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22 Nov 2019

With the rise in popularity of smart speakers in the home, chatbots and the prospect of a Zero UI future, marketers are being confronted with the growing need to adopt voice into their strategy. In this episode of The Experience Makers, our guests try to get to grips with how to give a brand a voice and how this voice can bring to life the customer experience.

Listen to the podcast series:


Apple Podcasts


Our host, technology journalist, Gemma Milne, talks to Sam Miller, data and insights lead at Cognifide and Steve Dunlop, founder, and CEO of audio advertising agency, AMillionAds. They explore where we are with voice in marketing today, the near and long-term future prospects and how to prepare for a potential Zero UI world. Below is a sneak peak into their conversation but download the podcast and hear it from the experts.


What does voice mean in the context of marketing?

Today, voice in marketing defines a communication mechanism and how humans interact with machines. The former has evolved and improved from quite a rigid programmed language to the more natural communication we see today with the prevalence of home smart speakers. Voice has become another interface that helps consumers interact with brands.

The increased adoption of voice has seen a behavioural shift in consumers. While there is still some way to go with the technology, smart speakers have reduced the friction of interaction with machines. However, there are still limitations with vocabulary and without the right trigger word, this can lead to frustrating customer experiences. However, in time, technology should improve to respond not just to voice but also context and emotion.

AI and machine learning are at the forefront of this, looking at areas such as speech synthesis and regional accents. In time, there’s no doubt that the technology will play to more subtle nuance so that sarcasm, humor and other forms of expression can be used within voice marketing.

Currently, the main players are the tech giants Apple and Amazon, combining hardware, software, and consumer services to help propel voice into the mainstream of consumer consciousness. The sheer scale of the consumers they have access to mean they have been well placed to train the machine through taught and learned algorithms.

Creating a “sonic identity”

The combination of language, voice, accent, and music helps to create a shortcut in the brain to evoke a brand through a sonic identity. This identity can take some time to link to build but successful examples from the past include Intel, Danone, and Mastercard where a jingle is connected inexorably to the brand. The difference now is that consumers can interact with this brand voice, rather than it being a one way street.

Using data in voice

For voice technology to be really innovative and effective, a huge amount of data must be plugged into the process, which, of course, brings with it consumer concerns around privacy. A few years ago, the thought of a microphone in the house would be a big no-no but today people will happily talk to an app to turn the heating on or order their supermarket shop. The trade-off between invasiveness and utility appears to be one that consumers are happier to accept. However, our guests were unanimous that providers have a duty of care to be upfront about how data is used.

At the moment, the line in the sand for customers trading their data appears to be between anonymous behavioural data and personally identifiable information. The former is more widely accepted, the latter, or, at least, the perceived capturing of intimate moments veer too far into “creepy” territory. The challenge for voice is that its best use cases require addressable formats, with a customer profile and experience linked directly to an individual voice.

Search with voice

Search is an interesting use case for voice. At present, providers have huge control. You ask Alexa or Siri for something and they’ll return one suggestion at the behest of the machine. In contrast, plugging in search items on the web, you’ll be served hundreds of pages of results, leaving you to decide. For example, Tide created a voice skill around stain removal, it would be played to customers searching for advice on this topic. It’s not immediately obvious that you are being advertised to and there are no search alternatives.

Zero UI and the future of voice

At present, voice isn’t always suited to complex transactions such as flight bookings. However, its adoption into frictionless radio play is very much growing in popularity. The future could see preemptive understanding and suggestions from voice rather than the “obey me” mechanism of recommendations today.

As the pool of data increases, your voice assistant could predict when you are likely to run out of grocery items and prompt you to reorder, or recognise from a change in tone that you might have a cold and suggest medicines to buy.

How should brands develop a voice strategy?

An audio strategy should form part of a modern marketing strategy. However, it’s easy to be distracted by a funky new tool. View it as just another touch point or tool in your marketing mix and ask how it can be used to serve your objectives. Don’t just jump on the bandwagon. Break down the components your consumer’s day and identify which moments are appropriately addressable, then identify the best way to reach them. The aim is to talk to them, in the context of the moment they are in and to choose the script accordingly. For example, if they are listening to a crime podcast, they might be receptive to messages about other related items. Voice, more than most channels is an intimate medium where context and empathy are essential. If you are able to offer convenience and delight, without intrusion, you then voice solutions will undoubtedly enhance the customer experience.

Listen to the podcast series:


Apple Podcasts


Next month…

In the next episode, we’ll explore why diversity is good for business and some of the particular issues that we face in the MarTech sector. In the episode, we have Karen Blackett, UK Country Manager for WPP, Tag Warner, CEO at Gay Times, and Daniel Painter, Consultant at Cognifide. We’ll aim to explore the implications of not having a diverse workforce and why companies that focus on inclusion are more successful. See you then!


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