Voice: Branding’s new frontier

One in four brands plan to use voice in 2018

Our changing relationship with voice

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, brand voice and audio branding look set to play a vital role in 2018 brand strategies.

Consumer uptake and usage of voice interaction 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 will see the the much anticipated release of Apple’s HomePod, along with similar products from Microsoft and Samsung.

Source: Strategy Analytics 2017

WARC’s survey of 600 marketers and agencies reviewed the anticipated challenges and opportunities for 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.

Audio branding opportunities with voice

Voice interaction presents opportunities for both users and brands. For users, it has the ability to provide a frictionless, personal experience. And for brands, voice interfaces establish an entirely new touchpoint – one that is based entirely in sound.

As a result, voice interfaces bring audio branding to the forefront. The concept of defining a ‘brand voice’ now becomes a necessity for those companies that use AI voice technology.

Top tips

Source: Amazon Echo

WARC suggests two tips for brand voice strategy within interfaces. Firstly, define a voice that develops emotional connections with consumers, but without creating something so lifelike that it becomes unnerving. Secondly, avoid “brand bypass” by ensuring that when users speak aloud using voice search they address your brand rather than using a generic prompt.

These indicators suggest that a brand’s interface voice may be significantly from their advertising voice, both in behaviour and characteristics, and therefore brands must ensure that the two are differentiated. The Sound Agency’s BrandSound Audit and Guidelines services future-proof a brand’s audio identity across all touchpoints and also include competitor analysis.

The rewards for successfully implementing a brand voice and a wider audio brand are significant. As Michael Levin, partner at CIRP, observes, “Amazon and Google have started to occupy valuable real estate — literally“. Voice interfaces integrate brands into consumer homes and daily habits. Intelligent brands will define and consistently deliver an AI brand voice, and implement this as part of a wider audio branding strategy.

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