When news broke that Elon Musk had bought 9.2% of Twitter for just $3 billion, the first statement about the move from the CEO of Tesla — one of Twitter’s most popular and prolific users — was a staggeringly smooth tweet. : “Oh hi lol.”
oh hello lol
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) Apr 4, 2022
Shares of the social platform, meanwhile, are up 27%. That’s the Musk effect. His mere presence within Twitter’s ownership structure was enough to build confidence in the strength of not only the social platform’s product potential, but most importantly, the brand. The little blue bird is now officially linked to Musk, a person who has used tweeting as his primary tool to build more financial gain than anyone else on Earth.
Since its inception in 2003, Tesla has been known to have budgeted about zero on traditional advertising, relying heavily on the earned media drummed up by Musk through news media and, more recently, his antics and insights on Twitter. That approach has helped the electric car company join the trillion dollar market cap club, a valuation nearly ten times higher than the combined market caps of Ford, GM and Chrysler, all of which spend billions on advertising. Ford CEO Jim Farley may laugh a lot (the late SNL recording artist Chris Farley is a cousin), but his Twitter feed is almost exclusively about Ford. He has not adopted an altcoin cryptocurrency to promote to his followers. To my knowledge, he has insulted exactly zero US senators. Musk’s personal brand is so strong that he turned Dogecoin, which started as a prank cryptocurrency, into a . † † Well, it’s still a joke, although some early adopters have benefited from his attention.
Musk’s latest move to become the largest shareholder of his favorite megaphone will have significant brand equity implications for Twitter, Tesla and his own personal brand.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) Apr 7, 2022
For Twitter, that brand impact will depend on how Musk’s innovation-by-Twitter poll approach works and whether it actually changes the platform for the better. Maybe it’s the edit button! But if so, horns are already ringing about what a terrible idea an edit button could be. Or perhaps this is the first step in a longer journey to decentralized social media that Musk, Twitter founder and former CEO Jack Dorsey, and current Twitter CEO (for now at least) Parag Agrawal have been advocating. That’s also the kind of thing that sounds great in, say, 4:20, but might not hold up in performance.
Tesla is also in a vulnerable position given how closely tied its brand is to that of its leader. I had suggested years ago that the company maaaay wants to slowly lay the foundation for, and grow, its own brand independent of Musk. The balance between the public image of an inspirational CEO and iconic brand advertising itself can be a driver for brand growth, as Apple’s history can attest. Of course, we are talking about a founder who publicly proposed the acronym for: his favorite federal agency stands for fellatiowith little to no effect on its marks, so you know, unfamiliar waters.
When it comes to Musk, in a brand context, the guy is essentially bulletproof. He just joined the Twitter board, but he’s already the CEO of a $1 trillion auto company, with [checks notes] three other jobs: CEO of an aerospace company, CEO of a computer-brain interface company, and the majority owner of an urban tunnel construction company. In those roles, he navigates the following scandals: The auto company faces lawsuits over a deeply racist work culture, and its autonomous driving system has reportedly caused deaths in the streets while the technology is practiced in public. The urban tunneling company Boring Company is routinely mocked for its weakness in terms of what it actually delivers. And his brain interface company Neuralink has been accused of torturing animals in ways that have not been accepted in scientific circles for decades. This isn’t even a full list of Musk-related scandals! Meanwhile, we’re all talking about an edit button here?!?
This is the point. This is the power Musk already wields over this platform and culture in general. It’s a testament to how he’s used Twitter to build unwavering trust with his customers, investors, and admirers. He’s already constructed a free media flywheel around his Twitter presence: write something provocative, absurd, or enlightening; cause a wave of cover; Rinse and repeat. That flywheel is only going to spin faster as Twitter’s cultural footprint dwarfs its electric car. At its core, this new Musk story is about a very vocal and powerful individual who moves to protect his greatest brand and brand-building asset. As we dance around every plaything Musk decides to dangle for us, it all adds to his brand image, and by extension, arguably that of his companies. It is the most Musk-most of Musk movements.
The only way this move has a downside for Musk and his brand is if a) the SEC goes completely to the scorched earth and somehow forces him to stop tweeting. (Based on the track record of enforcement to date, this seems highly unlikely). Or b) in the longer term, Twitter’s decentralization or some other Musk-led change takes Twitter beyond a hot-take screaming landscape and into an even more dangerous weapon that can be tied to a specific, horrific event or issue. His own personal version of what the 2016 election did for Mark Zuckerberg.
But if everything on Twitter goes to hell, Musk will most likely walk away with his personal brand under his arm as the social network explodes in the distance in a fireball, as Musk confidently walks forward as if he were the star of a Michael Bay movie. He’ll tweet something along the lines of, “Well, they haven’t listened to me and all my great ideas” — in the lingua franca of a popular meme, of course — along with a Twitter poll asking him to lay down his chair. or sell his stock, even if that actually happened and the nod to democracy (or mafia rule, depending on your POV) is just another feat.
Marketers are constantly talking about and trying to make their brands a part of the culture. By that measure, Musk is one of the world’s largest. Do you remember the 2019 Cybertruck event? When Musk threw a rock at the window? Musk buying Twitter could very well lead to the first significant crack in his reputation, but if any recent precedent is any indication, it will really only add to his already formidable brand armor.
This post Elon Musk’s Twitter Coup Is The Musk Most Of Musk Brand Moves was original published at “https://www.fastcompany.com/90739288/elon-musks-twitter-coup-may-be-the-muskiest-of-musk-brand-moves?partner=rss&utm_source=rss&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=rss+fastcompany&utm_content=rss”