Giving brands a voice

Since the first merchant in ancient Egypt stamped the pottery carrying goods for sale with a stylised hieroglyphic of their name around four thousand years ago, the basic ingredients of a brand - design and copy - have not changed.

Subsequent formats have allowed storytelling to add depth to brands - from market traders shouting the merits of a product to television commercials and celebrity endorsements - but this hasn't affected the essence of brands.

The advent of voice and conversational interface will change this.

Already becoming an integral part of how we use our smartphones and smart speakers like Alexa and Google Home, voice will become the dominant way we interact with an increasingly linked ecosystem of cloud-connected devices, from domestic appliances to computers and smartphones, digital assistants, websites, retail experiences, wearables, self-driving cars and much else yet to be imagined.

It seems inevitable that the first way we will encounter many brands in the future will be via speech, and so design and copy will be joined by voice as the primary expressions of a brand.

The potential interactions range from the purely functional (‘turn on the light’, ‘take me home’) to the mainly playful (‘tell me a story’), with most things being in between (‘what should I wear to the party?’, ‘what should I watch?’).

Brand as voice means a persona with a scripted verbal style, a certain pattern of speech and flavour of personality, delivered by an actor and guided by artificial intelligence.

For creative agencies and brands, this means that a different set of skills and tools will come into play - some adaptations of old skills like longer-form scriptwriting focusing on dialogue (perhaps from writers in film, television and radio) and others much newer, like developers who can work with neural networks and machine learning.

Above all, when in the future someone says they want the consumer to fall in love with their brand, perhaps we should imagine something like the film 'Her'.

For more insights on voice interfaces you can check out our other articles 'Are voice assistants the interface of the future' and 'If your brand could talk'.