In this guest post, the Sydney GM of VERSA, Gavin McDonough (pictured below) makes the bold prediction that “voice” will be a marketer’s main tool over the coming decade…
In my experience it takes about 10 years from inception for marketing disciplines to develop, dominate and if valuable, become accepted as an integral part of brands’ marketing mix.
The path to normalising new marketing disciplines is often a hard one, I would know. In 2002 I launched one of Australia’s pioneering Experiential Marketing agencies, with Experiential Marketing representing an entirely new consumer-centric approach to marketing, up until that point dominated by traditional advertising and paid media; a seemingly impenetrable wall between consumers and brands.
For a number of years Experiential Marketing attracted only the last 10% of marketers’ budgets and was more often than not included as a token gesture, if it made it to the starting plate at all.
My agency and others fought and fought for its uptake by brands. By 2008 and aided by the rise of social media – which took control of brands access to consumers out of media owners’ and resellers’ hands for ever, we succeeded.
This is not an isolated tale, as other marketing disciplines have experienced similar hurdles along their path to mass acceptance. Social, Influencer and Content Marketing experienced a similarly slow uptake.
It was my passion for pioneering new marketing disciplines that motivated me to join VERSA, an agency trailblazing the newest marketing discipline, Voice Experience (VX). VERSA is an Aussie pioneer and global leader in Conversation Design – the skill set that underpins VX. An independent agency with deep roots in digital and emerging tech, VERSA’s founder Kath Blackham was visionary enough to recognise, pivot and commit her company’s course and resources to this untapped and largely undefined marketing discipline.
In the three years since its foundation, VERSA has experienced all the roller coaster of emotions and early-adoption headaches new marketing disciplines go through. The rush of early adopters, the inexplicable tumbleweed that follows, the thankless path of educating industry, clients, consumers (everyone) and sleepless nights wondering if you made the right decision – to steer away from logical to the possible and the way of the future.
As 2019 draws to a close VX finds itself at what can only be described as the dark before the dawn. It’s a sickly, yet exhilarating feeling you get when you realise that the discipline is on the cusp of exploding.
For Experiential Marketing, the dark before the dawn was in 2008, when after every other agency had attempted to solve Coca-Cola’s big summer brief, and failed. It landed on our desk. The savvy senior brand manager, perhaps with nothing to lose, asked us what we would do. We rose to the challenge and infused a truly experience led perspective into their big summer activation, for the first time. We launched a free national Coca-Cola surf school and propagated thousands of consumers the experience of standing on a surfboard (for the first time), through another new medium at the time, Facebook.
For VX and Conversational Design, a big, bright future is fast approaching. Indicators include the convergence of adoption including Voice being used by the big four banks as the most reliable biometric for personal (digital) security and Conversational AI rapidly permeating through enterprise businesses bringing revolutionary efficiency to customer service and contact centres.
At a B2C level, VX now has broad awareness amongst marketers with our market literally overflowing with voice-enabled devices both in the home and in consumers’ hands. For Voice to realise its place as a mainstream marketing discipline, three key issues need to be addressed by three distinct contributors;
Measurability – for media buyers
It’s hard to quantify the cost of a Google / Alexa Voice Experience when consumption is still in its infancy. A lack of Voice measurement rigour means Voice is more likely to make it into a media plan as an innovation gesture.
Successful measurement in the short term will have far more to do with VX being successfully integrated into marketing campaigns to ensure their discoverability.
Bravery and creativity – agencies and clients
The opportunity for brands to do new, innovative and impactful work exists nowhere more so than in VX. An unspoilt and uncluttered channel – the opportunities are literally endless.
Additionally, Voice Experience is largely still thought of as functional, not emotive. As emotional beings first and foremost (consumers/humans/us that is), companies who crack the code to Voice’s potential as an emotion-eliciting medium stand to reap great rewards and of course recognition.
Generational expectation – consumers
Kids, gifted inexpensive Voice devices over the past couple of birthdays and at Christmas, already use Voice even if only for finding out the weather, listening to music and to tell the time. They’re comfortable, confident and capable.
They are your next customers. Invest in meeting them where they’re at and you’ll win them forever.
So whether you’re wrapping 2019 or beginning to look forward to 2020 and beyond, I encourage all marketers to embrace VX and join us on perhaps the best marketing adventure of the next decade.