How voice will transform the brand toolkit

Credit: Clay Banks
Credit: Clay Banks

The traditional brand toolkit is a linear, one-way dialog, while voice enables an inherently two-way, responsive, proactive and social experience.

The traditional brand toolkit — logo, color, and typography — is growing with the advent of new technologies.

Consumers expect transparency, immediacy, fluency and connectivity across their experiences with a brand. But while most brands have been able to adapt digitally native design elements, few have tapped into what technology itself can enable: a brand voice. 

A brand voice needs to be more than just human; it needs to be a specific human with a character. A brand voice should take on a clear persona, inspired by a real person, that’s consistent — regardless of subject, touchpoint or audience. 

Brands today should think more holistically about their brand voice throughout the user experience. The best voice-led toolkits augment a physical logo, color and typography with personality, character and emotional intelligence that builds connection across the experience. 

Brand voice is key as voice activated devices become mainstream. The number of voice assistants in U.S. households increased 78% between 2017 and 2018, according to NPR. And 146.9 million smart speakers were sold globally last year, per Forbes. 

Millions of Americans have welcomed bots into their homes, sharing more information than ever before. This has enormous implications for brands. Despite the lack of an opportunity for a logo, lifestyle shot, and headline, they can now directly interact with their customers in real-time. 

The traditional brand toolkit is a linear, one-way dialog, while voice enables an inherently two-way, responsive, proactive and social experience. Designers, writers and developers must collaborate on a brand voice to create a seamless narrative and differentiated user experience. 

Domino’s has done a good job of this with its AI assistant “DOM.” DOM took orders, made suggestions and dug up coupons, and the app became a pilot program for customers who preferred ordering by phone.. But its personality also adopted Domino’s playful nature, imbuing the brand’s characteristics across the experience. 

Roo, Planned Parenthood’s helpful sexual health app, helps teenagers navigate the awkward trials of puberty by answering questions about sexual health, relationships and growing up in a judgement-free zone. Roo is friendly and approachable, answering with frank and helpful tips mixed with emojis and GIFs. 

Brands will grapple key questions when it comes to developing their voice. What traits, mannerisms and sensory cues do we give to our voice? Are these aligned with the brand overall? Which of these traits, if any, will become part of our broader brand toolkit? Designing visual and verbal systems that can dynamically evolve as channels and technologies advance is key for long-term success.

Today’s consumers engage with brands on their own time, on their own terms and across devices. Our brand systems have to transform to a much more flexible engagement model to keep up.

Brendán Murphy is senior design partner at Lippincott

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