3 Keys to Preparing Your Brand for Voice Search

May 21, 2019

As digital assistants Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa, and Google’s Assistant continue to ascend, good branding becomes even more vital.

You’ve probably seen the statistics: 50% of all searches will be done by voice by the year 2020 and 35% of browsing will be done without screens, if you believe the internet zeitgeist.

There are hundreds of articles about how you need to be spending thousands on voice search optimization for your website. Here’s a secret: it’s less complicated than you might think, and less complicated than some agencies would lead you to believe.

Optimizing your website for voice search—also known as Voice Engine Optimization, or VEO—simply involves writing naturally, and Google has been rewarding natural writing since its Hummingbird update in 2013.

There are technical considerations for VEO, but before we address those, there’s something much more important that very few people are talking about, and that surprises us.

Voice search is still a new technology, meaning data and analytics are almost impossible to find. At the moment, your best bet for getting Siri, Alexa, and all the rest to say your name is simple: optimize your brand. 

Let’s go over the three key considerations for preparing your brand for the coming age of voice search.

Wait, why is this such a big deal?

One of the biggest fear factors about voice search that’s sending marketers into a frenzy is the fact that home hubs like Google Home and Amazon’s Alexa-powered EchoDot only provide three results for searches. Considerably less than the billions a text search provides.

This also throws the old mainstays of branded search (searching for specific brand names or products) versus non-branded search (searching for generic products or services) into flux.

Text-based searches get more results, so a non-branded search for ‘buy health supplements’ gives you millions of results. You are free to research your options.

But with the paltry three results of voice search, you’re giving more power to the search tool. Likely a desired outcome for Amazon, Apple and Google.

As such, the chances of people doing research using voice search is slim. What they’ll likely be using it for is to take action: to find their nearest store, order something, get a phone number, or something like that.

But they’ll have done the research to find out whose phone number they want before they turn to voice search to take an action.

How can you make sure they’ll be searching for your health supplements, and not someone else’s? You need people to ask for you by name.

#1: The Devil You Know

Budweiser can teach us all something here. Budweiser doesn’t care about whether you think it makes the tastiest beer.

Budweiser only cares that, when you’re standing at a crowded bar with a group of your friends or chatting someone up, that you remember their name when the bartender asks what you want in your high-pressure moment of need.

Simplicity, helpful content, and minimalistic branding are all popular, but standing out has never mattered more. Be unique, be brave, and get under people’s noses. Stay top of mind. Get your name on people’s lips. Be the reliable name they can quickly recall, like Budweiser.

You might not be able to spend $1.5 billion on advertising in a single year, like Budweiser’s parent company Anheuser-Busch InBev does, but throwing money at the problem isn’t the only way to go.

You can do anything that Budweiser does: you just won’t be able to reach as many people. And often for B2B, you don’t need to reach that many people. You just have to reach the right audience.

Get involved in the community on social media. Create discussion, offer unique opinions, and try to be inspirational, educational, and emotive. Share data sheets, infographics, and white papers. Make sure you’re on every platform that your target customers use. Take the time to build out your pages with consistent branding across them so that they remember not just your name, but what your brand does and its values.

And consistency is the key. People need to hear something more than once before they commit it to memory, so you need to put your brand values in front of them frequently and without any confusing variation.

After all, brands who are consistent and repetitive with their branding generate 23% more revenue on average.

Do it well enough, and often enough, and people–and perhaps even frogs–will be saying your name.

#2: That’s Not My Name

It’s never been more important to be memorable. This is especially true for small-to-medium businesses, where memorable naming can be the difference between thriving or getting bogged down in the masses of competition.

But with voice search, it matters even more that people remember you accurately.

You might think everyone knows how to pronounce the name of your business, but there’s always someone who doesn’t.

Say I’m out on the town and feel like buying a Swiss watch in this alternate universe where I have the money to do that.

I’ve heard about Hublot; I liked their branding; I’ve read good reviews. They have met my moment of need. Now I just need to ask Siri for the nearest Hublot store and…

Nothing? That’s weird. I guess I’ll give up.

Did you know the giant international watchmaker Hublot isn’t pronounced ‘hub-lot’? It’s actually ‘oo-blow’.

If I’m one of the people that didn’t know that at the time I wanted to buy a watch from them, I’m not going to get a watch and Hublot isn’t going to get a sale. I’ll just have a very confused Siri and a frustrating memory.

Give due consideration to legibility and how people hear you, and make it part of your brand strategy. This isn’t just an issue for voice search: for SMBs, word of mouth is vital. You need to make sure people can direct their friends to your business.

Hyundai’s fantastic Super Bowl ad from 2010 means I’ll never forget how to pronounce their name if I’m looking for a car.

If your name is similarly easy to mispronounce, spell it out for people. Be playful with it. You don’t need a Super Bowl ad when you can just pin a fun ‘how to pronounce it’ video to the top of your Facebook page.

Bonus tip: Gwyneth Paltrow’s bizarre mega-brand goop is a fantastic example of a simple name that does memorable things, for better or worse. The name came about when someone told Paltrow that all successful companies have two ‘o’s in their name.

#3: Memorable for all the Right Reasons

So we’ve gotten people to remember us and use our name when they’re searching via their voice assistant. We’ve also gotten them to pronounce our names and products correctly.

But a name alone is nothing at all. People need context. They need to know who you are and what you do.

People should think of your industry when they think of your brand, and they should think of your brand when they think of your industry.

Here’s two tried-and-tested approaches to making this happen.

First, you can just make your brand name as obvious as humanly possible. A simple, blunt, effective solution.

For example: you might not have ever heard of them before, but you already know what UK-based company We Buy Any Car does. Not only do you know they’ll buy your car, but you know they’re not fussy about what kind of car you have either.

You don’t have to be so blunt with your own branding, but descriptive naming has proven to be effective.

On the other end of the spectrum to hammer-blunt branding lies disruption—creative naming and creative branding for your products or your company.

Industries tend to have their own unspoken rules of branding: the ‘metagame’ of marketing, a hivemind effect compounded by ‘best practice’ articles touting a single road to success. Brands chase that success by copying others in their niche, leading to homogenized brand identities among competitors. This is currently most visible in lifestyle brands on Instagram, as InVision points out.

But back in the 80s, Apple exposed it in the personal computer market. Apple saw the immense value in avoiding the standard dull grey plastics and the boring names and designs of other PC manufacturers.

In fact, Apple didn’t want people to think they were part of the PC market at all.

When Apple came out with their first ugly ‘portable’ computer in ‘89, they stressed that people shouldn’t refer to it as a ‘laptop’. It flopped, largely because it wasn’t a very good product.

Now Apple is an international tech juggernaut, they still don’t make PCs or laptops. But they do make iMacs, and they do make Macbooks. You can’t even find the word laptop on the MacBook Pro product page.

They do this because everyone else calls them laptops, and they don’t want to be like everyone else. Apple made the industry fit them, instead of getting in the dull grey line with Microsoft, HP, Dell, and everyone else.

If you ask your Google Home about laptops, you’re going to get a very broad and largely unhelpful response. But if you ask about MacBooks?

Well, you already know what you’re going to get.

Apple changed the perception of an entire industry and made their own road, but as with Budweiser, you don’t have to change everyone’s perception. You just need to change the perception of your core target customers, and the key—once again—is consistency.

Conjure up your new terms and designs and use them frequently, in every space your target audience operates in. Associate these terms with what you want to be known for: high-quality, efficiency, affordability, and so on.

All it takes is enough exposure to start understanding the different conventions that your brand uses, and then you’ll stand out effortlessly. Until others come to copy your genius.  

The Three Keys

Let’s recap! Here are the three keys to good branding with voice search in mind:

  1. Be memorable by being consistent. Tell people your name again and again.
  2. Make sure they remember your name accurately.
  3. Work on tying together your brand and your industry, whether that’s through being blunt or by carving your own path and standing out.

Branding is a broad topic, and the actions you can take to stand out in your field are almost limitless. Especially interesting is how you don’t have to spend a ton of money to get strong results.

What you do need is experience and expertise, and the ‘X-factor’ of the creative that you put out into the world. And you might need it sooner than you think, if recent voice assistant developments from Google are as revolutionary as they seem.

If you need help, we have experience, expertise and creativity in spades. BSTRO has 15 years of practice in making brands stand out and be heard—and remembered—and we’d love to put that experience to work for your brand. Get in touch for a consultation with BSTRO today.

By Ryan McGuire – Creative Strategist