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Twitter is now X, because its owner, Elon Musk, says so. Where does that leave Linda Yaccarino, the former NBCUniversal executive he named CEO of Twitter just a few months ago?
That’s the question many media insiders are asking. The rebrand was classic Musk: off the cuff, ramshackle and fast. It’s the polar opposite of the kind of carefully planned rollouts of new brand initiatives Yaccarino was known for at NBCUniversal.
“From what I can tell, Yaccarino is not driving this bus,” said Brian Chevalier-Jordan, chief marketing officer of National Business Capital. “Elon is the chauffeur and she’s just along for the ride.”
Now people are asking if Musk ever meant to give Yaccarino agency in her new role, or if he’s still the one calling the shots while using the new CEO as a front for advertisers and regulators.
The rebrand seemed to come out of nowhere, but Musk has long discussed the idea of folding Twitter into a broader app called X that might embrace communications, payments and other functions. Before this weekend, he hadn’t given any indication he wanted to drop the Twitter name altogether.
But the execution was shoddy. Musk used a fan-submitted logo for the new “X,” and hadn’t bothered to secure the trademark for the term, which apparently belongs to Microsoft.
Yaccarino was known at NBCUniversal for executing elaborate plans and communicating them carefully to advertisers, from combining the media conglomerate’s sales teams to unifying premium video products across Comcast, NBCUniversal and Sky.
When asked for comment on leadership’s decision-making process, an X representative pointed toward a May tweet by Musk on the matter, where he suggested such moves would be jointly driven by him and Yaccarino. Yaccarino has been publicly supportive of the rebranding to X.
I am excited to welcome Linda Yaccarino as the new CEO of Twitter!@LindaYacc will focus primarily on business operations, while I focus on product design & new technology.
Looking forward to working with Linda to transform this platform into X, the everything app. https://t.co/TiSJtTWuky
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) May 12, 2023
Still, some believe Musk has now made Yaccarino’s job of wooing advertisers back harder.
“The early optimism that Yaccarino’s appointment invoked among disillusioned users and advertisers has faded, and Twitter’s rebrand is a visual manifestation that Musk is still in charge,” said Insider Intelligence principal analyst Jasmine Enberg.
Musk has been vocal about the Twitter X transformation plans from the start, Enberg noted, and Yaccarino was always going to have to balance Musk’s expansive vision with what advertisers and users could get on board with. But moves like this are certain to make it harder for Yaccarino convince people the service isn’t a malleable clump of cyber clay being singlehandedly molded by Musk to his own inscrutable whims.
Musk in the late 1990s ran an online banking startup called X.com, which he merged with a rival startup to form PayPal. He later bought the domain name back from PayPal. He went on to start Space Exploration Technologies, better known as SpaceX, and funded Tesla, which released a car called the Model X.
“The man loves ‘X’ — SpaceX, X.com, Model X — so I think it will be difficult to separate the new identity, or even the decision to rebrand to it, from his personal brand in the near term,” said Jon Judah, chief strategy officer at business growth company Huge.
Regardless of what the reality of Musk’s and Yaccarino’s work dynamic, the public perception is that Musk, his brand and his reputation envelope his projects, Judah added.
The reality of that perception of Musk’s hand in all things Twitter — or X — is what may limit Yaccarino’s effectiveness as CEO. By all accounts, she was brought on to help restore the company’s battered advertising business and regain public trust in the company. But with Musk’s edicts looming over her, it doesn’t matter if she and Musk are perfectly in sync. The same people who ditched Twitter due to a mistrust of Musk are not going to flock back to X.
Musk can be stubborn about his obsessions. At PayPal, which he briefly ran as CEO before a revolt by his executive team, he tried to restore the X branding on PayPal, despite the “X” name evoking pornographic associations during focus tests.
“A pattern seems to emerge with Musk announcing significant decisions and Yaccarino subsequently confirming them,” said Mike Mandell, principal attorney at Mandell Law. “For example, Musk announced a reading limit for non-subscribers of Twitter Blue, which Yaccarino later implemented. Similarly, Musk announced a Twitter rebrand to X, with Yaccarino confirming it.”
The way Musk and Yaccarino presented these major announcements to the public certainly gave the impression that Musk was the one actually captaining the ship, Mandell said.
Experts generally agreed it appeared Musk was still running the show. And the issue is that Yaccarino’s job effectiveness is largely dependent on her ability to influence public perception. If the widespread belief is that she’s not really in charge, then she’s effectively kneecapped.
There’s an even less optimistic theory making the rounds: that Yaccarino was never meant to save Twitter, but rather serve as a shield for impending disaster.
“It seems her job responsibilities at Twitter mainly consist of tweeting clap emojis in response to every insane idea Musk throws out,” said Kaivan Shroff, an attorney and political commentator.
“I think what we are seeing here is that Linda Yaccarino is being set up for failure by being the ‘face’ of the X rebrand as part of a ploy to saddle her with the blame when X’s ‘everything app’ aspirations fail to launch as planned,” said marketing consultant Dan Ortiz.
Shroff suggested Yaccarino’s position is a classic case of the glass cliff, the scenario where a woman or minority is hired at a volatile point in a company’s timeline and set up to fail. If X succeeds, Musk gets the credit for the idea. If it fails, Yaccarino risks getting the blame. In either scenario, she only sticks around as long as Musk needs her.
The post Who’s Running X – Elon Musk or Linda Yaccarino? | Analysis appeared first on TheWrap.
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