The Advent Of Voice: Why CMOs Should Look To Voice AI As The Future Of Advertising
One of the first genius marketing moves came in the 1930s when radio soap operas were sponsored by Procter & Gamble.
Each episode was introduced with a short message from Duz laundry soap. They knew that soap operas had a captive audience with housewives doing the family’s laundry. Soon more household brands came on board, and when the shows migrated to television, the brands came with. Before the days of big data, advertisers were already delivering highly targeted campaigns.
Recommendation engines are a core component of major brands, as they drive increased engagement, purchases and customer satisfaction across platforms like Spotify, Netflix, Amazon, etc. Future-thinking brands will have to employ technology that is both more targeted and more conversational, speaking to the customer’s most immediate and unique needs.
To that point, conversational AI is becoming a big deal in advertising.
Talk Human To Me
At the moment, voice is boxed into smart speakers, appliances, and mobile devices, and users employ a wake word to activate the voice capabilities. From there, it’s a purely transactional exchange: “Hey, Siri, what’s the weather like today?” “Hey, Alexa, order a case of sparkling water.”
The companies that made voice a market player stuck to their core competencies, relegating voice to user-activated search and purchase functions. Voice is how people communicate and engage with each other. The only reason our computers have keyboards is that voice technology has not yet evolved to the point where you can talk to it.
Star Trek popularized this notion of voice as the user’s primary (and sole) method of interacting with the computer. If we begin to approach voice in this way, you can visualize a future where companies can passively advertise to customers through their cell phones in areas where they don’t have a computer. Voice can be a force multiplier for making advertising more organic and natural.
Voice allows you to advertise without being intrusive. The key element here is the conversational piece, being able to speak directly to customers like a trusted friend or advisor.
If a customer is walking through a mall at a time of day when they regularly purchase a coffee, imagine being able to ask a customer if they’d like to have their regular coffee order placed at the closest Starbucks for easy pick-up. Without having to open their app, go through the menu and place the order, the customer can simply say “sure” or “no thanks.”
Human hearing holds the key to breakthroughs in voice technology. In daily conversation, we naturally extract an enormous amount of information from other people’s voices—their identity, their spatial position and even their mood.
Imagine a voice interface that effortlessly recognizes and preserves all of that information. By gaining full data access to their user base, brands would understand their customers better than ever before and gain the ability to target customer needs in real time. Watching a football game? Get served an ad for pizza delivery or get a coupon from Wingstop.
Instead of implementing voice simply as a tool for searching and purchasing, brands should be considering how they can deploy voice to advertise to their customers passively. The human element—being able to listen to customers where they are and enable barge-in solutions—is essential to this future.
This is the final mile for voice, and we’re getting closer.
Speak Through Versus Click Through
According to PwC, 71% of consumers prefer voice search over typing.
Just as we saw the normalization of click-through ads that you can skip on YouTube, voice will allow you to skip or speak through things like podcasts or other content. This pulls the customer relationship out of the digital realm of screens and clicks and brings it closer to a conversation. Being able to say “no thanks” or “not interested” feels less intrusive than having to click to skip something. This is where we are headed, but we are not quite there yet.
Smart speakers have been found to have lower NPS compared to other smart devices, potentially due to poor user experiences for consumers who expect a truly conversational experience but end up getting something less. The tech barriers are familiar, and we haven’t surmounted them yet. Crowd noise, barge in, distinguishing voice from TV and being able to spot specific user voice are still the barriers to widespread voice adoption.
Some of the most common use cases for voice assistants today are at home or in the car, often when there are multiple competing inputs. As voice interfaces become more ubiquitous, they need to not only meet the minimum criteria for small tasks but also be consistent and accurate.
This is an essential feature, especially as brands move to own a voice strategy that is more human and conversational.
A Voice Strategy Focused On The Future
When considering their long-play voice strategy, brands need to lead with the human element.
This means understanding every time a consumer interacts with your brand using voice, knowing who is talking, even in the noisiest environments and differentiating one voice from another in a crowded group. Unlocking these features will empower brands to drive more value for consumers and improve engagement, retention and a longer-lasting relationship.
This puts the customer relationship much closer to a conversation and pulls it out of the digital realm of screens and clicks.
The history of advertising is replete with sharply conceived campaigns that have launched incredible brands into the stratosphere. I think of Nike’s “Just Do It” campaign in 1998 or Apple’s “1984” commercial that introduced the world to one of the most iconic brands.
Just as Nike and Apple did before, brands that capitalize on and prioritize voice in their marketing strategy are now going to establish themselves as the iconic brands of the future tomorrow.