Soul to Squeeze: the Future of Brand and Voice

We are barely into 2018 but it feels like we can’t go more than a few minutes without finding something about Voice with a range of takes on its relevance, impact and (potential) power.

Some industry leaders are wondering if Voice will be the death of brands. Others are taking a more pragmatic approach. And, JPMorgan Chase is committing by naming VaynerMedia as their Voice Agency of Record. A bit more searching and I would find a myriad of other takes and honestly, don’t know if my brain can handle that.

So with all of these hot takes spanning such a wide range, how do you make sense of it all?

I don’t know that you can (fair warning) right now.

Voice seems more noise than form or function at the moment and it is way too early to tell how it will impact our lives overall, let alone how it will impact the role of brands. I do know that no matter how it comes to life, Voice will cause significant disruption and with disruption breeds opportunity. And we personally believe Voice is much more of an opportunity area for brands than it is a death sentence.

Brands will have to deal with a world in which a consumer can simply say “Alexa, order more detergent”, but will they be willing to have an Amazon Basics arrive vs. their preferred brand?

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Early on, we don’t see consumers willing to sacrifice quality. But assuming Amazon’s product prowess delivers on its promises and can match or exceed quality where it matters, Voice will most certainly level the playing field if shoppers just rattle off the product type, “Alexa, I need dish soap”.

But if brands are willing to stick it out, continue to develop products that consumers value and can do so before Amazon makes a duplicate, Voice offers retailers and brands some potentially innovative ways to drive ongoing consumer engagement and loyalty. What if a food brand could provide you simple recipes through a certain voice command that is linked to the packaging? Or if that awkward sound you get when you squeeze an almost empty bottle of ketchup was able to be purchased by Heinz, specifically to trigger re-order (think bidding on key sounds, not keywords). And the myriad of other ways Voice could equate to opportunity.

Be excited (I know I am), we live in a unique and very challenging time for marketers, retailers and brands. But with every challenge comes opportunity.

Michael Reda is a Partner of Strategy & Business Development at PINE.

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