September 4, 2018

How voice is going to impact brands

We are quickly moving into a voice-activated era - but are brands ready for this change? In this article we look at how voice-activated devices and technology will impact brands and what marketers can to be ready to survive the new era of voice.

Aden Hepburn, Managing Director and Executive Creative Director of VML Australia, sat down with CMO Magazine to answer the question: how is voice going to impact brands?

Click here to read the full article.

How do you think voice devices like Amazon Echo and Google Home are going to impact brands and their way of engaging with their customers?

Voice-first experiences will create a whole new world of interaction and connection with brands, perhaps much like Facebook apps did back in 2010/2011/2012... Only now, these interactions won't come from clicking or tapping something you see, they'll take place on-demand when your customers want something while walking around the house, or while driving to work.
Utility, Entertainment, Content and Information will become core pillars for brands to be relevant in the voice-assistant ecosystem. So what's the challenge? Customers need to know your brand. And what voice-first experiences you offer to solve problems, complete tasks and simplify their on-demand life.

Take Uber. No longer will you need to open the app, let it load, put in an address or make sure your GPS is in the right position. You'll just say: "Alexa, ask Uber for a ride to..." and your driver will be on the way, with a voice response of time till pickup.
Then take a competitor, say 13CABS. Will they have voice-assistant integration across Amazon, Google, Apple and Microsoft to compete? And if they do, will Australian's even remember their brand to ask? The next battle ground will be brand recognition and voice-first experiences for the assistant ecosystem, because there will be no ads to drive potential customers to a competitor. Brand recognition, utility and loyalty will be king.

Some commentators say devices like Amazon's Echo and Alexa voice service, will put brands at a considerable disadvantage - what are your thoughts on that? 

I think it's a valid concern, the wave of voice-assistants are going to disrupt the way many brands have gone to market for years. But I'd suggest that is amplified depending on the brand and category they play in. For example, FMCG will become a new playing field or battleground depending how you look at it, given they are largely visual decisions based on brand recognition/recall aligned to the latest waves of advertising they've seen for their favourite goods. This new voice-first world means brands have the chance to gain or lose market share considerably fast as the years of visual branding investment becomes redundant.

One concern for brands is what happens to their online presence and profile as voice becomes more prolific and ecosystems intensify and the nature of search changes - do you see this as a concern? Why/why not?

It doesn't have to be a huge concern. To be in the game, investing to build out and optimising your entire digital ecosystem will be more important than ever. Brands and voice will first intersect around products & services; information, storytelling, facts and comparison for example. Then with utility.

The need for specialised, voice-first content and optimisation of long tail search will require a new focus, given voice search tends to use more interrogating style questions; who, what, when, how to deliver what was previously a broader mobile or desktop research experience. For example; if I'm looking at a new Audi A3, I might say 'ok Google, tell me the colours the new A3 comes in, and what sort of performance does it have...' vs for mobile or desktop search, I'd have just searched Audi A3, and navigated from there.
From a search perspective, optimising the hierarchy of your content to be able to answer that question will become key, making sure affiliated content, video, images, reviews etc is available for Google to aggregate, define and respond with the most correct information. 

In order to build powerful brands for the voice-activated age, marketers need to build brands that are more human-centric - closely and creatively aligned with people's lives. Do you agree? Why/why not?

That's been true for many years already. I think most great brand's products and services are designed to play a role in people's lives and solve a key human need, this fact will probably never change. So it's not entirely different to how it's always been. Only now, if you're not good at helping move people's lives forward, they can probably do without you in a voice-first world, so brands now need to explore things like utilities and entertainment to stay relevant.

What can marketers do to keep their brand and customer engagement relevant in this new era of voice search?
With brands able to have mass one-on-one, personalised, ongoing conversations like never before, voice assistants have just opened up a world of opportunity for the smartest marketers, while the slow to move will become irrelevant very quickly. The brands that already help move people's lives forward will become stickier and more meaningful in the market. 

Think utility first.

Intelligent customer service.

Pro-active solutioning.

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