By Matthew Stanton

The Future of Audio

By Fiona Hodgins, Director, Edelman EU, Dublin

“The difference between 95% and 99% word recognition accuracy is the difference between occasional, novel use and using technology all the time”. 

– Andrew Ng, former head of Baidu AI Group / Google Brain

Voice technology usage is growing globally. Smart speakers and voice assistants are becoming more intelligent and their recognition of spoken word has reached a similar level of accuracy as humans. Voice has huge benefits for the consumer and leads to more efficiencies in everyday life. For marketers, voice has tremendous implications, especially in terms of search and navigating the moments that matter to consumers.

1. Audio and voice are not just time efficient, but highly effective in building relationships:

Voice is an interesting medium for several reasons. We speak three times faster than we type. Voice allows us to multi-task when our hands and eyes are occupied, which is valuable in a time of partial attention. As marketers, we are in the business of creating and sustaining relationships between people and products. Voice and audio offer personality that connects powerfully with human emotions and for that reason is not just intimate, but persuasive.

2. Audio audiences are information driven and engaged, therefore very attractive to brands:

The marketing industry has witnessed tremendous growth in podcast consumption with reports identifying this growth will continue to accelerate. We live in a world where people consume video for an average of 18 seconds, the majority with the sound on mute, making video subtitles a functional mandatory.  In contrast, people listen to a podcast for on average 22 minutes.  In addition, the general demographic profile of listeners is highly attractive with three quarters of podcast listeners educated with a college degree, 83% earning above the average wage, and 42% describing themselves as business decision makers.

3. How brands have responded to the sustained rise of podcasts:

To date, brands’ responses to podcasts have been two-fold: Content sponsorship and branded podcast creation. Edelman Ireland’s approach to Diet Coke’s sponsorship of the Before Brunch podcast on Lovin Dublin was seamless with transparent integration. The sponsorship offered the right content and audience fit with Diet Coke’s Because I Can Series. Edelman curated brand experiences to inspire consumers to take full advantage of the things that give them pleasure. Our team felt the series could add real value to the show’s existing content approach and Lovin Dublin offered the right amplification platforms to support audience discovery.

Other brands have explored creating branded podcasts. In general, a good starting point is to be a content rich brand, such as Penguin UK’s compelling eight-part podcast drama centered around the core question “Is it possible to disappear?” to launch Tim Weaver’s new book, MISSING.

4. Inspiration from brands navigating the known unknowns:

Voice is a quickly changing medium and navigating how consumers interact with the technology is an ever evolving challenge. Brand must find authentic ways to insert value via voice for audiences. For example, IBM Watson’s launch in Brazil found 72% of Brazilians had never entered a museum. IBM gave art a voice through the creation of a unique interactive guide for the Pinacoteca de São Paulo Museum. Educated from books, interviews and the internet, users could question both technical aspects of the painting, as well as cultural events that informed it, removing the feeling that art was unapproachable.

A second example is Mattel’s WIFI enabled Barbie Hello Dreamhouse that responds to voice commands to inspire storytelling. Lastly, Vietnamese Insurance company, AIA, created “Open Aiya” the first voice led panic system.

5. How to maintain brand discoverability and relevance in a voice led world:

Voice search has huge benefits for the consumer, immediately removing an element of the multi-tasking friction that exists today, but for brands it has strong implications. No one wants their voice assistant to read out a full page of search results, therefore only the top results are curated. What happens if your brand is in fourth place and paid opportunities are only emerging? One approach is to take a cue from the conversational nature of human interactions with voice and optimize your content to reflect it. Key words are still important, particularly in the short terms, but there is a real benefit in piloting phrases that reflect the way humans speak as smart speakers become more mainstream. As an agency, our team identifies moments that matter to audiences and positions brands authentically within those moments. We constantly strategize to insert brands seamlessly into those everyday authentic conversations.

About Edelman Digital

Edelman Digital is the digital advisory and integrated marketing arm of the world’s largest communications marketing firm. Our global staff, in over 65 offices worldwide, is built to manage the complexity of modern marketing and online reputation, using a data-driven social-first storytelling approach designed to deliver real-time business results. We believe in exploring future-forward technology to advance the stories we tell. The output of our work delivers experiences that transform culture, reputation and relationships to inspire real-world action between brands and consumers.

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