3 Guidelines for Navigating the Era of Audible Branding

Over 75% of homes are expected to have voice activated devices by 2020

Brands need to expand into audible branding and its AI. Getty Images, Google Home
Headshot of David Armano

With SXSW about to kick off, it’s a good time to be thinking about the technologies poised to transform how we live and work. Voice platforms brought to us by Amazon’s Alexa, Google Home, Apple’s Siri, Microsoft’s Cortana and Samsung’s Bixby are all vying to change how we interact with technology, and the “voice wars” are in full swing. Farhad Manjoo recently speculated in his New York Times piece that Alexa has a viable chance of becoming the third most popular OS, next to iOS and Android—and he may not be far off.

The appeal of voice is simple: It’s easy, it makes us feel like we are having a conversation versus computing, and it is hands-free. Voice connects us when we’re busy multitasking or simply too lazy to get up and find our phones. According to Gartner research, over 75 percent of households will have at least one voice-enabled speaker in the home by 2020 (in addition to voice already on our other devices), so it’s time to “call an audible” on what the future of voice has in store for brands.  

Enter the audible brand

Voice isn’t a stand-alone emerging technology or trend—it’s inextricably linked to artificial intelligence. As Amazon and Google get smarter from data, adding the ability to “talk” to them opens yet another doorway for us to access the ecosystems we’ve built. For example, asking Alexa to play music from Spotify or to get local weather or news not only integrates data from other platforms, but also ensures the information is personalized.

We’ve already told these AI-driven platforms who we are and what we like. Over time, they will learn and seamlessly return information, recommendations and content that tie into the consumer habits. This gives brands the opportunity to extend experience into the audible space in ways that traditional audible platforms like radio or podcasts never will.

But not everyone is welcoming this into their homes as innovations in voice technology (and the AI behind it) also raise questions from a societal perspective. Privacy advocates point out that these devices could be eavesdropping on our conversations. Just this past October, Google admitted that a flaw in its mini home speaker was, in fact, recording and uploading what it heard outside of being activated using “OK Google.”

Brands have an unprecedented opportunity to break through the sonic barrier to reach their audience and become early adopters.

Despite some privacy concerns, brands have an unprecedented opportunity to break through the sonic barrier to reach their audiences and become early adopters. An early example is when Patrón created an Alexa skill that acts as a virtual bartending assistant, providing ideas, inspiration and information around mixology. Stubb’s BBQ sauce does for the grill what Patrón does for your kitchen and bar by serving up recipes and more.

And it’s not just brands that stand to benefit from going audible—publishers and media companies are entering the space with optimized content such as Google Home’s integration of Vogue, flash briefings from top news sources like CNN, Fox News and BCC or sharing kid-friendly skills from Sesame Street.

3 considerations for audible branding

  1. For communicators and marketers, it’s important to understand how voice technology is evolving and to educate on the changes and developments in the space. Keep an eye on what your competition is doing, share examples and best practices from other industries and evaluate potential opportunities and learnings for companies and brands that you can apply to your voice initiatives.
  2. For companies with products that are bought on the online marketplaces, the SEO of voice devices is an important consideration. When shopping via voice, there is typically a single result and only a handful of other suggestions of which product you are searching. Personalized content created for target audiences and built for voice devices is critical as well as traffic driven by reputable third-party sources. Also, in the case of Alexa, it’s important to make sure that a brand’s voice identity is claimed during the development process by reserving your invocation name.
  3. For brands venturing into voice, the voice of the brand should be genuine, authentic and provide unique value to consumers and customers. Look for media angles or complementary ideas that can help not only make voice activations better, but also earn attention and awareness.

The audible brand is coming—it’s not a question of when, but how. As brands and publishers continue to find their voice in this space, consumers will not only adopt, but expectations will rise as to what’s delivering real value and what’s merely adding noise.

@armano David Armano is global strategy director for DJE Holdings.