Imagine landing on a brand’s website and, instead of scrolling through pages of content digging for information, you have the ability to ask it anything you want to know. The site responds with audible answers or text, takes you where you want to go and provides a 100% interactive experience. Now imagine the site speaks in the voice of the brand, adding elements that create an emotional connection. Humor, sincerity, knowledge — whatever the brand personality is, the site will speak it.
This scenario is no longer just a figment of our imaginations. According to the Pew Research Center, digital voice assistants are used by 46% of Americans. And it’s safe to say that, by now, we have all at least had an interaction with voice or artificial intelligence technology. How is this evolution impacting the ability of agencies to develop brands and communicate them on behalf of their clients?
Taking Brand Personification A Step Further
IBM, Microsoft, Amazon and smaller technology partners recognize the importance of brand personification — in addition to giving their bots custom names, each voice bot has a personality. Today, these tech companies are enabling commercial marketing agencies to gain access to the tools to distinctly personify their clients’ brands through voice. Why? Based on my experience, personifying a brand and giving it human qualities will facilitate a better connection with the company — ultimately leading to a dialogue and the creation of a loyal relationship.
With this in mind, agencies are coupling their expertise in building brands from the inside out (connecting with a company’s values, goals and customers) with experts in the field of technology to present not only how brands should be communicated but how the brand can actually communicate.
The difference is that, instead of developing copy and content intended to be read or seen (on websites, billboards, brochures, etc.), agencies are crafting conversational content by anticipating what the viewer or listener will want to know or see. The beauty of voice technology is that it learns from each interaction and becomes smarter and more resourceful, ultimately developing content on its own. As a result, customers begin to understand who the brand is instead of what the brand is, and agencies can formulate even more effective marketing strategies and values around it.
Time To Get On Board
Like all technology, voice is growing at a rapid pace — and I believe it’s a must-have technology in the new digital age of branding. In October 2017, our company MESH, along with software development firm Not Rocket Science (NRS), announced the creation of Branded BotsTM, artificial intelligence (AI) applications for businesses and consumers. Our bot solutions provide a natural language interface between a business and its customers, an interface that not only provides an efficient and knowledgeable presence to represent the business but also operates within the framework of the existing brand personality. The bot technology allows us to continue to develop streamlined external communications for customers, giving them data and information on the company with a dose of the brand’s personality. By building back-end intelligence, essentially, a virtual person is created — providing a consistent channel from which to get information.
Global companies are getting on board with this idea. In fact, Publicis Groupe announced a partnership with Microsoft for Marcel and in January 2018, JPMorgan Chase announced a partnership with VaynerMedia as the institution’s agency of record for voice.
For brands and marketers looking to incorporate voice in their engagement strategy, consider the preferred effect it should have on the business — from internal benefits, such as streamlining operations through software integration, to augmentation of the workforce. For example, the bot MESH is developing for our agency focuses on software integration and operations, linking together our project management, time tracking and CRM systems. Voice can also be impactful externally, enhancing consumers’ encounters with a brand, sharing information and updates with a dose of personality.
After the effect of voice is determined, a marketer needs to determine how audiences will interact with voice technology, with most interacting similarly to how they interact with Alexa Skills in their home. They will search for answers and updates, however, the engagement and content provided will be centered around the brand and the products, and the industry and services of the organization.
Lastly, a brand must determine where voice will be most effective — which is centered around a consumer or business-to-business (B2B) client developing a deeper engagement and relationship with the brand. The bot acts as a consultant to the customer, with content that is not created to sell, but instead to inform, educate and give a glimpse of the brand personality through the tone of the voice. Additionally, marketers today are (and should be) analyzing all brand engagement, which is especially helpful for voice technology as it can learn through interaction, analyze itself and fill in the blanks to information it might not have had but will need in the future.
Voice and AI are more than new media — they are media that brands and agencies alike must leverage to not only be successful but also relevant in the years to come.