While voice-activated technology is not in and of itself new, the recent moves by Amazon and Google to push the trend further has led to an increased interest in the platform by brands. Whereas Apple’s Siri only provided basic information like the weather forecast (and the occasional joke), the increased sophistication of at-home voice systems has unleashed new opportunities for marketers. Here’s a round-up of the latest in voice marketing, and a few tips for building your own strategy.
The marketer’s scramble to reach Alexa and Google Home
AdWeek recently reported that marketers are racing to reach rapidly growing audiences on Amazon’s Alexa and Google Home. Alexa is relatively new to the marketplace, but Steven Moy, chief technology officer at New York agency R/GA, explains ‘the pace of acceleration in terms of adoption and people getting accustomed to it’ is like nothing he has seen before. Just like the scramble to develop apps when smartphones were released, now brands are turning their attention to conquering the world of voice marketing.
Although direct advertising on Alexa is currently not allowed, The Drum and CNBC reported that Amazon is in talks with big umbrella brands like P&G to discuss the possibility of them promoting their products on Alexa-enabled devices like the Echo Dot. The Drum also points out that if this were to go ahead, ‘the interactive yet audio-based nature of speakers like Echo means that brands won’t have the benefit of visually enticing consumers, but will have the ability to interact with them in a way that’s at least somewhat conversational.’
As for Google Home, of course Amazon’s main competitor in the voice-technology field, while there has been less hype about its potential for marketers, in fact Google could offer a wider range of content marketing opportunities. Marketing Land pointed out that ‘unlike Echo, Google Home can answer complicated questions, because its underlying Google Assistant harvests answers from across the web rather than just from curated sources.’ Sister-site Search Engine Land also highlighted that Google has recently updated Assistant’s capabilities to make entertainment content more accessible via its devices.
Tips for building a strategy
While it is clear that, even though already popular, these technologies are still in fairly early stages of adoption and development, marketers cannot afford to ignore the trend. If the huge surge in uptake is anything to go by, the future of voice marketing and its connection to broader Internet of Things (IoT) devices will be a new competition ground for brands. To add further confirmation that voice technology is likely to be the way of the future, Apple has just last week weighed into the market with its Siri-enabled HomePod.
So what can marketers do to begin building a voice marketing strategy now?
1. Provide useful content
Content marketing has long reigned supreme, so translating this into added value for users of voice technology is a must. Venturebeat highlighted some early innovative examples, for example P&G’s laundry brand Tide. Tide created a stain remover skill (the name given to Alexa’s capabilities) which ‘provides users with detailed, step-by-step, voice instructions on removing over 200 types of stains.’ While this may not sound glamourous, it represents a clever piece of content marketing that plays to the domestic setting of many of Alexa’s devices. Venturebeat also argues that in providing useful content to consumers, it ‘establishes goodwill for the company’ and builds trust in the brand.
2. Develop an audio logo
You’ve heard of developing a brand voice, but until recently this voice was played out in the choice of words you use for your content, your product or service offering and your imagery on packaging and across visual channels. Yet with the growth of voice marketing, developing what AdAge has called an ‘audio logo’ could be the next frontier. For AdAge an audio log ‘can range from the sound of water first bursting from a shower head for bath products, or the sound of a peanut butter jar being twisted open. Brands can even start developing audio mnemonics, or audio "logos," like the Green Giant's "ho ho ho" or the five-note Intel sound mark.’
3. Strengthen your mobile offering
Although the intention of Alexa and Google Home is to provide voice-activated services, this is also intricately tied to mobile. For MarTechToday, ‘brands will need to make sure that their apps and voice strategies play nicely together,’ highlighting that while ‘there are certain experiences that are purposely built for voice interactions, many are not.’ In these instances, the most likely place a consumer will turn is an app, meaning your offering needs to be seamless across devices. MarTechToday further argues that ‘brands will need to be able to balance the immersive experiences that apps provide with simple, powerful voice experiences to ensure they are meeting the demands of their customers.’
While voice marketing may be in its early stages, simply burying your head in the sand and sticking steadfastly to your current strategy will not work in the long term. Thinking ahead about how this trend could impact your offering, or indeed industry as a whole, will ensure that you’re well prepared for the seemingly inevitable rise of giants like Amazon Alexa, Google Home and the Apple HomePod.