Cannes Day Two: The Power of Voice

Day Two at Cannes was a big one, things have well and truly hit their stride now with back to back talks and events. Tuesday evening saw parties galore from Facebook, Spotify and Pandora, just to mention the big brands. Meanwhile the networking is in overdrive along the beachfront cabanas, with The Economist a daily favourite for many as a way to start their day.  MediaLink too, doing a daily summary allowing those who didn’t catch the inside action to keep on top of what’s being discussed within the Palais.

For me however, it was a day listening to Voice. And when I say voice, I mean discussions about how voice is the next big area for brand development; the next big area in AI technology development; and the next big area in neuroscientific research.

The importance of voice in the path to purchase

We know that voice assistants are already prevalent and have been for some time. Apple’s Siri, Google’s Home and Amazon’s Alexa are perfect examples of products which are now part of people’s daily lives, helping them along the entire purchase journey from priming through to activation.  We know that as these devices and technology continue to grow in scale, the challenge for marketers is to ensure brand preference is top of mind for consumers.  If we’re asking Alexa to add toothpaste to our shopping list, we need to be specific about which brand of toothpaste, otherwise Alexa will likely offer us an option which commercially benefits Amazon.  This at a time when retail continues to use price as their biggest weapon, and when consumers feel overwhelmed with branded messages.  Cut through and brand strength has never been more important.

We saw incredible research from NeuroStrata, which can now measure implicit responses to voice. That is, the ability to now articulate what consumers emotionally feel at a physiological level.   Often times in research groups, people will say they don’t like something (a piece of creative, colour-way on a product, actor), but they can’t put their finger on why.  This why, is down to intrinsic responses that come from deep within – memories, associations and bias.  Having the ability to understand this at a neurological level provides the opportunity to overcome these biases, and for the specific application to advertising, ensure that communications work most effectively.

Developing a voice identity

Because voices are de-coded at this deeper non-conscious level, choosing the right voice is critical. Many brands, at this point in time, are using a robotic style voice, like Amazon’s Alexa.  For consumers interacting with their devices, they then don’t know if they are talking to the brand or to Amazon.This will change over time as brands develop their own voice print, or voice identity – one that reflects their brand values.

What the research showed was that when tested across 13 different categories however, people don’t respond well to the robotic style voice (with one exception being in gaming), they perceive it as dispassionate and untrustworthy.  When tested using male and female voices, in different accents, there were clear implications in perceptions of brand trust, friendliness, optimism and authenticity.  These are elements which marketers invest heavily in, so it’s no surprise that they are critical elements in the development of brand voice identity too.

Using voice to give sight

Beyond advertising, AIRA is a company who uses voice to give sight to the visually challenged.  Working with the City of Boston, they have created a Smart City using a combination of Human & Artificial Intelligence alongside Augmented Reality to create what they call Augmented Humans – essentially a series of connected networks which the person can tap into in real time to help them experience life more fully.  Think of it as a visual assistant who, using technology can describe what the person is seeing therefore helping them live more independently.  Think about this the next time you’re at a football match, trying to read a map, trying to catch a bus, visiting a museum – think about how hard it would be to experience those things without being able to see them?

Signing off until tomorrow.

Cheers,

Peita

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