The architect Louis Sullivan coined the maxim that “form follows function.” In the case of marketing channels, you could reverse that to say function follows form. How you use an
axe differs from how you use a shovel because of what the form allows you to do.
Similarly, the best use of a billboard is different from the best use of a banner ad
because of what the form allows you to do. In order for brands to find success with voice, they have to consider the strengths and constraints of the form.
disappoint some marketers to learn that “receive promotions and special offers” is not a popular use case for people interacting with voice-enabled tech. In fact, according to Nielsen’s “Total Audience Report: Q1 2019,” top responses for how smart
speaker owners use their devices include searching for real-time information, getting the latest news, making calls and sending messages.
If you observe how most people
interact with voice channels, it’s initiated as a request or command. This form leads away from using voice for marketing-as-promotion and toward marketing-as-a-service. It’s
a medium better built for informing, supporting and responding rather than advertising.
With that strategic perspective, brand leaders should look past their advertising teams for
inspiration and instead tap into the insights gleaned from service-centric programs like customer service and customer loyalty groups.
Tapping into the service aspects of
marketing will suggest the most likely opportunities to shape positive experiences via voice. There’s a lot of information there that can point to effective brand applications for voice. For
- Does my product/service require set-up? Can voice instructions walk customers through it?
- What are my most frequent
complaints/issues? Can voice provide an easier way to resolve them?
- How, where and when are people using the product/service? Does that context suggest ways voice
could enhance/extend those use situations?
Once you find where voice can add value, it’s imperative that customers know what’s available to them. Brands can
enable access to voice-enabled devices through existing communication methods. Product packaging, owner’s manuals, brand apps, and welcome emails are all channels through which companies can
promote that they are “voice-friendly.” If done effectively, it should be apparent to consumers where to go and what to say to take advantage of a brand’s voice features.
The new reality is that brand-driven monologues are quickly being replaced by customer-initiated dialogues. Voice can best drive brand value by expanding ways to serve and
enhance the customer experience. Those who try to shoehorn this technology into an existing promotional strategy might find silence on the other end.