VOICE TECH­NOL­OGY DE­MANDS TO BE HEARD

How brands com­mu­ni­cate with con­sumers may never be the same again, Lu­cas Peon writes

Campaign UK - - NEWS - Lu­cas Peon is the ex­ec­u­tive cre­ative di­rec­tor at J Wal­ter Thomp­son Lon­don

“Voice tech could change ev­ery­thing we think we know about the cre­ative process”

More than a quar­ter of users of speech-recog­ni­tion de­vices have had sex­ual fan­tasies about their as­sis­tant, ac­cord­ing to our Speak Easy re­port on voice tech­nol­ogy.

While bizarrely fas­ci­nat­ing, and a lit­tle dis­turb­ing, I be­lieve the more in­ter­est­ing find­ing was that 72% of users think brands should have unique voices and per­son­al­i­ties for their apps.

It got me think­ing. If voice tech­nol­ogy be­comes ubiq­ui­tous – and the chances are high that it will given that 87% of users claim that, when work­ing prop­erly, “it sim­pli­fies their life” – brands will need to de­fine their tone of voice more than ever. And I’m not talk­ing about a sub­sec­tion in a brandguide­lines doc­u­ment but an ac­tual, phys­i­cal tone of voice. With dif­fer­ent ac­cents, in­flec­tions, gen­ders, ages and back­grounds.

Voice tech­nol­ogy is here and it could change ev­ery­thing we think we know about the cre­ative process.

Con­sider this. To be truly rel­e­vant and en­gag­ing, your tone of voice would need to adapt to the dif­fer­ent re­gions in which it was be­ing de­liv­ered – and, more im­por­tantly, to whom it was talk­ing. So you’ll need to start be­ing gran­u­lar in your tar­get­ing. It won’t just be about de­liv­er­ing your mar­ket­ing mes­sages at the right time and place – it will be about right time, right place, right voice. For ex­am­ple, will some­one in York­shire be more likely to buy from a com­pany whose Alexa sounds like it grew up in Roys­ton Vasey?

You’ll also need to think about how your voice de­vel­ops over time. If you do tar­get spe­cific peo­ple, will you need to be more re­served at first and be­come more friendly as they pass through the cus­tomer jour­ney? Look­ing ahead, voice will change user in­ter­faces as we know it, giv­ing way to hu­man-like in­ter­ac­tions that are richer and deeper. There will be a time when voice takes on a “look”, where it merges with ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence and we find out just what, say, Ribena looks like in per­son.

The mo­ment voice be­comes a key player in mar­ket­ing, ev­ery­thing will start to be­come more in­ter­ac­tive. A poster with­out a voice will feel flat­ter than ever. A poster you can talk to will be en­gag­ing as hell.

In­ter­ac­tion will play an even big­ger role, mean­ing brands will need to for­feit a cer­tain amount of con­trol. You won’t be able to af­ford to broad­cast one mes­sage. Where your mes­sage goes will de­pend on the di­a­logue your cus­tomer has with your brand at that point in time. Ob­vi­ously, it’s a big risk at the mo­ment be­cause voices, such as the au­to­mated ones used by banks, don’t yet quite sound re­al­is­tic enough. And it’s still pretty easy to trip up a chat­bot. But we’ve been fight­ing for a long time to make our brands more per­son­able, and this might just be the im­pe­tus.

Ama­zon Speech Syn­the­sis Markup Lan­guage is al­ready mak­ing Alexa sound more hu­man. A new set of speak­ing skills will al­low her to do things like whis­per, take a breath to pause for em­pha­sis, ad­just the rate, pitch and vol­ume of her speech, and more. And for a bunch of ape-like crea­tures who have re­lied on voice to share knowl­edge, emo­tions and get or­gan­ised for hun­dreds of thou­sands of years, that’s a huge step for­ward.

Voice tech­nol­ogy has an­nounced its ar­rival, and brands and agen­cies had bet­ter lis­ten be­cause the cre­ative op­por­tu­ni­ties could be im­mense.

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