Say My Name

Google’s Genius of Vocal Branding


It starts with two words. It seems that, increasingly, just about everything these days starts with these two words: “OK Google”. You say it and it responds. It searches, finds, delivers and recommends. It’s always friendly and always helpful.

The hot phrase for Google Now should be given more credit, and more attention from marketers everywhere. More than a billion Android activations, hundreds of millions of Google Chrome users and the possible start of something big with Android Wear and Google Glass mean that “OK Google” is becoming the DOS prompt of the ubiquitous computing world. With the deep integration of voice control into our homes and our cars, so many requests to start by saying Google. Every other brand will be intercepted — television shows, restaurants, airlines, white goods manufacturers will all play second fiddle to Google.

The word “Google” is already programmed into the fingers of most users in developed markets — it’s muscle memory. Even users intending to search with Bing or Yahoo might find themselves typing “Google” instinctively, and now Google is reaching the same level of stickiness with its voice interface. The company’s Audio History feature, for example, learns an individual user’s voice and search patterns to improve the service. It gets better as it listens and learns. Google is building a relationship.

Can any other company do what Google is doing? Microsoft has Windows, Xbox and Cortana, Apple has Siri and Sony has PlayStation. There’s Facebook, Amazon, Renren, Alibaba, Twitter and Nuance, broadcasters and wireless operators with huge reach and there are consumer electronics manufacturers with devices installed across the world. Opportunities exist to create loyal two-way relationships using brand and voice.

Voice-activated branding is so new that the term doesn’t seem to exist yet. The science of branding — which examines emotional connections to elements such as colours, design, touch, sounds and smell — can begin to consider voice interactions as a new way to build. A voice interface makes customers feel special, and weaving a brand name into the feel-good moment leaves a great impression and builds a solid reputation.

Google’s achievements with its voice interaction are an amazing marketing accomplishment as well as an impressive technical feat. Brand builders in all industries should take notice. Imagine customers saying “OK Tesco”, for example. Brand names no longer just have to be on the tip of our tongues, they can be out in the open. Google has the first word.