You’re all dressed for work and ready to head out the door when you spill that last sip of coffee on your nice white shirt. Because you’re living in the 21st century and you’ve enabled Tide on Alexa, you say, “Alexa, ask Tide how to get a coffee stain out of my shirt.”
In no time at all, Tide’s Alexa Skill spits back an answer — Tide has advice for more than 200 stains. But it’s Alexa talking. Not Tide.
Kudos to Tide for jumping on the opportunity to have a voice and provide useful information. But who’s talking for whom here? What if Tide developed a real voice for the Alexa platform that wasn’t Alexa, but something unique to Tide? Perhaps half British butler and half Mrs. Doubtfire?
Brands are racing to get onto the voice platforms with programs that provide utility, information and entertainment. And getting in early is imperative because those who begin to experiment and claim their voice space will be able to evolve and expand their presence as the platform shifts. What’s critical to even those first steps into the voice arena is to ensure that you understand and promote the real voice of your brand.
Here are some ways to think about your brand’s authentic voice:
What is your brand offering?
There are many ways to leverage the voice platform. Being useful and helpful to the consumer is a sure winner. Just consider the hands-free advantages of a recipe spoken to you by Bobby Flay or The Barefoot Contessa. Well, you’re going to have to wait.
The Food Network is on Alexa but right now it is offering information on programs. If you want a recipe from Alton Brown, you can ask for it, and it will be emailed to you. It’s useful. But, in time, it will be even better.
Brands can also offer entertainment. Jeopardy! keeps us coming back every day for its daily Jeopardy! challenge that gives you the extra, sixth clue from that day’s show. The popularity of this offering has led Jeopardy! to be the first developer to offer a paid subscription model that gives players six additional clues each day. (Free, of course, to Prime members).
Providing a service is another useful brand offer. Uber and Lyft let you call for a car with your voice. Numerous smart home devices let you sync to Alexa to control your lights, security systems, and temperature. Alexa is also fast becoming the new remote control, letting the consumer ask to watch a specific show, record it or even play it back.
How does your brand sound?
Not surprising, when you ask Alexa to play Jeopardy!, you get Alex Trebek. Entertainment brands, in particular, have the benefit of being associated with the actual voice of a personality. They also have the added value of having known voices as brand assets — be it a well-known chef, an announcer and hundreds of famous cast members.
Deciding which voice to use is actually secondary. First, you need to understand what your brand should sound like. What is the tone of your brand? Are you serious? Irreverent? How do you want people to feel when they hear the voice of your brand?
These are complicated questions but they also reveal the many opportunities that are central to building your brand in any category in this emerging platform.
Leveraging your existing brand voice
In our cross-channel world, brands have developed distinctive voices for each platform. What you sound like on twitter is not the same as how you sound on Facebook. Or how you look on Instagram. But you also don’t want to sound discordant.
The challenge — and opportunity — with the voice platform is to build a distinctive brand voice that sounds like your brand, product, service or offering across other channels. One that is informed by your brand’s purpose to offer guidance, service or entertainment. But also, a voice that when heard, lets the consumer know right away, what your brand has to say.