Designing a voice user interface
Jan 04, 2022
7 MIN READ

The Mission to Find Your Brand’s Voice

For many brands, the greatest challenge or barrier to entry is finding their brand’s voice. Whether you’ve just decided to embark on a voice-first journey or want to re-evaluate your sonic branding, it’s essential that companies have a strong voice for their brand. A voice persona can make connections and impressions upon users, forming lasting bonds and brand loyalty.

While it may seem as simple as picking a gender and tone, finding a brand’s voice has many more elements, involves multiple departments, and requires plenty of user testing. It’s vital to spend the appropriate time and resources on getting it right, or brands may find themselves back at the drawing board when adoption rates aren’t what they should be. 

According to a study by Adobe, 91% of business decision-makers are significantly investing in voice technologies, and 94% of business leaders plan to increase their investment in voice. With more companies entering the voice-first era, it’s also important that brands differentiate themselves through their voice persona, creating a unique and memorable experience that embodies their brand and values. 

When finding your brand’s voice, consider these elements: 

  • Developing a voice persona
  • Incorporating personalization
  • Owning your voice assistant
  • Getting stakeholder buy-in

Finding your brand’s voice and persona

Do you want your voice assistant to be trustworthy, empathetic, helpful, cheeky, wise, formal, casual, or nurturing? What traits and tones of voice will best represent the personality and attributes of your brand? By examining your target audience’s needs and expectations through user testing and research, you should be able to better understand what persona will resonate the most with your customers. Then, examine your brand values and determine how you want your voice assistant to represent your company to the public. Think of your voice assistant as an entity that personifies all the positive values of your company. However, a voice persona isn’t limited to the tone of voice and personality. There are many other elements to consider. 

Here are some aspects of a voice persona to think about in your design stage:

  • Vocal characteristics
  • Tone
  • Brand values
  • Languages and cultures
  • Humor
  • Intelligence
  • Dialog and word choice

Humans have a tendency to anthropomorphize, or attribute human characteristics, to voice assistants. Brands can use this to their advantage by creating a voice persona with a personality and tone of voice that can form deep, meaningful connections with the user. Users are likely to associate your voice assistant with your brand, so being mindful of how it is perceived is key to success. A good place to start is by making a list of all the positive brand values that you want your voice assistant to represent and then incorporating them into the personality through tone of voice, gender, level of humor and intelligence, dialog, and word choice. 

Some voice assistants and users thrive on humor, which can add a fun and unique layer to your voice assistant. Others, such as healthcare, manufacturing, or education industries, will want a voice assistant that focuses on achieving tasks without the added dialog. Similarly, brands will need to know their audience to determine the level of intelligence to convey. Some users are impressed with the number of calculations possible and the professorial nature of the voice assistant. Others are uncomfortable with a voice assistant that seems too authoritative and scholarly, which makes proper user research and testing essential. 

“Brands must consider how their brand comes to life sonically as carefully as they’ve traditionally curated their brand’s visual identity.”

Erik Turkington
VP of Growth
RAIN
@eturkington

Brands will also want to examine the locations and cultures of their target audiences. Each culture has its own set of customs. A common wake word, such as “Hey,” might come off as much too informal or rude in other languages. Other factors to consider include the voice assistant’s general tone and how it reflects various cultural nuances within specific countries or regions. For some countries, an informal tone would be welcome, while for others, it could be seen as inappropriate. 

As such, global use cases must be considered—even if you initially launch your voice solution in English-speaking markets. Build a voice team that includes people who know the cultural expectations and language nuances of your various international audiences to ensure you get it right.

Personalize the voice experience

In the voice AI industry, the last thing you want is to become irrelevant to your users. With personalization, you can deliver on the promise of exceeding your users’ needs. It will differentiate your voice assistant from the competition while demonstrating your brand’s recognition of your customer’s desires.

“When you can clearly define your audience and create a picture, you’ll then know which voice to use.”

Keri Roberts
Brand Evangelist
Readspeaker.ai
@kerinroberts

Brands can convey a true understanding of their users and needs through personalization. For users that opt-in, voice assistants can personalize the experience through recommendations based on past search history and by remembering user preferences. It will also create a superior user experience by eliminating the need to repeat information. Personalization can position your voice user interface as a market leader by creating relationships with users that go beyond just the typical query and answer interaction to proactive suggestions and actions that seem more like interacting with another human.

Control your voice assistant and its data

To customize your voice assistant from the voice to the wake word to the user experience, it’s essential that you own the voice user interface. If you partner with a mainstream voice assistant provider, such as Amazon or Google, users will be interacting with those brands, and your brand will become subordinate to theirs. Intermediated voice experiences through these mainstream platforms don’t allow access to vital data. 

Only through a brand-owned voice assistant developed with an independent voice AI platform or a combination of voice AI tools will give you access to the information you need to understand how users are responding to your voice persona, what product or service modifications need to be made, and which future iterations are necessary to deliver the best user experience possible. 

“In an audio-first medium, there’s nothing more important than having a strong audible presence. From the experience you provide to the brand identifiers, you need a consistent sonic identity.”

Kane Simms
Co-founder & CEO
VUX World
@kanesimms

custom, branded wake word is another great way to foster brand loyalty and recognition. If your users are saying, “Hey Google” multiple times a day, they will associate the voice assistant with the mainstream provider instead of your brand, as seen in Buick’s New Alexa commercial. A branded wake word and a customized voice user interface, which you either build internally or buy from a platform provider, will give you the freedom to create a user experience most relevant and helpful to your customers.

Get all stakeholders on board

Voice assistants need help from more than just your engineering and linguistic teams. Product and brand marketing are integral in creating your voice assistant’s brand image. Once your full-fledged voice product is ready for take-off, the marketing team will be the one holding the company banner to stake your claim.

“Start small but start, and begin to discover what does and doesn’t work for your brand on this new platform.”

Peter Stewart
Author/Consultant/Speaker
The Smart Speakers Podcast
@TweeterStewart

Market research will help you understand the various demographics of your audience, their willingness to adopt voice AI technology, and anticipate their tolerance for certain features, such as proactive suggestions. This will help you understand your audience and further personalize the user experience.

Extending your brand values into voice requires numerous considerations. Before anything is launched into the consumer space, you need to consider how to convey your brand message through sounds, tone, and responses. It’s also crucial that you retain a direct connection to your customers while also making sure specific markets are not lost due to poor planning. Voice AI is also a project, and it may take time to achieve the voice that speaks best to your users. 

If you’d like to learn more about how to overcome the top challenges of voice AI adoption, you can read our in-depth guide.

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

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