Alexa, Can You Help My Brand Strategy?

July 28, 2016 John Montesi

man

As more digital brands launch in-home companion products that bring them into the physical realm, opportunities to engage with customers in novel ways are growing. Amazon’s Alexa Voice Service (AVS) has taken the digital marketplace off computer and phone screens and brought it into 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.”

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 users’ ears—and brands that are accustomed to buying Google ad space may soon be doing the same.

The Voice of Reason

Traditional internet gatekeepers like Google, Amazon, and Apple are all building advanced conversational hardware and software that is bringing the functionality of their products from the visual to the audio realm. As artificial intelligence, personal assistants, and audio products gain acceptance and continue to improve, they will move beyond niche service offerings and become as integrated into the social fabric as other advertising platforms masquerading as free services (social media sites, Google’s products, news sites, etc.).

As companies continue to develop conversational products, brands have an opportunity to create literal voices that go well beyond the right font choices and copywriters. For a multimedia brand strategy, building useful, immersive tools is important—and the sooner development starts, the higher your odds of being the next MySpace Tom. These new frontiers of hardware and software also offer clutter-free spaces for genuinely helpful and original content that escapes the high-pressure, clickbait scenarios associated with many corners of the online content world. Far from the need to generate leads in an oversaturated sphere, voice-based apps have friendly names like “Skills” and vaguely foreign, supremely helpful monikers such as Siri and Cortana.

Better Than Getting Grease on the iPad

AVS can learn Skills, a nice nod to the human-like applications that devices such as Echo, Dot, and Tap can pick up. Skills is more than just a euphemism—it’s a mind-set that pervades the new realm of consumer-facing hardware that runs software as a service. Why does Amazon want people to own its devices and benefit from free Skills? Because it can also sell things through conversations and offer free, high-quality Skills to users through sponsored content.

Campbell’s Soup recently built a sous-chef-style application for Amazon Echo that can do math and remind users of ingredients without requiring them to tap on their iPads with food all over their hands. The irony of a sous chef coming from a company that’s made its reputation as a canned food provider may be lost on them, but if the Skill takes off, Campbell’s will certainly be having the last laugh.

Fidelity Investments developed a Skill that can answer questions about the stock market instantly, so you can feel just as informed as the savviest financial investor on Wall Street.

And SyFy Network taught Alexa a Skill that lets viewers remind themselves what happened in recent episodes of their favorite shows, or when the next new one premiers on TV with a simple question—which is a much more natural way to consume content than clicking through multiple screens looking for the right reminder.

Courtesy of Herry Lawford

We Need to Talk

AVS boasts massive early adoption relative to other voice-based competitors, but every conversational product holds the potential to play a key role in brand strategy moving forward. Marketing has been moving away from interrupt advertising for years, but now technology is trending toward new and augmented content delivery methods. To keep pace with the ways people consume content, brands must look ahead to understand where user journeys are going next. And in this case, people 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 usurped by quick-responding, chatty counterparts.

What feels gimmicky today may become the norm so quickly that you suddenly find your brand to be dramatically behind the curve. There’s no question that innovators at many of tech’s biggest brain trusts are working hard to engage our other senses, which opens up an entire new frontier of branded multimedia content. Brands have never needed voices so badly—and thanks to the new array of products that are bringing increasingly great AI into more people’s lives, every brand can finally have one.

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