People expect brands to get personal

Pablo Gomez
Director Media & Digital, Kantar Millward Brown

The pace of technological innovation continues at a dizzying speed – in the last few years we've seen the maturation of artificial intelligence, machine learning, addressable content, Blockchain and the integration of voice into our devices.

I believe voice integration is the one that will not only change our industry – it will change our lives. Amazon and Google have long realized the potential of owning this space, and are racing to develop the most advanced technology to win over consumers, and subsequent adverting budget.

To understand what the future holds for voice technology, we ran a global study with J. Walter Thompson and Mindshare. We spoke to over 6,000 people in nine countries, interviewed experts and used brain-imaging technology to understand how our minds react to voice versus typing.

The study revealed that despite advances, voice is still being used for simple tasks like asking fun questions and simple searches. In fact, 57% of people feel embarrassed to use voice tech in public. But they said they would use it more if it was seamlessly integrated into everyday life, highlighting the potential.

The truth is that humans are lazy, which is good news for voice. Our brain-imaging test revealed that using voice requires a minimal amount of mental energy in comparison to typing text. This is because talking is natural to us. In fact, the three main drivers for regular voice users are convenience (52%), not having to type (48%) and simplicity of use (46%).

People don't just want convenience, they would also like voice and its supporting intelligence to anticipate their needs and take actions. Two thirds of Chinese smartphone users are excited by this prospect, paving the way for advanced 'digital butlers' that remember preferences and support people in their day to day activities.

But we also found that voice has the potential to develop deeper connections with consumers. Humans can’t help but anthropomorphize voice. The study revealed that 29% of regular voice users have had a sexual fantasy about their voice assistant. This number rises in countries in Asia where numerous voice assistants have been designed purely for the function of keeping people company and providing emotional support.

For brands, it's no longer just about reaching consumers at the right time, in the right place with the right message. It's now about finding the right voice. The opportunities for brands to create meaningful connections in this space is huge. Seventy-nine percent of people said they wanted brands to have unique voices and personalities. The brands that succeed will go beyond convenience to anticipate the personal – and even – emotional needs of consumers.