Branding's new frontier: One in four brands plan to use voice in 2018
Interacting with voice interfaces used to be limited to self-conscious moments in private spaces, such as car journeys or homes, but consumer perceptions are shifting. As a result, voice looks set to play a prominent role in branding. WARC's annual survey has revealed that voice interfaces are a major priority for brands in 2018.
Consumer uptake and usage of voice interface devices is growing fast. Almost half of global smartphone users now use voice-enabled tech at least once a month, and sales of smart speakers grew 300% in 2017. Amazon currently dominate the market (68%), followed by Google Home (25%). 2018 sees the release of Apple's HomePod, along with products from Microsoft and Samsung.
WARC's survey of 600 marketers and agencies reviewed the anticipated challenges and opportunities in branding in 2018. AI (specifically voice interfaces) emerged as one of five key themes. Findings suggest that 56% of brands will prioritise AI in 2018, and 24% are planning to use voice.
Voice interfaces bring opportunities for users and brands. For users, voice can provide a frictionless, natural user experience. And for brands, voice interfaces are an entirely new touchpoint - one that is based entirely in sound.
Branding through voice is also an opportunity for the 'skills' (audio apps) that communicate with smart speakers. At present, these are unbranded, and represent a big opportunity for brand differentiation.
The concept of defining a 'brand voice' becomes a necessity for companies that use AI voice technology. WARC suggests two tips. Firstly, avoid "brand bypass" by ensuring that when users speak your brand name aloud in searches, rather than use a generic prompt ("Okay Google,...").
Secondly, define a voice that develops emotional connections with consumers, without creating something so lifelike that it becomes unnerving.
This suggestions indicate that a brand's interface voice may be significantly different its advertising voice. It may be important for brands to differentiate the two.
The rewards for successfully implementing voice interfaces are significant. As Michael Levin, partner at CIRP, observes, "Amazon and Google have started to occupy valuable real estate — literally". Voice interfaces bring brands into consumer's homes and daily habits. Intelligent brands will define and deliver specific voices and implement these as part of a wider audio branding strategy.