CPG And Alexa: Audio Packaging On The Voice Shelf
“Over 40 percent of smart speakers live in kitchens and while parents and families are early adopters of voice, cereal brands are sleeping on a major opportunity,” says Dexter Garcia, co-founder and CSO of Audio UX.
With smart speakers living in 20 percent of connected homes and vComm sales forecasted at $40b by 2022, the impending ubiquity of voice is putting the pressure on CPG brands to innovate. While some have tested the waters with Alexa Skills (e.g. Hellman’s, Tide, Oral B), many marketers still ask the question: How does a brand present itself to the consumer in voice-first world?
This question was posed frequently at this year’s Voice Summit 2018, leaving many scratching their heads. After years of developing visual identities and intricate physical packaging to attract consumers at retail, CPG brands must now ask: what is the “packaging” when the store is a smart speaker? And when marketers aren’t able to invest thousands in slotting fees and endcap placements, how do users discover a branded Alexa Skill? Discoverability starts with awareness, and while every CPG brand knows exactly what they look like, many will need to make users aware of what they sound like.
When Alexa is your store clerk, brands need to think about their audio packaging on the voice shelf.
Brand Your Audio
When looking to engage with voice, begin by answering the question, “What Does My Brand Sound Like?” Enter the world of audio branding. Draw audio parallels between your colors, tone and logo to create a holistic brand experience for users to navigate. Discovering your sound as a brand ultimately aligns your message to be more accurate and consistent, not just at the voice channel, but across podcasting, audio ads, social other forms of rich media. This concept may seem like Brand Marketing 101 from a visual standpoint, but when looking down the road at a world with hundreds of millions of smart speakers, it’s time to turn up the audio omnichannel strategy.
Speak For Yourself
Having a unique and ownable sound is an essential goal of audio branding. Alexa is excitingly new and culturally relevant for now, but at what point will her voice be perceived as default? Might Alexa’s voice be considered more of a template in the development of future skills? Without a unique and ownable voice for your skill upon publishing, your content is immediately co-branded with Alexa. As most marketers know, co-branded experiences have their pros and cons and some are starting to speak for themselves.
CPG can definitely learn from Insurance in this field. Say “Alexa, open up Geico”. You’re greeted with the charmingly familiar cockney accent of the Geico Gecko, letting you know that this is, undoubtedly, a Geico experience. Other insurers should bend an ear, too. While it’s unclear if Flo is actually the voice of the Google Action for Progressive, Allstate certainly needs to get Dennis Haysbert in the studio right away to tell you all about those Good Hacks. Although Geico already has the upper hand by having one of the most recognizable voices in advertising, it exemplifies how powerful a branded voice can be, not just in the context of Skills, but as an omnichannel strategy overall.
Some CPG brands are already sitting on a voice goldmine. Over 40 percent of smart speakers live in kitchens and while parents and families are early adopters of voice, cereal brands are sleeping on a major opportunity. Tony the Tiger, Toucan Sam, Cap’N Crunch, Lucky the Leprechaun, Snap, Crackle and Pop are all waiting to chat with kids at the breakfast nook. Somebody should ship a few Echo Dot’s to Kellogg’s and General Mills.
However, voice branding is just one piece of the audio branding puzzle. To take another page out of the marketing playbook of insurance companies, Nationwide leverages their audio logo at the greeting of their Skill. For P&G brands already championing great audio logos (Old Spice, Gillette, Bounty), extending this existing brand equity into voice is the low-hanging audible fruit.
While brands with existing audio branding have a head start in the age of the smart speaker, deploying an audio logo across voice, podcasts, advertising and social is just the tip of the audio omnichannel strategy iceberg. Set your sights on a holistic audio strategy that engages users with an experience they’ll remember. As marketers plan the customer journey with brand touchpoints, the advent of Alexa certainly yields the need to build “listening points”, too.
Are You Audio Experienced?
Building a great skill means building a great experience. The need for a strategic user experience in voice is vital to keep users coming back for more and to establish a viable channel for consumption.
While Nestle has GoodNes on the Skill market, there is not a lick of unique audio. Although there are helpful recipes to explore, Nestle is already sitting on great audio opportunities to deploy. By this Halloween, if Nestle & Hershey haven’t found a way to have Chance the Rapper sing with kids through an Echo about hilarious costumes while loading up carts with Kit Kats ready to fill pillowcases for the neighborhood, there’s a good chance Mars and the red M&M will beat them to it.
One CPG brand nearing voice experience enlightenment is Stubb’s BBQ sauce with The Stubb’s BBQ Alexa Skill. Featuring the voice of C.B. Stubblefield himself with clever acknowledgment from Alexa and the ability to listen to Texas blues (also featuring Stubb’s on vocals), this recipe Skill feels incredibly branded and immersive. There’s a unique brand voice, relevancy to the user and cultural context packed into a one-to-one experience. If Stubb’s can find a way to pack carts and wish lists with more BBQ sauce in a convenient way for the consumer, à la Eucerin, this Skill can have a considerable impact. Additionally, having first-mover advantage in voice amongst BBQ sauce brands, Stubb’s can retain front-of-mind in smart speaker adopters as they navigate their culinary marketplaces in the summer heat.
Discoverability in the Audio Aisle
When marketers aren’t able to invest thousands in slotting fees and endcap placements, how does a user discover a Skill? More often, users have to know what they’re looking for before they ask Alexa for it. Therefore, the path to discoverability starts with awareness.
Once you’ve developed a great audio user experience for your consumers, it is time to tell the world. Push your branded audio assets through various channels to drive awareness of the Skill. Where there is awareness, there is recall, and you need users to remember those unique audio moments to return to the Skill.
Diageo gets points for making users aware of their Johnnie Walker Skill, but it seems odd to talk to Alexa with her American English accent. Imagine the immersive experience of chatting with a Scottish-accented Johnnie, or Jane, while mastering the art of an Manor Punch in a Edinburgh public house. And if you’re running low on Black Label, Johnnie or Jane is there to fill your order.
The Audio Packaging
When Alexa is the store, your packaging is audio. To build brand equity in Zero UI, leverage the power of sound to not only supplement your UX, but to enhance it by improving usability and building brand equity. Your audio packaging should be memorable and easy to use. It should communicate your brand ethos and speak for itself. With an articulate audio strategy, you can solve for discoverability and retain front-of-mind at key purchasing moments for the consumer.
Users can remember what your product looks like on the shelf, but in a voice-first world, they will also have to remember what you sound like. All the more reason to start designing your audio packaging. If Chobani Yogurt is taking home the 2018 Dieline Editor’s Choice Award for package design, what does this design sound like through a smart speaker?
In a better sounding tomorrow, expect to hear a symphony of audio experiences as brands race to stock the voice shelf.