In 1962, TV viewers were first introduced to an animated sitcom about a futuristic world of flying cars, cities in the sky, and space tourism. It was The Jetsons: adoring couple George and Jane, their kids Judy and Elroy, Astro their dog, and housekeeper Rosie the robot.
The show lasted just one season (24 episodes) but succeeded in predicting the future: Rather than simple phone calls, the characters were regularly seen using video chat, whether it was Jane speaking with her family or George getting an unwelcome call from his boss, Mr. Spacely.
The question of artificial intelligence (AI) tends to evoke either anxiety (“It’s going to replace all of our jobs!”) or fascination (“There’s no limit to what we’ll be able to accomplish!”). Both reactions, in most cases, are somewhat misplaced.
In a digital world where we interact with brands through an endless number of screens, there are increasingly fewer human touch points between brands and consumers. In this climate, voice becomes fundamental to creating a genuine emotional connection between brands and consumers.
As more digital brands launch in-home companion products, opportunities to engage with customers in novel ways are increasing. Amazon’s Alexa Voice Service (AVS) has brought the digital marketplace into our living rooms and kitchens. Your brand strategy must prepare for the new frontiers of digital marketing—not just mobile phones and apps, but apps that integrate with new products that are blurring the lines between the internet and “things.”
Manufacturing A Unique Brand Voice
AI should be thought of as a distinct brand touch point. Tone and lexicon go hand in hand and should, therefore, be a key consideration in any AI brand exercise. How do you want your brand to communicate with consumers—friendly like Alexa or sassy like Siri?
Products that listen and respond have brought the services associated with the internet to a more conversational, personable format. People love sound and interactions that feel natural. Google Now, Siri, and Microsoft’s Cortana are all vying for consumers’ ears—and brands that are accustomed to buying Google ad space may soon be doing the same.
Brands including Domino’s Pizza, Uber, and Capital One are building apps that allow people to request recipes, order food or a ride, and check their bank accounts simply by speaking to a voice-enabled device. Campbell Soup Company has built a voice app that suggests menu ideas for dinner and, of course, includes its own brands among the ingredients.
The Evolving Customer Experience
AVS claims huge early adoption relative to other voice-based competitors, but every conversational product holds the potential to play a significant role in brand strategy going forward. Brands have been moving away from interruptive marketing for years, but now technology is trending toward new and augmented content delivery methods.
To keep pace with the ways that people consume content, brands must look ahead to understand where customer journeys are going next. And in this case, consumers are moving away from being bombarded by endless pages of text and videos and toward a more holistic, natural method of content consumption that provides information conversationally. We’ll never be able to replace a good piece of written content, but plenty of previously visual services will soon be surpassed by quick-responding, witty counterparts.
At the end of the day, consumers are human. Accordingly, brands in the digital world that we live in need to increasingly find ways for connecting with humans in human ways—voice is just one way. But to make an impact and be truly strong, brands can’t be only digital in their experience. They must find ways of connecting with consumers that are “felt.” Given the high expectations of today’s consumer, this is no easy task.
People want brands to know them and to connect the dots as they continually move between channels and devices. Today’s customers don’t think about being online or offline. They’re just thinking about how to best get whatever they need at a particular moment. Therefore, seamless, consistent, and memorable customer experiences are imperative.
What feels gimmicky today may become the norm so quickly that you suddenly find your brand behind the curve. As we experience the development of what is still an emerging technology, the possibilities from a branding perspective will only increase, bringing along with them, even more, questions for companies and consumers alike. Brands have never needed voices so badly—and thanks to the new array of products that are bringing increasingly remarkable AI into more people’s lives, every brand can finally have one.