Custom wake word speech bubbles
Aug 17, 2021
7 MIN READ

How to Create a Lasting Impression with a Custom Wake Word

Whether meeting someone new, visiting somewhere we’ve never been, or using a new product or service, first impressions color our opinions—sometimes permanently. In the competitive product world, first impressions set the stage for whether or not a user will choose to continue to interact with your product and may form a lasting positive or negative association with your brand. Companies hoping to accomplish a first impression with customers that is positive and memorable, and one that communicates brand values are carefully considering how a custom voice assistant can help them deepen customer relationships and provide great first impressions.

In fact, the voice assistant is often the first interaction with a brand, and how that interaction starts may determine the quality of the customer relationship in the future. To get off on the right foot, increase brand affinity, and inspire loyalty. Leading brands consider a custom wake word as an important aspect of their sonic branding initiatives and as a critical element of their custom voice user interfaces.

That’s because a custom wake word is a vital element of any voice-first strategy and solidifies the personal connection from the user to the brand by creating brand loyalty and recognition. 

Companies lose out on these benefits when they partner with third-party voice assistants that wake up with “Hey Alexa” or “Hey Google.” 

But, choosing the right custom wake word isn’t as easy as simply using a brand name or product name. A lot of time and strategy goes into creating a custom voice assistant that will help deliver superior customer experiences with lasting impressions. Before diving head-first into crafting your voice assistant’s signature phrase, there are a few established best practices and wake word design tactics to consider.  If partnering with a custom voice AI platform provider, the partner should be well-versed in the creation of custom wake words and be able to help lead your team to determine the best one from your brand. 

If you haven’t already established a branded wake word, or you’re in the process of launching a voice assistant on your hardware device or service center, here are 4 essential steps that will help you create a custom wake word that reflects your brand:

  • Keep it simple
  • Incorporate branding
  • Collect the data
  • Create a strategy

Keep it simple

Many best practices and strategies go into creating a custom wake word for your brand, including:

  • Easy to pronounce
  • Pleasing sounds
  • Avoid rhymes or associations
  • Test on various types of speech
  • 3-4 syllables

Wake words should be easy to pronounce and shouldn’t easily rhyme or associate with other words, which could increase the incidences of false positives and negatives for the voice assistant. Companies will also want to gain a deeper understanding of their target audience to ensure their wake word works with the various accents and languages spoken by their users. Geography and user age are considerations for global brands and those whose audience is mostly children or older adults. 

Wake words should be easy to pronounce and shouldn’t easily rhyme or associate with other words.

Keep in mind, certain phonemes aren’t used in other languages and haven’t been developed yet in specific age groups. Regardless of geographical location, companies should factor in non-native speakers and imprecise speech into their wake word plan. 

Wake words should also be short and sweet, usually three to four syllables in length. Most companies incorporate their name into the wake word, for example, “Ok Hound” and “Hey Pandora.” However, if the company name is already four syllables, hard to pronounce, or too common, then it might be a good idea to consider a different wake phrase. Finding a balance between short enough to be easily pronounced and long enough so the user doesn’t trigger any false positives is essential.

There are many subtle factors, including creativity, and connotations to consider when creating a custom wake word. By following best practices or partnering with a voice AI platform that is well-versed in these elements, the wake word can become an extension of the brand while creating positive associations for customers and prospects. 

Incorporate branding

Sonic branding is an essential factor for brand recall and recognition. Attention to the brand’s sound has become as important as the look and feel of visual elements. By incorporating brand-specific jingles, tones, and sound cues into a product, companies remind users of the value the company brings to their lives. In the future, customers will start recognizing brands by the sound of their voice as much as by the sight of their logos. 

Wake words are key to sonic branding and are an excellent opportunity for brands to create better brand recall and positive associations through communicating company values and personality. Users will begin to form emotional attachments and bonds with the product the more it becomes someone they want to talk to, becoming loyal to a brand because of the sound. Using the name of the brand through a custom wake word further secures this emotional bond.

Wake words are key to sonic branding and an excellent opportunity for brands to create better brand recall and positive associations through communicating company values and personality. 

A wake word is a connection between the user and the product, and users will be more likely to stay with a product and even continue to purchase from the brand if they have established an emotional bond and strong association through the voice assistant. 

Collect the data

Once a custom wake phrase that is short, easy to pronounce, unique, and incorporates sonic branding has been chosen, it’s time to collect data to train the actual model. When selecting training data, companies should test on their target audience with a variety of voice samples, including various accents, languages, and vocal differences by gender and age, to ensure it works optimally for all potential users. 

When selecting training data, companies should test on their target audience with a variety of voice samples, including various accents, languages, and vocal differences by gender and age.

To avoid inherent biases, brands should balance male and female data and collect voice samples from a wide range of age groups, regional accents, and cultural demographics.

It’s also important to collect data from the environment where the device will reside. Will it be exposed to a lot of background noise, other conversations, road noise, or room echoes? Will the device be in a car, a home, or a hotel room? Each answer provides valuable insight into what environmental noises may interfere with the voice assistant. 

The environment and any sounds that may enter the audio pathway are critical data points in order to create an effective wake word. Introducing any potential background noises into the training data will help ensure they don’t affect the user’s experience.  

Once data on voice samples and background noises have been thoroughly tested and collected, the data should be used to improve upon the custom wake word with further iterations as necessary to achieve the best version for the user. 

Learn more about better wake word design here and in the video below by our expert Kayla Regulski, “Keys to Better Wake Word Design.”

Create a strategy

Before embarking on the development of a custom wake word, brands should consider mapping out a strategy that will allow them to meet the needs and desires of their customers. Begin with user research and develop a wake word that’s easy to say and remember and that evokes the same kind of emotion and association with your company as your other sonic branding elements.

In some cases, creating exceptional customer experiences with your voice interface may include providing access to more than one voice assistant. For instance, you can create a branded wake word like, “Hello Hyundai” and have that voice assistant help with in-car entertainment and product-specific functions, such as rolling down the windows or regulating the temperature. In addition to your own voice assistant, your customers may want to access their home voice assistant to complete certain tasks or access specific skills. In that case, a multi-phrase strategy is required. 

To achieve a multi-phrase strategy, developers will need to partner with a voice user interface platform that includes a flexible phrase spotter. Using this technology, brands can create multiple wake phrases in one model. Once implemented, users of the product can trigger their voice assistant of choice without interrupting the flow of the conversation.

To achieve a multi-phrase strategy, developers will need to partner with a voice user interface platform that includes a flexible phrase spotter. 

It’s also important to find the right voice AI platform provider to choose as your partner. The voice user interface platform you choose should be flexible enough to accommodate shifts in the schedule or any additional testing and iterations that may be required. It should also have a flexible phrase spotter and certification from a third-party platform to deliver on a multiple wake word strategy, if that’s what best meets your users’ needs. Look for voice AI experts who can guide you on the best practices of creating custom wake words. 

Custom wake words require many elements working together in order to provide a superior customer experience. Best practices include keeping it simple, incorporating branding, collecting data, and creating a strategy. When considering crafting a custom wake word, companies should evaluate the benefits of taking a thorough approach and whether the best option may be to partner with a voice AI platform that has expertise in the area. Either way, a custom wake word creates a memorable, personal experience for the user that leaves a lasting impression and creates brand loyalty. 

At SoundHound Inc., we have all the tools and expertise needed to create custom voice assistants and a consistent brand voice. Explore Houndify’s independent voice AI platform at Houndify.com and register for a free account. Want to learn more? Talk to us about how we can help bring your voice strategy to life.

Kristen is a content writer with a passion for storytelling and marketing. When she’s not writing, she’s hiking, reading, and spending time with her nieces and nephew.

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