Custom wake word
Oct 21, 2021
7 MIN READ

Why Your Brand’s Voice Assistant Should Have a Custom Wake Word

A wake word is your users’ first impression and introduction to your voice assistant. In just a few seconds, it reveals a lot about your voice AI’s capabilities—the ease of use and onboarding, the accuracy and speed of response, and whether it is prone to false negatives or positives. When developing a voice-first strategy, a wake word should be one of the first elements to consider.

When embarking on a voice-first strategy and deciding whether to build, buy, or partner for your voice assistant, you’ll want to evaluate whether your in-house team or prospective third-party voice AI platform has the capabilities and expertise to create a custom wake word. Why should your brand place so much value, though, on a 3-4 syllable custom wake word?

Not only does a custom wake word open the door for other possibilities, such as a multi-phrase strategy and iterations based on data and testing, but it also creates a great amount of brand association and recognition. A custom wake word designed properly will convey your brand’s tone and values, creating deeper connections with users and shaping their expectations going forward.

Brand association and recognition with a custom wake word

Your voice assistant’s personality and tone are top priorities when designing a VUI that aligns with your brand. The unique voice you create becomes an extension of your brand, products, and company values. When your users think of your voice assistant, how do you want them to feel? That consideration is at the root of unlocking the potential of your custom wake word.

Ananya Sharan, product manager for Pandora’s Voice Mode, powered by SoundHound’s Voice AI platform, explains how a custom wake word brings users back to the app. She states, “The things that go into making the user experience easy and effortless is to have a wake word in there, and to support utterances and intents that are especially suited to music and music listening, which is vague and often has open-ended requests made by people.”

“The things that go into making the user experience easy and effortless is to have a wake word in there, and to support utterances and intents that are especially suited to music and music listening, which is vague and often has open-ended requests made by people.”

Ananya Sharan
Product Manager
Pandora

When partnering with an established voice assistant—such as Alexa or Google—the wake word isn’t automatically customized for your brand. Instead, your users speak to your product by uttering the name of another company. Your brand essentially becomes subordinate to that of the voice assistants’ and the opportunity to create brand loyalty and a lasting impression and deeper connections is lost. A great example of brand subordination to another company’s voice assistant is seen in Buick’s Alexa Commercial, where a driver and passenger argue over whether the car is a Buick or an Alexa.

When manufacturers choose an independent voice AI platform solution with a custom wake word, users are repeatedly interacting with their brand by saying a wake phrase, such as “Hey Pandora,” “Ok Honda,” or “Hello Hyundai”—a few companies that have seen an increase in user engagement and brand loyalty with a custom wake word. 

A custom wake word can help deepen user engagement with your brand by creating lasting impressions. By saying the custom wake word multiple times during the day, your users won’t forget which car, TV, or app they’re using. Your brand will be the first connection customers make when they use your voice assistant—which becomes especially impactful when creating an omnichannel experience across multiple devices.

A custom wake word can help deepen user engagement with your brand by creating lasting impressions.

Custom wake words are also key to sonic branding, creating better brand recall and loyalty, and forming positive associations. Creating an emotional bond between the user and the voice assistant increases the likelihood that users will stay with the brand, recommend it to others, and continue purchasing from it in the future.

Use data and testing to improve your custom wake word

It’s also important to consider the technical aspects of a custom wake word to determine how it can best serve your users. Before you decide on a wake word, user research and testing are required to determine how users will respond to it and how well it works to wake up your product or app.

Based on user testing data, you’ll be able to improve upon your custom wake word by identifying if users have a hard time pronouncing it, if it’s too long, if its accuracy rate is low, if it has difficulty adjusting to noisy environments, or if it produces too many false positives or negatives. Through iteration and user testing, you’ll be able to come up with a custom wake word that achieves the best version for the user before you launch it into your product or app.

Before you decide on a wake word, user research and testing are required to determine how users will respond to it and how well it works to wake up your product or app.

User testing is especially important to ensure your custom wake word is appealing, easy to pronounce, and creates an impression with the user. You don’t want to spend time and money developing a custom wake word only to discover after the fact that users don’t respond well to it. Recently, Facebook received attention when it announced plans to abandon its wake word, “Hey, Facebook”—due to the confusion it caused among users. Although the cause of the confusion is unclear, the company may have benefited from more testing and better user education programs.

To create an experience that extends your brand and doesn’t detract from it, it’s important to invest time and effort into the development and design of your custom wake word. Partnering with a voice AI platform provider with expertise in custom wake word will help to shorten development time and ensure your wake word is designed based on best practices.

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

Develop a multi-phrase strategy

If you have one or more voice assistants that live side by side, you may want to consider implementing a multi-phrase strategy to reduce confusion and allow users to easily interact with the assistant that can most easily fulfill their needs. With a multi-phrase strategy, you won’t have to choose between having a custom voice assistant and using one from a big tech voice technology company, such as Alexa or Google—your users can have both.

To achieve a multi-phrase strategy, developers will need to partner with a voice user interface platform that includes a flexible phrase spotter and certification from a third-party platform to deliver on a multiple wake word strategy. Using this technology, brands can then create multiple wake phrases in one model. Once implemented, users can then 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 and certification from a third-party platform to deliver on a multiple wake word strategy.

Your brand’s voice assistant should have a custom wake word to create brand association, recognition, and differentiation. Without a custom wake word, your company name and identity will become subordinate to someone else’s brand. When embarking on your voice-first strategy, it’s vital to consider a custom wake word before your users make emotional connections with a voice-enabled competitor.

At SoundHound Inc., we have all the tools and expertise needed to create custom voice assistants and a consistent brand voice. Explore our 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.

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