Guest post by Oxana Gouliaéva, Voice strategy consultant, co-author of “La révolution des assistants vocaux” (Dunod, 2020)

Both companies and brands have numerous opportunities to leave a sonic imprint. Think of sounds, music, voices on television, radio and digital advertising, multimedia tools, music on hold (MOH), event communication, reception areas, and sales outlets, etc. Today, as we observe a gradual disappearance of physical interfaces and the continuing development of new audio formats, voice assistants have become a new point of contact between brands and their audiences: another opportunity to create an emotional bond, to leave a memorable imprint and to enhance brand identity without using images. Music and voice convey more than information and knowledge – they carry a set of expressive, emotional, and identity-based traits. When a brand uses voice and/or music regularly, it creates a bond as strong as a logo and becomes a source of commitment. Did you know that at the height of its glory, the famous Nokia ringtone could be heard some 1.8 billion times a day across world? And that the ‘Intel Inside’ jingle is the most widely recognized sound on Earth?

New Sonic Assets

Voice interfaces involve designing the brand sound and/or voice signature and, indeed, other sound assets. A sound identity has a strong emotional effect, it expresses an extra soul and emotion that a unidimensional visual identity alone cannot provide. Sound allows us to go further into the intimacy and the effect that we can create. To create a sonic identity, brands can use a variety of sounds, but also music and voice. This particularly applies to vocal projects, whether one-way (e.g. podcasts) or two-way and therefore conversational (e.g. voice apps). As for voice itself, it is a natural and powerful medium that conveys a personality, inspires emotions, and gives us the feeling of no longer interacting with a machine, but rather (almost) with a human. If visual advertising disappears as soon as some predict, this voice will embody the interface between the brand and its audience. Beyond a lack of relevant visual elements, most brands don’t even have a sonic identity, and they suddenly start wondering how to create one for tactical reasons. Yet a sonic logo is more than just a jingle, it’s a strategic tool that expresses identity.

Brands… Do You Have a Voice?

Voice assistants represent a new reason for brands to ask themselves what their users see with their eyes shut and, above all, how they can differentiate themselves from competitors – both on new voice-first devices and across all their existing points of sale. The biggest risk today is to let the default voice of each voice assistant be the embodiment of your brand. It may seem convenient, fast and inexpensive, but it’s a very short-term fix that could be detrimental in the long run. If we had to compare a vocal brand identity to a visual one, using a default voice for individual assistants would mean creating a point of sale for a brand’s own products and placing the name of a Big Tech platform on the storefront. It is critical to create a code or a sound identity that transforms the assistant into the embodiment of your brand, its DNA, or even better – to create a custom voice. Otherwise, the brand will have to entrust its customer relationship to Alexa, Google or Siri. To illustrate this, imagine children who are growing up today and may not have known the visual essence of the brand as we knew it. When they’ll want to buy a bottle of soda or book a hotel in 10 years’ time, in their minds they will associate that product or service with Amazon, Google or Apple, because these will be the ones providing it.

Build your voice. Own your experience.