Voice Search and what it means for your brand

Voice Search – Knowing this one thing could save your brand

Voice search is the future, there’s no doubt about that. Perhaps like me you never use a weather app anymore; you just ask Google. Making calls, getting directions, and even sending text messages nowadays increasingly starts with “Okay Google…” Or Siri. Or Alexa…

The Baidu prediction supports this assumption—Andrew Ng estimated that 50% of all search will be voice by 2020 (for a discussion of this prediction see here). The voice search bots we have now are probably just the beginning. In the near future we’ll probably have personalized voice assistants, with personalities and AI engines that match our personalities (I’m waiting patiently for a hologram assistant that talks like Elvis Presley — bots need a personality!).

If you’re a brand, this is something you can’t afford to ignore.

Okay – so what? Why should you care? This: Not reacting to this trend by adjusting your marketing strategy to focus on brand recall will have a potentially catastrophic effect on your sales. You’ll be left behind as those brands who do realign their marketing strategies zoom past.

Here’s why:

The biggest difference between traditional web browser search and voice search is the result that comes back. When consumers search through a web browser, they get 10 organic results, and a few paid search results to choose from (about 80% of clicks are done on the first page). But with Voice search – you get just one result. Or – even if voice search does evolve to list out a variety of different results – chances are consumers don’t want that. They want the result, or brand, or product NOW – they don’t want to spend 10 minutes having a conversation with voice search trying to narrow down a set of options.

Imagine asking Alexa to send you milk and eggs. Unless you specify the brand—chances are you’ll get the in-house Amazon brand of eggs and milk (it will come…), OR the brand that has the highest mark-up, or shortest shelf life, or… You get the picture — you won’t get the same product you would have chosen had you had all the options laid out in front of you.

As a result of this, consumers will adjust their search patterns to regain control, by requesting specific products rather than general product categories. How do consumers conceptualize specific products? By brand.

Instead of saying “send me eggs and milk” the requests will evolve to “send me Happy Eggs Co eggs, and Meadow Lea milk”. The dominant mode of choice selection using “brand recognition” will fade, as choices become predominantly “brand recall” focused.

So what is brand recall, and how can brands ‘get’ brand recall? Brand recall works on slightly different psychological processes to the more common, and predominantly used “brand recognition”.

When consumers use web browsers to search, they scan the results, and brands that are not already in their consideration set (if they have one) have one last chance to persuade the searcher to choose them. This is currently achieved by offering a superior value proposition, or some other enticement to motivate click through rates. This is brand recognition.

Brand recall however requires the consumer to already have your brand in their memory, AND for your brand to dominate their “consideration set” when consumers decide to buy. The only way to build a brand that gets chosen during brand recall is to imprint favorable brand associations.

How do you imprint favorable brand associations? Well, best case scenario is that you have a consumer who has already trialed your product and came away impressed. But obviously this isn’t easy to do when attracting new customers and so we have to rely on memory creation, or activation, that is synergistic with the personality of the consumer. We call this ‘Affinity’.

Once we have a strategy in place to create affinity then we focus on deepening the brand associations using the right mix of emotions in content and experiences using carefully curated influencers (activating multiple sensory modalities works best). Hybrid campaigns that combine offline brand activations with online social activations is one commonly used mechanism to build brand recall. But not that common… Unless brands wake up to the idea that they need to realign their marketing to focus on brand recall, eventually they will start seeing a dramatic slide in sales as those brands who have focused on brand recall take over.

So, to sum up – voice search is here, and it’s going to take over. The main implication for brands is that it will shift the decision-making process from recognition to recall. Brands that don’t know this and don’t have a strategy in place to realign their marketing strategy to focus on brand recall will eventually fail. Those brands who know what they are doing and know how to create campaigns that imprint brand recall will win.

Contact us if you would like to find out more about how we help brands future-proof their marketing strategy and build strong associations and recall.

Consumer Psychologist | Marketing Academic University of Melbourne