Thursday, September 27th, 2018 | 7 min read
Brand voice is changing.
Thanks to the advent of voice recognition tools like Amazon Echo and Google Home, what was once a product of written and visual copy is becoming more literal. This transformation did not occur overnight. In fact, the voice recognition and activation journey has been a long and slow one.
In the early 1960s, IBM introduced the Shoebox, an early effort at mastering voice recognition. The machine could recognize 16 words spoken into its microphone and convert those sounds into electrical impulses. Since those formative days, voice technology has advanced exponentially.
By 2019, the voice recognition market will be worth $601 million. And by the end of 2022, voice commerce will be a $40 billion industry, while 55 percent of American homes will own at least one smart speaker.
Voice technology represents a watershed moment where brands can get closer to their target audiences than ever before. However, without establishing an application that resonates, brands risk missing out entirely on an increasingly important market.
Fortunately, a host of leading brands have created their own unique voice. Here are four prime examples.
Whisky connoisseurs often take their consumption pretty seriously. However, whisky can be slightly intimidating for inexperienced consumers. Johnnie Walker tapped into this in its attempt to create an experience that’s accessible, personally relevant, easy to interact with, and engaging.
The Johnnie Walker Alexa skill offers the options to choose a label based on personal preferences, buy a bottle from your nearest store or delivery service, learn a little more about whisky, or partake in a guided tasting. Users must confirm they are at least 21 years old to access the skill.
This skill is an excellent example of how a brand can maintain consistent messaging and topical relevance while providing a piece of voice content that consumers can interact with.
When the 150-year-old company isn’t busy partnering with entrepreneurs and startups, Nestlé is enhancing culinary experiences. In 2017 the global food brand launched its GoodNes Alexa skill, turning any device with Alexa into a highly knowledgeable sous chef.
You can ask GoodNes to give you recipes and nutritional information for a specific meal, email a recipe to you, and ask which utensils will be needed for the recipe. GoodNes comes with a visual guide that runs in Safari or Chrome on a laptop or iPad. With the visual guide set up and after finding a recipe, you can say things like, “Show me the ingredients,” to view them in the browser.
GoodNes acts as a cookbook that consumers talk to, elevating the kitchen experience and significantly improving one’s chances of cooking up Michelin-worthy meals.
There are over 4,000 colleges and universities in the United States, but Harvard Business School professor Clayton Christensen says that half are bound for bankruptcy in 10 to 15 years. It’s a startling prediction, but one which colleges and universities must address.
In order to remain economically viable going forward, third-level institutions need to stand out from the competition. Voice technology initiatives can be a differentiating factor, and a handful of universities have already proven as much.
In 2017, Arizona State University placed 1,600 Amazon Echo Dots in first-year engineering student dorms, encouraging students to practice voice user interface development skills on consumer hardware. Meanwhile, Northeastern University in Boston has installed more than 60 Echo Dot devices across its campus to enable students to ask Alexa about anything that’s available. However, Saint Louis University has made the greatest push into voice technology.
SLU is the first college or university in the United States to bring Alexa-enabled devices into every student residence hall room or student apartment on campus. A custom SLU skill deployed on each device provides instant answers to more than 100 questions specific to the university, from “What time does the library close tonight?” to “Where is the registrar’s office?”
Today, we announced that SLU will be the first college or university in the country to put Amazon Alexa-enabled devices — prepped with SLU-specific information — in every student living space. See it in action. pic.twitter.com/DR872oG1mn
— Saint Louis University (@SLU_Official) August 9, 2018
Voice technology can help students dramatically boost efficiency, allowing for instant responses to questions which may take much longer to otherwise answer.
The Tide Alexa skill operates very simply. Once the device is outfitted with the skill, users can ask for detailed, step-by-step, voice instructions on removing tough stains like coffee, ink, and wine. There are over 200 stain types and one can also text instructions to mobile devices.
A resource we all (unfortunately) need at some point, this skill promotes Tide in a very user-friendly format and keeps the brand top of mind as the stain removal expert.
When mobile technology emerged, it prompted brands to rethink content and experiences to fit small screens and contextual moments. Voice technology offers brands another opportunity to rethink everything.
Johnnie Walker, Nestlé, Saint Louis University and Tide have proven that voice technology can create significant value for consumers. And although Alexa and Google Assistant still struggle with certain accents (sympathy please), it won’t be long before consumers can talk to their refrigerators and have deep meaningful conversations with their TVs.
Voice technology isn’t just another trend; it’s a paradigm shift in the way we interact with the world around us.
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