Don’t let technology get in the way

Brands and people are occupying more spaces together, both digital and physical. Technology can create more opportunities for brands to form deeper relationships with customers, and it’s becoming more than just a tool—technology can embody your brand. However, if it’s not fully embraced and the experience is disruptive rather than immersive, it will only cause alienation in place of connection.

The adoption rate of home voice assistants grew to 12% in the fourth quarter of 2016. [1]

Voice assistants are a new frontier for many brands: a chance to literally begin a conversation with customers and field questions in real time. However, assistants run the risk of becoming intrusive.

A TV ad that triggers a virtual assistant to deliver a message is a clever exploit of fresh technology—yet besides being amusing or surprising, it does little to build a relationship or provide deeper benefit. This type of advertising may feel like a violation—a brand entering the home without permission over a device many aren’t completely comfortable with yet. Users expect to hear from their assistants on their terms—having that assistant deliver a message on behalf of a brand is as jarring as having that brand’s own voice come through their speakers. Voice assistants can help bring brands into users’ lives, but the message must be meaningful in order to be well-received.

Over half of US teens and 41% of adults use voice search on a daily basis. [2]

Voice assistants pose other challenges along with their opportunities. One is that each voice assistant has its own brand persona. Alexa is different from Siri is different from Bixby is different from Google Home is different from Cortana. This leaves very little room for a brand’s own voice to be heard.

Brands have two choices. One: Create an assistant of their own, which is fraught with resource and adoption issues and is probably only viable for a handful of businesses. Two: Find a way that existing voice assistants can make interacting with that brand and business easier for users. The second option requires openness to partner with experts and stakeholders and to relinquishing total control of the brand experience. Both require a mastery of current technology, and the ability to anticipate consumer behaviors and needs.

What will successful executions sound like? They could take many forms.

This includes entering a hotel room and being greeted by a voice assistant automatically, with a custom itinerary based on personal interests. Integrations that allow users to check their account information, flight status, or tire pressure with a simple voice command. Syncing voice assistant information upon entering a store to deliver directions to sale items that users are interested in. There is no shortage of possibilities, but if the interaction is valuable, positive, and simplifies our lives, it will reflect well on the brand enabling it.

Voice assistants are just one timely example of the disruptive influence technology can have on brands. The same will be true for AI, driverless cars, augmented reality, automation—these new tools create friction as both users and brands come to grips with how they work and the best ways to use them. Growth brands know that the Age of You isn’t over, and that simply using these technologies is not enough to get them to reach their full potential as brand and business tools. The brand experience needs to be a consideration from the start, and built in to help humans work with technology in harmony. Technology that is not translated through a brand can become a barrier between the business and its audience. A voice is a powerful tool, if it carries a relevant message.


[1] Park Associates-Voice Assistants and Technologies: Ecosystem and Market Leaders
[2] Google – The Mobile Voice Study