Advertising & Marketing

How brand associations lost Twitter a possible sale

Following the news that Disney has dropped the potential purchase of Twitter partly based on image, the social network has announced it is cutting jobs and closing Vine. This move should be a salutary reminder to anyone who doubted that brand associations do matter, and they also have financial implications.

Walt Disney Co. is not the first company to explore a purchase of Twitter and then drop the idea. Both Salesforce.com Inc. and Alphabet Inc.’s Google have also done so, but the reasons behind this may have been somewhat different. The Bloomberg report states,

“Walt Disney Co. decided not to pursue a bid for Twitter Inc. partly out of concern that bullying and other uncivil forms of communication on the social media site might soil the company’s wholesome family image, according to people familiar with management’s thinking.”

To be honest, the only surprising thing to me about this statement is that Disney would have considered bidding for Twitter in the first place. The two companies do seem to be poles apart when it comes to their purpose and image.

Of course, that’s just my perception, so I had a look at the BrandZ database to see what other people think of the two brands. First, let’s look at Disney which was measured in the U.S. in 2016 in the context of leisure attractions (otherwise known as theme parks). In that context Disney is classified as Iconic, hugely Meaningful, Different and Salient compared to its competition. As a result 43 percent would make it their first choice and the brand is more likely to be seen as creative, idealistic and innocent. The brand’s summary archetype is ’The Maiden’.

Turning to Twitter, which was measured in the context of online sharing and networking, we see a rather different picture. Since we first measured this category, Twitter has struggled to make its mark. The brand is classified as Aspirational but its high score on Difference and low score on Meaningful suggest a brand that has polarized appeal. By contrast Instagram and Pinterest are equally likely to be perceived as Different but more likely to be perceived as Meaningful. But the most telling difference is that Twitter’s summary archetype is that of ’The Rebel’, more assertive, rebellious and straightforward than its competition.

My conclusion from this comparison is that Disney did the right thing in deciding the two brands were not a good fit. It is easy to see the appeal of adding a social network to the Disney portfolio but while ’The Maiden and the Rebel’ might make a good movie title, it does not seem destined to be a positive relationship.

The big question I have is what Twitter could do to make itself more attractive to potential suitors. Should it try to make itself more Meaningful, working to better meet the needs of a wider group of people and improving its appeal, or should it simply play to its strengths? What do you think? Please share your thoughts.


Written by Executive Vice President and Chief Global Analyst at Kantar Millward Brown

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