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IAB Report Suggests It Is Time To Act on Voice

Despite many reports and articles suggesting that now is the time to think about how your brand sounds this is not the case.

The time to do that was two years ago! Don’t worry though, there is still time to catch up.

The Interactive Advertising Burea (IAB) has recently published a report making key recommendations to US-based marketers on how to adapt to an increasingly screen-less world and it adds some urgency to those who have been slow to consider how they will approach this new channel.

The full report is well worth a read but, here I have tried to pull some of the main findings and drill down into what we can learn about brands and voice going forward into 2020.

The IAB recognizes the huge growth in screenless devices over the past few years. There has been no technology in history that has had the same adoption rate as Voice Assistants and the rapid growth of the channel has meant that some marketers have been slow to react at the same speed.

“Brands who don’t educate themselves on the screenless device marketplace could be significantly missing out on reaching new and untapped audiences and/or risk losing relevance in an ever-growing cluttered space of brands and advertisements.”

Recognizing the power of audio in delivering clear emotive messages is nothing new. You only have to consider how Winston Churchill’s iconic “We will fight them on the beaches” speech, broadcast across the country, rallied a nation in the Second World War (and countless other historical examples) to realize the impact that audio alone can have.

In radio (a medium in which I’ve worked for 20 years), we often talk about the deep and personal connection that a listener experiences with a presenter or radio brand – by harnessing audio and Voice First we are being presented with a new opportunity to reimagine and enhance that relationship.

The IAB report also draws attention to the effect that screenless devices are having on screen-led interactions.

Smart-Speaker users often report they are spending less time with smart devices such as phones and tablets. This is reported as a direct result of owning a Smart Speaker. This is the first time technology has disrupted the growth in the use of smart-screen devices. It also indicated that many parents who have purchased a Smart Speaker device have done so with the explicit intention of reducing screen-time for their children (information pulled from Edison’s Infinite Dial research). This would suggest we could see a huge shift in user behavior in the future. I have written before about how Children growing up with Voice Technology now, in 10-15 years, will interact with this technology in a much more frequent and natural way. This research suggests that as well as this being an unconscious change some individuals are also making the conscious choice to turn away from screens.

The evidence supporting a voice-first future is certainly mounting up and yet some major brands still prioritize a flashy business card (destined for the nearest paper bin) over a fully thought out audio identity that reflects how they want to be perceived by prospective customers. I’m not suggesting that audio should be prioritized over visual or other marketing techniques. Rather it is important to consider how the different pieces of the puzzle fit together.

With Voice-Activation is on the rise (and now present in most IoT hardware) it is equally important to remember that just because a device is “Voice First” doesn’t mean it is “Voice Only” with many devices combining visual and audio stimulus. Creating a cohesive brand across all formats is very important.

Comparisons are also made in the report between the high impact of advertising/marketing within podcasting and the potential of Voice First. Recent research by Edison and Podcast One showed that podcast “Superlisteners” (those who consume more than 5 hours a week of podcasts) rather than objecting to brand promotions within podcasts instead actually welcome them. Often seeing them as a facilitator in supplying the niche content that they desire. They are also more open to hearing the adds, consumed the content more positively and, importantly are more susceptible to the messaging within. The IAB suggests that these habits are similar to Smart Speaker users.

“Smart speaker owners are open to using skills or apps from brands, and on-platform targeted advertising is becoming more prevalent in Flash Briefings or music services.”

So what does this all mean for brands and their relationship with audio?

Essentially it suggests that if you aren’t already considering you audio branding strategy then you need to make inroads now and not JUST by considering how you can leverage Smart-Speaker technology.

As well as Alexa and other SST hardware brands need to think about different types of hardware that may now, and in the future, carry Voice-First technology and also how the popularity of mobile-powered Bluetooth audio opens up new places in which people can consume on-demand audio content.

This provides a whole new range of opportunities and also challenges at the same time. Rather than delivering one-size-fits-all audio content to a variety of listeners in a variety of environments (as we have with radio content for many years) we now have to consider location, demographics, listening habits and even elements such as local weather conditions – all which could influence the type of content that a user may want and their susceptibility to messages.

This offers the opportunity to delivery incredibly targeted audio to a very precise audience helping brands and marketers to cut through the noise in a crowded market.

Audio can also no longer be seen as an independent media. Not only should your audio brand relate directly to other elements of your marketing strategy but more and more frequently we are seeing smart audio and images being delivered hand in hand (via Smart TVs and products like the Alexa Show).

The combination of visual and audio along with the prevalence of Smart Audio Delivery allows a brand to potentially be present in a consumers life like never before:

“How do these technologies fit together? How do we move a user from their Smart TV at home, into their car on their commute and then with their desktop (and even in between these locations with smartwatches and mobile devices).”

This is not Radio 2.0 this is a BRAND NEW marketing channel (has this truely happened since the launch of television?) that not only allows a consumer to buy a product with a direct, instinctive response to a single question but allows brands to create rich, emotive and incredibly bespoke content to help illicit the correct response to a sales question.

Audio has always been an effective tool in marketing and those who have been slow previously to explore the possibilities must start to pay serious attention now or be left playing catch up in the very near future.

**All quotes are taken from the AIB report “Recommendations to Marketers in a Screenless World”

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