By David Ciccarelli
In the new audio age that is upon us, are you ready for what the (near) future of voice-first technology has to offer? Given that by 2020, it’s projected that 30% of all web browsing will be done without the use of a screen1, the answer should be yes.
Voice-first technologies can and should be used to help make your brand voice heard. However, despite the rapid adoption of home assistant devices, and the proliferation of voice and sound into almost every aspect of our lives, from in our homes, to on our commute and beyond, instead of seizing opportunity many marketers are still lagging behind. Voices.com’s annual trends report survey polled almost 2,000 creatives and found that only 20% were actioning a strategy to position their brand for voice search: meaning that 80% weren’t taking any action at all2.
That said, it’s still early days. There are several ways that brands can begin to build brand voices and incorporate audio into their marketing campaigns, as well as their customer service channels.
Create a sonic brand
Before diving into the world of tech, spend some time developing the description of your sonic brand voice. Traditionally, more consideration has been given to creating and developing the corporate voice in written format, whether that’s been in print or digital. Now, your brand voice descriptors, which are linked to the core values of your company, need to be relayed into sonic qualities as well.
The messages auditory tones convey can rise above language barriers. For instance, people from around the world may label a piece of music as having the same emotional vibe (e.g. sad, happy)3 even though the listeners may have completely different life experiences, languages and backgrounds.
This emotional interpretation, quite unique to audio, further underlines how important it is that you are intentional about which emotional response you want to create with your audio branding. Think of brands that have already developed iconic soundmarks, like the upbeat “ba-da, ba, ba bah” of McDonald’s famous “I’m Loving it” sonic campaign, to the start-up sound of a Mac computer. All of these examples evoke a feeling that matches an intentional brand vibe. Aim to do the same.
As a special note: If your sonic branding includes a tagline, ensure that it’s short enough (under the 10- second mark) so that your audience doesn’t fast forward through it when it appears, for example, in a video or at the beginning of a podcast.
Launch a voice-first application
After creating a sonic brand voice, you’ll have an identity that is reusable across all media. You can then begin to make your mark on voice-first applications. The next hurdle is deciding on your point of entry.
On this front, there are many options to integrate your marketing efforts into the audio space and it can be easy to feel overwhelmed. It can help to consider voice-first applications as falling into one of two buckets: static or dynamic.
Static voice content offers only a one-way interaction, such as a podcast episode. In this way, it is similar to radio. This form of audio content may be a good fit for complementing either short or long marketing campaigns. For example, podcast ads strategically placed in a relevant show, along with discount codes could help you boost orders, while launching your own Alexa flash briefings, could be a long-term play to keep audiences engaged. Other examples of static voice content include Flash briefings and audio blogs (note: your corporate blog is a great source of content which you can convert to audio).
On the other hand, dynamic voices, such as the one you may need for a branded Alexa skill, enable a two-way dialogue between the brand and users. These are not necessarily complicated to create, but there should be great consideration placed on how the interaction will unfold and whether it’s a good fit for your marketing objective.
Customer service considerations
Brands can be expressed sonically throughout all touchpoints, such as music-on-hold and the voice of your IVR. Now you can also extend this to voice-first technologies.
One way to do so may be converting your online Q&As or FAQs into an Alexa skill that customers can interact with. Housing this useful information in a skill can offer a way of cutting the influxes of calls to your customer service line, while also providing clients with a consistent form of accurate information—on demand—with your chosen brand voice. These interactions also allow customers to feel in control of their journeys, as opposed to feeling like they are being led on journeys through your telephone system with no end in sight.
Keep in mind that voice-first technologies are helping to support users who are browsing the Internet by voice. Because of this, you can aim to position your brand as the most reliable source of answers to common voice queries by optimizing your web site for voice search.
Experiment, leverage evergreen content
Whether you decide your brand’s entry point to voice-first tech is going to be static or dynamic, remember to treat the experience as an experiment. Put parameters around the scope of it instead of thinking you’re going to run it indefinitely.
Define the end-state and then you can work toward it, evaluate and see if it met expectations. For example, if it’s a podcast you’ve set your sights on, then make a commitment for 10 episodes to see if there is traction. Once there, assess what you’ve learned. Test and iterate, learn and build again. Also, don’t try to change the world off the hop. As you experiment, creating evergreen (not date-stamped) content will allow you to create more freely, and you won’t have to worry about maintaining a certain cadence, especially if the content flops.
Voice-first applications are new to many of us, and, therefore, it may take many attempts to find the right audio fit for your brand. The hardest part of starting, is starting. Begin today and you’ll be ahead of the curve.
David Ciccarelli is CEO of Voices.com (www.voices.com).
1 Heather Pemberton Levy, “Gartner Predicts a Virtual World of Exponential Change”, Gartner, article, October 18, 2016.
2 Voices.com, “2019 Future Trends in Marketing, Advertising and Voice Over,” report.
3 Amplifon, “The impact of sound on the brain”, article.