about going through a rebranding and they don’t have that kind of presence and visibility what, what couple things, if you just had to say, here, here are a couple things that I think man, you really need to consider before you do it right before you pull the trigger what would those, does anything come to mind for you that you would be looking for a new engagement? That if I see this or this, that’s a big red flag, or if they’ve got these things lined up that maybe is a green light to move forward?
Mike Carr (12:19):
I mean, most rebrands are done because there’s the problem with the current brand, right? In this case, there wasn’t a problem with the current brand, just he has a vision, right? So, you know, if the purpose of the rebrand is to create distance from a problem, that’s a fair reason to do it. Anyone who’s lived through a big corporate rebrand knows what a beast it is to go through it. It is a massive, massive undertaking and should be done really carefully, especially for a global brand. You know, when you’re talking about multiple markets and languages and considerations like that I mean, the stakes are much, much higher, right? the other things I would say, you know, you gotta do your homework. You know, what, aside from is it the right thing to do? What is it gonna look like? And let’s do our homework and make sure we’re positioning right?
From a competitive standpoint, we’re not getting into any conflicts that we need to be thoughtful of and understand the impact of those changes, right? How is it going to play out across your company, your stakeholders, your customers, your partners in all of the markets that you serve? And then, you know, you gotta plan that communications and rollout plan, which really didn’t happen here. It was very, very haphazard had a lot of shock value and definitely got a lot of media attention. But that’s not normally how you handle a rebrand, right? That you’re trying to mitigate negative impact as much as possible, right? So you’re being thoughtful about it, you’re really structuring those communications you’re alerting the media before typically you know, then you’re alerting customers and then you’re actually doing it. So I just think there are a lot of considerations here that were not factored in at all. so there’s, you know, now there’s repercussions for that I think.
I think you bring up a really great point and, and so many of the steps you just outlined is, goes back to this old saying that everyone I think’s probably heard, you know, the devil’s in the details, right? Right. <laugh>, yes, you have this great vision and you can talk about, you know, how X is gonna become something very different than what Twitter was, and it’s gonna have all these marvelous capabilities and then someone has to execute, someone has to implement. And like in our space, we always have to do trademark searches globally on these rebrands. And inevitably, I can’t think of one that we’ve done in the last few years where there isn’t some conflict in some market somewhere in the world, right? And then you have to dial it back and say, well, okay, how can we tweak the name and do we really have to have the same brand everywhere or do we have a different brand in China?
Because some of the issues over there, or in the case of what you mentioned in Indonesia, you can’t use the X at all, so what’s he gonna do? And, and so then it becomes a much more complicated rollout strategy. Whereas when it was first started it was a simpler world, right? Even 10, 15 years ago, it was a much simpler world to brand things. There wasn’t this political correctness concern that we have in the US and to a certain extent in the EU and elsewhere to where now there’s a much greater sensitivity about any off-color or off-putting meanings or cultural innuendos or nuances that some would could. So there’s, there almost seems to be this over overcorrection, right? That now it’s just gotta be a super safe name. And I don’t know. I guess this is a question I have for you.
Do you think the pendulum is gonna swing back at all? I mean, in a lot of the naming work that we do for clients getting it through their legal, getting it through regulatory and all these different countries seems to be the biggest hurdle. It’s not anymore that, well, does this name work? From a marketing standpoint, it’s, well, we gotta get through legal, we gotta get through regulatory, right? And you end up with this watered down brand and name where you’ve compromised all the sizzle and pizazz and everything else. That was cool because of all these concerns. And I feel that some of our clients end up having to take really outstanding names from a brand standpoint, from a marketing standpoint off the table because of oversensitivity or ultra conservatism. When it comes to regulatory illegal, do you see that swinging back or do you even agree with that perspective, or do you have a different take in any of that?
Renee Yeager (17:07):
No, I agree with it a hundred percent and we’ve had similar experiences. I think there’s a low tolerance for risk. Now will that change? I don’t know. I, don’t think so, to be honest. I think there again, people just want to try to limit any potential risk, even if it ends up being less than what they wanted, right? Now someone like an Elon Musk, ’cause we’re talking about him, you know, I think there are those folks out there that are willing to take the risks and push the limits and not really care and maybe feel like they have the money and the backing to deal with anything that comes their way. For most corporations though, that’s not, that hasn’t been my experience.
Mike Carr (17:59):
I think that’s a great comment because we have different types of customers and clients just like I’m sure you do and for a lot of mom and pops, right? For a lot of folks that have a very local business, their concern isn’t federal trademark, and they can’t even get a federal trademark ’cause they’re not engaging any interstate commerce where you sell goods and services across the state boundaries. That’s one of the requirements to get a federal trademark, and they’re so small, they’re not on anybody’s radar. And so not that we advise them to do this, but if they have really no grandiose dreams for expansion, they’ll often move forward with a name and a brand in their little local area and their little niche, and it serves them well for many, many years. The problem is, if they are successful and they start to grow and they haven’t done the due diligence at the outset, and then they start bumping into, well, now we wanna sell throughout the country, now we wanna sell in adjacent countries, now we wanna sell in the EU and the Asia Pac countries, then things get to be a whole lot more complicated.
And there are these legal issues. Do you have any advice though, if you sort of think about maybe you bifurcated into startups or just small businesses that they need help in branding and maybe they have a brand that was their dad’s or their mom’s, and now they want to come up with something that’s a little bit more modern and hip and resonates with the millennials, but they don’t really have aspirations to be nationwide. Do you feel that what you would do for them is different than someone that has a much bigger vision, a much more grandiose idea in terms of footprint and geography or the same basic steps there for both of them, right? That to do this and to roll this out effectively, you still have to go down the same checklist. I mean, what’s your take on that?
Renee Yeager (19:49):
Yeah, I think it’s the same checklist and I always do that diligence for our clients because I want them to understand what the risk is and then we weigh that risk, right? If you are, my company is headquartered in Arizona, if it’s an Arizona company and they’re planning on staying in Arizona, we’ll look at it from an Arizona perspective. If it’s a nationwide company, we put that filter on it. If it’s global, it’s a different level, right? But for us, the steps are pretty much the same. Same because we want them to understand you know, what’s out there. It does change, you know, all the time, but based on this moment in time, this is what’s out there. This is what we need to be wary of and just know that this is here, I would rather know personally, I would rather know if it were my rebrand, and I would want that for my customers as well.
Mike Carr (20:40):
You go back to X and Twitter and how effective or ineffective the use of digital media has been there. Right? And, and some of the dangers, even if you’re in the state of Arizona, or even if you’re, you’re not planning to do something quite as grandiose as Elon Musk, the digital world to me, offers incredible opportunities, but also unbelievable risks because overnight, something can spread like wildfire, wildfire through the social ether, and it can be positive or negative, and you have very little control over that, right? Right. If you stub your toe and you’re just in Arizona, but you do something that catches the eye of someone and then they post it and it gets reposted and before you know it, the world is coming down, what advice or what guidance or what experiences have you had that in this, in today’s digital world where so quickly something that’s done well, maybe can get a lot more exposure or something that’s a big mistake. And it seems that the big mistakes are picked up on a lot quicker than the, the big successes. Is there any guidance or advice or just observations from what Elon Musk has done that you think, hey would be germane and helpful to anybody listening in?
Renee Yeager (21:56):
Oh, I mean, it’s such a big question, right? And the good is great when you have a local win that gets national attention, that’s, you know, amazing, that’s always good. on the opposite side, if something goes wrong and it gets national attention, I mean, we don’t do that kind of brand reputation management at Yeager, but I think there’s a lot to be said for stepping up and owning things and being honest and transparent because, you know, either trying to avoid it or not answering for it doesn’t really support a great brand reputation either. So you’re better off acknowledging explaining, giving your perspective and taking ownership. Because even if you disagree with it, it happened. And as a business leader, we have to take ownership of things that happen under our watch.
Mike Carr (22:58):
Yeah, I think that authenticity and that transparency, and those are words that are overused a lot, but is so, so important. And another thing that we like to suggest to our clients is a little bit of controversy is a good thing, right? So a name, and again, that’s our area of expertise… A name that’s a little bit edgy, a name that is a little bit out there. And I would argue that X might fall into this category or it might go beyond, but I think there’s a little bit of edginess to X is is worth considering because some people don’t like it at all. And by that fact, it’s worthy of conversation. And before you know it, people are talking about it and it does spread sort of organically through the digital universe. The challenge is you don’t wanna a name that’s too off-putting.
And I think, and I think you’ve already talked about this, had Elon had his cadre of folks that could execute that did do a little better job hosting the press ahead of time, letting everybody know the vision and the dream behind an X, it would’ve been much better, received a little bit of controversy, might’ve still been a good thing, but not quite as much as he got. And again, he maybe he can recover, but most firms, you know, can’t. Whereas a name that’s super safe or maybe a brand that’s super safe, it’s very difficult to get that, first of all, ’cause of all the regulatory and legal problems in today’s global world. they just tend to be boring. Right? Nobody, nobody hates them, but nobody loves them <laugh>. So they’re this yonder name or this yonder brand. What do you do as a branding firm, <laugh>, to sort of adjust that balance, right? You add a little bit of sizzle, you add a bit, but you also, I mean, do you have any thoughts or just, past experiences, that here’s something we did that took it maybe to the, the edge, but we also were careful by doing our homework and some of the other not to go. I mean, is there a specific example that you could provide of anything like that, that might educate and provide insight for some of the folks listening in?
Renee Yeager (25:03):
Yeah, I mean, you know, your name is, is critically important. sometimes, you know, names are either, you know, an old name that has just stayed with the company for a long time, or to your point, like very generic super, super safe. We do a lot of messaging work at Yaeger and that’s because we believe it’s the differentiator in building a brand, right? So it’s critically important. If you have a name, you have to have a story around it, right? You have to have a story around your brand and that can really help not only kind of elevate either what you’ve been given or what you’re living with, but can reframe it quite a bit and make it interesting, right? So we do you know, full on messaging platforms and brand storytelling and things like that, that can really help there. <laugh>, I don’t have a good example for you that I would want to share of one of our clients.
but that is a critically important thing. The other benefit of messaging just overall, and I think that that doesn’t exist right now, speaking of x. there really, I’m not sure what the messaging is other than these random comments out on the web. But it helps keep everyone consistent and telling a really consistent story with high value, it’s been thought through. We’re thinking about our customer, we’re thinking about our partners, and we’re making sure that our promise to them is very, very clear. And I think that’s really, really important and that is a game changer when it comes to branding.
Mike Carr (26:40):
I think that that clarity, that eliminating confusion is foundational, right? If you don’t do that one of the stories that I can share, and we can take very little credit, really no credit for this, is when we came up with the Angry Orchard name for Boston Beer, it wasn’t a a slam dunk, right? There was concern about, well, why do you have angry in that name? But they did a fantastic job with that story that you just alluded to, and then with the graphics to make it come alive. So one of the things about angry was, well, it’s a hard cider. It’s not a traditional cider. And, back in the day there weren’t very many hard ciders. I mean, when Angry Orchard came out, it was not a very well known category of beverages. So it’s sort of established the category that, oh, if it’s an angry, it’s got alcohol.
The other thing they did with story and then graphics, which I just thought was brilliant, is the best apples for an apple cider are not the kind of apples you see in a grocery store. They’re nice and round and all polished. They’re the ugliest looking apples in the world. <laugh>, they’re these naughty apples and they’ve got, oh my gosh, is there a worm in there? I mean, what <laugh>? And so they put that on the package, right? They had this poor looking tree, it looked like, you know, a Christmas tree out of Peanuts, you know, or poor Linus and Charlie Brown’s got this Christmas tree and it’s got five needles and two ornaments. It just looks like it’s a disaster. Well, this angry orchard tree looked like this poor tree, you know, it’s obviously angry, it’s got these ugly looking apples, but that was part of the story that those are the kind of apples. So that story and that messaging and what you wrap around the window dressing, you wrap around the name and the brand, I absolutely agree, make all the difference in the world between a successful rollout and one that just fades away and, you know, no one ever knows about it a year or two afterwards.
Renee Yeager (28:32):
Go ahead. I’m sorry. Sorry. I was just gonna say, you could even look at a brand like Target, like Target isn’t like the most incredible name, right? Right. But look at that brand. It’s, it’s a phenomenal brand and the things that they do around it are really, really great. Sorry, just wanted to add that in.
Mike Carr (28:49):
No, I think that’s, that’s another good example. Are there any other, I think we’ve, we’ve covered all the stuff that our listeners wanted to at least get a high level take on the Twitter versus the X and just rebranding in general. Are there any closing remarks or anything else that you’d like to mention that you think, Hey, if there’s one thing I can leave you with, or a couple things I wanna leave you with that, that do not forget if you’re fixing to go through this rebranding effort or if you’ve already started a rebranding effort, is there anything that you would wanna leave them with?
Renee Yeager (29:20):
Yeah, and I think I mentioned some of this stuff before, but really consider that decision and know what you’re getting into. You know, think of it, think of all the touch points of your brand. When you sit back and think about that objectively, you’ll be very, very surprised at where your brand lives and across documentation and things that you need to consider, right? So just really think about it. Is it the right thing for us? What is gonna be the impact of the change? And are we prepared to undertake it? And within what timeline? Right? And then just build a solid plan for what that’s gonna look like. Make sure you’re not surprising people. Mitigate the risk of negative impact from the rebrand. And be thoughtful about it and you know, if you’re living with a brand you hate and you just wanna do something that you feel is more modern or different or cool, go for it. But just make sure you manage it really, really well.That’d be my advice.
Mike Carr (30:18):
I think that being thoughtful comment is really important. I mean, one of the things that we all know is that change is usually not well received, right? Most folks like status quo. Most folks don’t understand why you’re changing the name, why you’re changing the brand. And so having that compelling reason around it and then giving it a chance to sort of grow. So for instance, one of the things that we do when we present new name ideas is we don’t let anyone say anything bad about any name we present. And that drives clients crazy, right? Because it’s much easier to be the critic than the advocate. And so they wanna start talking about, well, I wanna say this is the dumbest name I’ve ever seen and here’s why. And then someone else wants to play the game of one-upsmanship.
“Well, that I agree with that. It’s also a silly idea ’cause of this,” and before you know it, all the ideas are gone because yeah, there’s no such thing as a perfect idea out of the chute, especially when you’ve got an incumbent, especially when you’ve got an existing brand that already has the benefit of all that history and story wrapped around it. So what we say is, Hey, look, be the advocate. You know, if there’s only one name or one messaging platform you like and you’re not even sure you like that, then just talk about why that might work. And by taking the negative off the table, at least at the outset of that kind of conversation, the client’s, folks, the team will talk themselves into names that not everybody was that excited about. So at the end of the conversation, when you do allow criticism, constructive criticism, negative comment, some of these new name ideas or some of these new brand messaging platforms have had a chance to get traction before people just start dissing it <laugh>. So that would be one more that I would suggest that people consider. Well, Renee, you’ve been fantastic. If folks wanted to get ahold of you and find out a little bit more about the kinds of things that you do, how should they go about doing that?
Renee Yeager (32:10):
Yeah, you can come to our website at yeagermarketing.com. I’m on LinkedIn as Renee Yeager, and today I am on X as Renee Yeager as well. You can find me.
Mike Carr (32:22):
<laugh>. Well, Renee, thank you so much for your time today. Greatly appreciated. I think there’s a lot of interesting content hopefully here that listeners will value. So thank you again.
Thanks so much for having me, Mike.
Renee Yeager (32:33):