It is clear that Voice will have a huge impact on marketing and branding in the next decade as Artificial Intelligence technology continues to evolve.
Not only will most product search go through your Amazon Echo, Google Home or Apple HomePod, the AI Assistants will be gathering massive amounts of information on your habits and preferences. They will be able to predict and influence many of your brand choices. Soon, AI Assistants are making your travel arrangements, reordering your groceries and suggesting new brands you might want to try.
This future sounds amazing to some and creepy to others, but it is coming whether we like it or not, and the implications for marketers are profound. Marketing is about to become much more competitive and challenging. The winners will be digitally-savvy brands with a very compelling offering and a distinctive brand story.
In their article in the May Harvard Business Review, Niraj Dawar and Neil Bendle examine the implications of AI Assistants for Marketers. They predict that AI Assistants will quickly win the loyalty and trust of consumers, which means that these devices will soon become the main intermediary between consumers and brands.
Will Brands Matter?
The authors predict that certain brands will matter and others will disappear. In categories where brand names are more important than price, we may still ask Alexa for brands by name. Brands that are able to build a direct relationship with consumers will do better. For example, if we go directly to the Apple Store or apple.com to buy our next computer, rather than through Amazon. But if we need a new toothbrush, Alexa might just find an acceptable low-priced brand for us.
Implications for Marketers
- Brands will need to sharpen their story. Artificial Intelligence platforms will be much more efficient at sorting through options and making recommendations based on a consumer’s specific preferences. If your brand position is not clear, your brand will get lost in the shuffle.
- We may begin to trust Alexa more than even our favorite brands. As AI Assistants get better and better, they will be able to predict and almost intuit our needs. If they are consistently good at predicting what we want and making our lives easier, we will begin to form a trusting relationship with them.
- Brands will need to constantly keep their story relevant. AI Assistants will routinely reevaluate their recommendations for price changes and consumer preferences. Competition will become more intense as upstart brands offer price discounts for Alexa’s consideration. Brands will have to be able to rapidly adjust to shifts in consumer taste.
- Market research as we know it will go away. The consumer insights field is already being rapidly transformed. In the future, Google, Facebook and Amazon may dominate the insights business due to the massive amounts of consumer behavior data they will be able to collect. Future brand managers will have an insights relationship with these companies and have most of their consumer questions answered within minutes.
- Distinctive Brand Assets will be essential. Technology keeps improving, but our brains have not changed much since we were hunting woolly mammoths in the ice age. We are efficient, but often lazy thinkers. We are forgetful. And we remember things that stand out from the norm. Brands that are able to create memorable, distinctive assets, such as a rocket image for speedy home mortgage provider Rocket Mortgage, or a gecko for an insurance company, will be the brands that we ask Alexa for by name.
A Brave New World
In this brave new world of Voice and AI Assistants the manner in which marketing insights are gathered will change rapidly in the coming years and the competition among brands will be intense. The tools marketers have to work with will be smarter, faster and more efficient. Only the brands that are able to develop a smart brand strategy, build a meaningful story and execute on it in a memorable way, will stay relevant and survive.
Fritz Grutzner is president and founder of Brandgarten, a research and strategy firm that helps brands tell meaningful stories. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.