Brand communication so far has largely been driven by visual media, i.e., video or print. Whether through TV or online adverts, print or outdoor ads, websites or brochures, these have largely relied on the consumer “seeing” the marketing content.
However, voice recognition technology has revolutionised the way we interact with our environment, where “voice searches” are becoming much more prominent than written searches. Siri, Alexa and Google Home are changing the way we look for information, not just about the weather or traffic, but also about the brands we like to buy and the things we love to do.
And this is an opportunity that marketers are looking to tap in to — it is estimated that by 2022, “voice commerce” will be a $40 billion industry in the US alone.
A brilliant illustration of the importance of voice technology in our lives was the Alexa Superbowl ad, about the chaos that ensues when Alexa “loses her voice”. While the ad itself is hilarious, it underscores how much voice tech has enabled us to simplify our lives, by taking care of things that we don’t have time for.
So how can brands leverage this new medium to make meaningful connections with their consumers? Here are a few tips:
Embed the brand in the process of discovery
It is important marketers remember that consumers use search typically to learn more about their environment or to solve a problem. Fewer searches are brand specific. So, the key is to subtly integrate the brand into the process of discovery, rather than making it all about the brand. So, for example, when a consumer wants to know how to make a grilled sandwich, the brand of mayo could be integrated within the recipe, which makes the advice much more credible.
Provide in-the-moment support
Alexa allows consumers to download “skills” that are similar to apps. Once a skill has been downloaded, it can be activated through voice, at-the-moment it is most needed. For example, the Alexa Tide skill offers advice on several types of stain removal — a housewife who has her hands full with a piece of stained fabric, can get step by step advise from Alexa on how to remove that stain. This helps subtly position the brand as the go-to choice.
Simplify the consumer’s life
Consumers use voice technology to reduce the level of complexity in their lives. UK-based retailer Ocado developed an Alexa skill that enables users to order grocery via voice commands. This is in addition to existing mobile-based ordering platforms and takes convenience and simplicity to an entirely new level.
Deliver authentic experiences to consumers
The fact that millennials and Gen Z are all about new experiences has been much written about. How can brands integrate themselves into this consumer need? “Time Out” in the US, has developed a skill, that provides consumers with the top experiences in any city on any given day.
Engage in an interactive and fun way
Voice technology also allows marketers to engage with their consumers in a fun and interactive manner. Burger King did this brilliantly with their “OK Google, what is a Whopper?” TV ad, that set off voice assistants in homes — and this, in turn drove a huge amount of social media dialogue about the brand.
Deliver personalised offers
Voice technology of the future will be able to distinguish voices of different users and deliver personalised offers depending upon the person. So, for example, a command to play music could provide completely different results, depending upon whether it is the father or the teenager in the house requesting it. This has implications for marketers, as they need to hyper-personalise their offers, based on past preferences of the consumer.
Voice technology is still at a nascent stage and there are also privacy and ethical concerns surrounding the use of voice in marketing. But with advances in AI and machine learning, there is no getting away from the fact that voice assistants are going to become more integral within consumers’ lives.
Brands that can use this new medium, responsibly and creatively, will win the marketing battles of the future.
Gagan Bhalla is a director at Kantar MENAP.