In Clear Focus: Audio Branding and the Spoken Word

In Clear Focus this week: audio branding and the rising popularity of spoken word audio entertainment. Twenty-two percent of the US population now listens to an average of seven different podcasts each week, but what lies behind the growing numbers of podcasts and listeners? Voice artist Jodi Krangle believes the medium itself may hold the answer. In this episode, we hear why Jodi considers audio branding the hidden gem of marketing, and how she launched her own podcast.  

You can listen and subscribe to Jodi’s new podcast about audio branding at: http://audiobranding.buzzsprout.com/

In Clear Focus: Audio Branding and the Spoken Word

In Clear Focus this week: audio branding and the rising popularity of spoken word audio entertainment. Twenty-two percent of the US population now listens to an average of seven different podcasts each week, but what lies behind the growing numbers of podcasts and listeners? Voice artist Jodi Krangle believes the medium itself may hold the answer.

Episode Transcript

Adrian Tennant:     You’re listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS, a unique perspective on the business of advertising. Produced weekly by Bigeye. Hello, I’m your host, Adrian Tennant, VP of insights at Bigeye. An audience-focused, creative-driven, full-service advertising agency, Bigeye is based in Orlando, Florida, but serves clients across the United States and beyond. Thank you for choosing to spend time with us today. In today’s show, we’re going to talk about an aspect of marketing that’s getting a lot more attention as a consequence of the fragmented media environment and use of digital devices for entertainment. While all marketers are likely familiar with visual branding – the use of images, colors, logos, and typefaces – it’s also possible to create a palette of sounds and music that align perfectly with a brand’s attributes. Now, while jingles immediately come to mind, audio branding – also referred to as sonic branding – can be more than a catchy tune heard on a TV or radio ad. We’re talking about the use of auditory elements to reinforce a brand identity, just as you might use certain colors or words. These auditory elements can extend beyond advertisements and be incorporated within digital apps or interfaces – think of sounds associated with a smart speaker, when a computer starts up, or for different controls in a car. And there’s another aspect of audio branding that is maybe less obvious than music, but no less important. A couple of weeks ago, National Public Radio released their Spoken Word Audio Report. This study, conducted by Edison Research, found that the share of time spent listening to spoken word audio in the US has increased 20 percent since 2014 – while time spent with music across the same time period decreased 5 percent. This shift is led by a dramatic increase in spoken word audio consumption on mobile devices, especially among those aged between 13 and 34. About half of the US population – 51 percent – have listened to a podcast at some point, but 22 percent of the population listen weekly for an average of six hours, 37 minutes – to about seven different shows each week. So it’s in this context that we’re joined today by a guest who has a unique perspective on the business of audio branding for advertising and the growth of spoken word audio. Jodi Krangle has been a voice actor since 2007 and has worked with clients from major brands all over the world in industries including healthcare, charities and nonprofits, and the hospitality and travel market. But it was quite a journey to get there – from selling computers at a time when not many women were doing that, to teaching herself about the Internet and the world it opened up. In 1995, Jodi created an award-winning songwriting resource website called The Muse’s Muse, and began a business of her own, doing SEO and Internet marketing. When Jodi switched to voice-overs, she was well prepared for the new world of online promotions and getting her own work. Jodi is also a singer: in 2015, she put out her own album of jazz, blues and traditional tunes. And over the years, and doing what she does, she’s learned a lot about sound and how it influences people. Fittingly, Jodi is about to launch a new podcast called, “Audio Branding: The Hidden Gem of Marketing.” Now, since this is a podcast, we’re going to take advantage of the medium and listen first to some of Jodi’s work. 

[Audio: Jodi’s commercial demo]

Adrian Tennant:     I love that! Welcome to IN CLEAR FOCUS, Jodi.

Jodi Krangle:       Thanks!

Adrian Tennant:     Quite a bit of variety in that clip reel.

Jodi Krangle:       Thank you.

Adrian Tennant:     What percentage of your work is coming from traditional TV gigs, like voiceover narration for spots and shows versus newer formats such as streaming audio ads?

Jodi Krangle:       You know, it’s, you’d think that it would be skewing towards online a lot more. AndI’m seeing the trend going that way, but I’m still sort of seeing television and I’m still seeing a lot of corporate narration but for internal presentations or for their own website or for their own YouTube channel. So yeah, I guess that’s online. So yeah. It’s, I’d say it’s it’s probably 50/50 right now, but I can see it going really skewed in the other direction. Streaming media particularly, you know, like Pandora and iHeartRadio and that kind of stuff.

Adrian Tennant:     Now you say on your website that, and I’m quoting, “The voice you use for your commercial campaign can either make you sound world-class or have your listeners fleeing,” end quote.

Jodi Krangle:       Uh-Huh.

Adrian Tennant:     Explain why that is. Why is the voice so important?

Jodi Krangle:       Well, I think it has a lot to do with audio branding. So it depends on what your brand is and what kind of voice would fit with that. If your message is different than the voice sounds, people are going to be put off by that and they’re not going to maybe realize why. I don’t necessarily think this is a conscious thing with a lot of people. But if you hear something that is so different from the branding you’re expecting in the voice or the music or even the sounds within a certain advertisement, for some reason it’s going to rub you the wrong way. And you may not even understand why, but you won’t want to listen to it again.

Adrian Tennant:    So you’re saying it’s kind of working at a subconscious level?

Jodi Krangle:       I do think that, yeah.

Adrian Tennant:    So in a previous life I was in network TV production and I regularly had to direct voice artists at sound facilities back in the UK, in London’s Soho district. Now, in those days, voice artists, they had to be at the studio in person. So everyone working on a TV spot really worked in close proximity to each other, collaborating on edits to the script, revising timings based on picture edits, that kind of thing. Jodi, tell us, how does the process typically work today?

Jodi Krangle:       Well I know that in the UK there are people who hire off of the demo a lot more often than they do in North America. So these days, a lot of what I end up doing is auditioning. So once you’re chosen for a project, you know, it really depends. It depends on if you were dealing with the end client or if you are one person in a chain from an ad agency. It really all depends. But generally there’s a lot of emails exchanged. There’s a script passed along. Pricing is figured out, whether that’s through my agent or through me. And then the script is sent my way. I have a look. If there’s anything that I have questions on, I’ll send those questions through. We’ll decide on a day and time. And typically I work out of my own five-by-four booth here and I have things like ISDN and SourceConnect and ipDTL so that I can remotely connect with anyone around the world.

Adrian Tennant:     Now, do you typically speak to a picture edit or do you prefer to record without seeing the contents, so an editor then marries your sound to the picture later? Do you have a preference for the process?

Jodi Krangle:       I really like working what’s called, “wild.” So I guess that’s without having the picture in front of me in the moment, I can watch that video previously to getting in the booth and recording. But seeing it at the same time, hmmm, it’s a little distracting. And in the case of some of my jobs, it can actually make it impossible for me to speak. And I say that because I’ve had to do some really moving commercials PSAs, calls to action for charities and that kind of stuff that are just heartbreaking. And if I watched that video both like while I was doing the job, I’d never be able to complete a sentence. There’s just no way.

Adrian Tennant:     Well, that’s interesting. You know, you work out of a home-based studio these days, which I know is where you’re joining us from today. What are some of the things that you enjoy most about working from home, if I can put it that way?

Jodi Krangle:       Well, I really like the idea of not having to drive anywhere and spend half my day in the car, getting from one place to another.

Adrian Tennant:     Right!

Jodi Krangle:       It just means that I’m more efficient with my time. It means that I can book a session, you know, one after the other instead of having to drive to some other place and leave a buffer of say, two hours. I can go from, you know, with a buffer of a half an hour, I can do more jobs on a day. And that doesn’t always happen. I’m not always going to have five jobs in the same day, but it certainly does make for more efficient working.

Adrian Tennant:     Right. what are some of the challenges about a home-based studio as opposed to say, working in a dedicated facility?

Jodi Krangle:       I think it depends on what type of a worker you are. If you are able to buckle down and get your, your work done in your own space without needing prompting, then I think it can be less of a challenge. If you’re someone who needs someone looking over your shoulder, waiting for you to complete something to get it done, then you may not like the whole home environment thing. I’m lucky enough that I’ve been either telecommuting or self-employed since probably 1999. So I’m a little used to this now,

Adrian Tennant:     Right. I mean, some of us like the interaction with work colleagues in a physical environment and clearly…

Jodi Krangle:       Yeah. And it can get lonely. Yeah. It can definitely get lonely. I’m sitting here talking in a padded room. I mean like that’s what I do all day long, so…

Adrian Tennant:     A little bit of cabin fever there, perhaps?

Jodi Krangle:       Yeah.

Adrian Tennant:     Okay. Well, look, I want to play some more examples of your work and then I want to interrogate you about some of these jobs.

Jodi Krangle:       Okay, sure.

[Audio: Jodi’s TV narration demo]

Adrian Tennant:     Again, a lot of variety in those clips. Jodi, tell us, how do you modulate your performance to match all those different types of content?

Jodi Krangle:       I think you kind of need to put your head into the space of where that is happening and what the pictures are going to be. I think you really have to have a good imagination. That’s really key here. Acting is learned. You know, like some people have an innate talent for it and all the power to them. I think a lot of people need to learn it. It’s like a muscle. You need to exercise and a lot of that muscle is exercised by your imagination just by being able to put yourself in a situation that would warrant using that voice. And I think that music helps a lot with that too. As a musician myself, I know that a particular piece of music can get me into the tone that I need to use for a particular spot really quickly. So that has a lot to do with it.

Adrian Tennant:     Jodi, I know that you are also an accomplished singer. You’ve put out your own album and how does that sort of musical background play into your role now as a voice actor?

Jodi Krangle:       It really helps with the musicality of a script and the beats of a script, I guess. So every script that I look at really has notes and beats. You know, you don’t want to be too samey throughout your speaking, but at the same time you don’t want to be too sing-songy, you still want to sound like a real person. So it can, it can be a challenge and it does take coaching. But the musicality of it really helps a lot. I can recognize the downturns and the upturns and where a certain thing should be more staccato or where it should flow. And a lot of those are musical terms and emotions, I guess. So it helps a lot. Yeah.

Adrian Tennant:     I don’t think I’ve ever heard anybody describe a script, almost like reading a music score. That’s really fascinating. So I hate to ask this one, but you know, I’m going to, so can you, can you recall a situation, Jodi, when things didn’t quite go to plan?

Jodi Krangle:       Yeah, I totally can. In the very beginning of my career, I was doing a PSA for a company that was asking for donations for a particular program that they had and they were asking me to work to video and it was one of my first jobs and I had never worked to video before and wow, that was definitely a learning experience. And it took a lot longer for everyone concerned than it should have. I mean, nowadays a session, if it goes longer than 20 minutes, it’s usually, you know, that’s 20 minutes. It’s usually 20 minutes to an hour. It depends on how many takes the client wants. Then of course, you give the client what they want, but generally it lasts around 20 minutes for a commercial script. And this probably lasted almost four hours.

Adrian Tennant:     Whoa!

Jodi Krangle:       It was, it was really painful. And I mean for everyone concerned, you know – that’s kind of the first traumatic experience that I had working to video.

Adrian Tennant:     Okay. Now was that working remotely or is that working in a facility in those days?

Jodi Krangle:       That was actually in a studio. Yeah. I was face-to-face with these people and not giving them what they wanted. And that was, that was hard.

Adrian Tennant:     And I do remember the feeling of being on a time crunch and literally time is money and all of those people are there by the hour and you’re paying for them and there’s probably another client waiting to come in right behind you… Oh yes. I can relate!

Jodi Krangle:       It’s hard, yeah. I mean I’ve had experience since, because I’ve done some in-show TV narration and that’s kind of a similar deal, but it’s a lighter atmosphere, I guess, maybe? This was, this was pretty, pretty deep dark. So yeah, it was hard. It was really hard. I mean this business is a complete learning experience from start to finish. Like if there’s just, there’s always something new.

Adrian Tennant:     Well that’s why we love being in the creative industries, right? Because there is always something new,

Jodi Krangle:       Exactly, yes!

Adrian Tennant:     Now I don’t want to go all meta here, but for our more technically-minded listeners can you tell us what equipment you have in your studio?

Jodi Krangle:       My equipment’s pretty simple. I have a five-by-four sound-treated booth and I say sound-treated, not soundproof because soundproof would cost a lot more money and I would need like six-foot concrete all around me to really be soundproof. But it does a great job. It, it produces a nice dead sound so that the person on the other end gets audio that’s clean and they can add whatever color they want to put to it. That’s kind of the point. And I’m using a Sennheiser 416 shotgun mic, which is fantastic for the voice industry because it lets the voice pop a little bit. It’s typically used in film on booms, but many years ago, I guess the promo people in voiceover decided it was a great alternative and started using it and the rest is history. And yeah, it’s just a great mic and it’s a workhorse too. I mean, I could drop this and it would be totally fine. Not that I want to, but yeah!

Adrian Tennant:     I think if listeners have ever seen a film shoot and somebody is holding something oblong, that looks a little bit like a blimp – typically, that mic is inside of that blimp, correct?

Jodi Krangle:       Uh-Huh. Yeah. And other than that, I just have an audio interface. It’s a Motu Microbook. And it’s a pretty simple little interface. I’m actually using PC here, so no Mac stuff.

Adrian Tennant:     No Mac stuff? Oh my gosh. And you’re in the creative industries with no Mac? Tsk tsk!

Jodi Krangle:       You know what? I, like I said, I sold computers when the 386SX was new. And that’s quite a number of years ago. And I remember DOS, so I am so used to PCs that I just can’t consider using anything else.

Adrian Tennant:     I started this show introduction with some statistics from the new NPR/Edison Research study. Talking really about the growth in podcasting, which is really about spoken word. How do you, how do you feel about that growth?

Jodi Krangle:       I think it’s fantastic. Podcasting is not quite like radio because it’s a little more personal. It’s what I love about it and it’s a very creative medium where you can pretty much say anything you want to say. And you know, the only censorship you’re likely to get is people tuning out if they don’t like it. Right? You can’t make something for everyone, but it is a very personal type of way to reach an audience. Even more personal than radio and radio unfortunately, isn’t all that personal anymore. So I think people are just trying to fill that void.

Adrian Tennant:     Yeah. I noticed one of the stats suggested that those people who are listening to podcasts on a regular basis, weekly, I think I subscribed to six podcasts, but actually listen, listen to seven different shows each week. And did that, that number seems sort of in line with your own experience as a podcast listener?

Jodi Krangle:       Yeah, actually it seems pretty similar. I listen to a lot of podcasts that are voice-over-specific and I’m maybe atypical in the fact that I listen on my desktop computer instead of on my phone. Because I don’t tend to be traveling in my car long distances all that often. So I listen at home on my computer and doesn’t mean I don’t listen, but I’m not listening in the way that most listeners seem to be these days.

Adrian Tennant:     Right. And certainly one of the through-lines for that report was that it is actually the obviously use of mobile devices, which seems to be really powering this, this renewed interest in the spoken word for sure.

Jodi Krangle:       Yeah.

Adrian Tennant:     So I also, I also mentioned at the top of the show that you’re about to launch a new podcast of your own called, “Audio Branding: The Hidden Gem of Marketing.”

Jodi Krangle:       I am. Yeah.

Adrian Tennant:     What motivated you to do that?

Jodi Krangle:       I wanted to talk about how audio influences us because that’s what I do every day. It just, it makes more sense to talk about what I know. So yeah, I just thought it was an interesting topic and I’ve come across quite a lot of very interesting examples of this in my own research and it’s really interesting and it’s amazing how much money big companies are spending on this kind of thing too. You’d be really surprised.

Adrian Tennant:     So, you know, the name of our show is IN CLEAR FOCUS. What does having a clear focus mean to you?

Jodi Krangle:       That is a very good question. I almost think of it as having a goal in mind, knowing where you want to be in a certain amount of time and following that path. Not to say that that past can’t change. But knowing what you want I like to equate this to just life in general, knowing what you want in life because if you don’t have some kind of clear focus on what that is, you don’t know what you’re working towards.

Adrian Tennant:     Well said. Jodi, if listeners would like to know more about you and your work, where can they find you?

Jodi Krangle:       They can find me on my website that’s at voiceoversandvocals.com or just JodiKrangle.com will get you there too and if they’re interested in the music then JodiKrangleMusic.com is where the CD is. Well, CD… Album, no one listens to CDs anymore.

Adrian Tennant:     Jodi, thank you so much for taking the time to join us today. I know you are literally a very busy lady and time is money to you, so we appreciate your sharing your insights into the industry. We really appreciate it. Thank you.

Jodi Krangle:       Thanks so much for inviting me. I appreciate it.


Adrian Tennant:     Thank you. So, three things that stood out to me from the conversation with Jodi: it was really interesting to hear Jodi express the idea that, for her, podcasts offer a more personal form of media. I also found it interesting that Jodi was able to talk about the emotional power of the human voice as a kind of counterpoint for very emotionally-engaging visuals, perhaps even distressing visuals. And uniquely, Jodi’s approach to a spoken word script as a music score and being able to perform and adjust her expression accordingly. Thank you to our guest, voice artist Jodi Krangle. You’ve been listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS, a unique perspective on the business of advertising, produced by Bigeye. If you have questions or comments about the content of today’s show, or have ideas for topics that you’d like us to cover, please email us at info@bigeyeagency.com. Don’t forget to check out Jodi’s podcast – and you’ll find a link to that in the transcript of today’s show on our website at Bigeyeagency.com under “Insights.” To make sure you never miss an episode, subscribe to IN CLEAR FOCUS on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, SoundCloud, TuneIn, Stitcher, and other top podcast players. And if you like what you hear, please give us a rating. For IN CLEAR FOCUS, I’ve been your host, Adrian Tennant. Thank you for listening. And until next week, goodbye.

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How to Build Trust Through Community Bank Marketing

Leverage the unique opportunities of a small bank to drive effective community bank marketing strategies that will turn your small branch into big business.

Many agencies and marketers like to think that finance is a big mystery—an animal all its own with completely different rules. In some ways it is, but in most ways, it isn’t. Effective branding gains attention and keeps it; just like it does in every other industry. Community bank marketing is very similar to small business marketing, it just calls for a more sophisticated twist.
Here are 3 key concepts for building trust in small banks:

1. Get personal, to an extent

Small banks have the unique opportunity to build strong interpersonal relationships. To not just become a brand or company name, but to become Sammy, the helpful man at the front desk, who can help you get what you need. He knows your name and asks about your son’s baseball games.

Let empathy drive your services so that your consumers feel valued. Show them directly how your customer relations can brighten their day while your services exceed every expectation. Leveraging expertise and friendly service, you can turn your brand into a mentor for each and every customer.

Find an agency that understands the delicate differentiators’ in voice and branding to craft the perfect balance for your community. Drive real results with community bank marketing that cares just the right amount.

2. Leverage digital effectively

Digital is invaluable to community bank marketing because it’s a great way to establish one-on-one interaction and build strong relationships. Digital marketing for banks works a lot like digital marketing for anyone else but should be held to a higher standard. For example, a clothing company or salon should have Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram accounts; while banks should be on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook, but never Instagram. It’s just too casual.

The right digital strategy in banking is all about finding your line of sophistication and building that ever-important trust. Use digital in conjunction with strong branding to build effective consumer relationships. Post community views and common local phrases to evoke nostalgia and build understanding. Using effective bank marketing strategies, your brand can become a community pillar.

Represent your brand as a member of the community and follow through. Post photos and short videos of the front office team to build a connection before a customer even sets foot through your doors. Show the management team doing community service and attending local events, embody your brand through human interaction. Demonstrate a neighborly connection to develop a real personality.

3. Embrace ever-evolving technology

Maneuverability is a great advantage that small banks have over large institutions. Every day enhanced technology is being developed in all aspects of every industry—including banking. Due to the security necessary throughout the banking process, it can take years to implement any one new process across an entire large bank. For a community bank, that same process can take just a few months.

Incorporate cutting edge technologies into your services to provide convenience as well as modernity for your customers. Leverage your agility and technological know-how in your brand’s bank marketing ideas. This will draw in young consumers looking for a better way to the bank as well as the older markets that simply enjoy the advantages offered by new technologies.

More than a novelty, technology can cut your company’s operational costs while allowing for more personal service. Incorporating a one-on-one, on-demand experience for consumers to interact with your brand without having to walk in. Utilize effective customer service in combination with technology to add value to your services. Remember, it’s nice to like your bankers but your bottom-line is built on trust, experience, and results.

The takeaway

Small banks have a lot more going for them than meets the eye. Make sure your brand’s target audience understands all that your company brings to the table through genuine connection built the right way, digital that effectively reaches consumers and furthers that connection, and unique offerings that only smaller institutions can accomplish.

It can be a lot to manage yourself. Don’t hesitate to reach out to an advertising agency that understands the demands, opportunities, and limitations that your company faces. When you’re ready to market your bank on the next level, get in touch with our community bank marketing professionals.

Why New Alexa Programming Tricks Are a Treat For Users

In a very short period of time, Amazon’s Alexa and Google Assistant have gone from tech novelty to an honorary member of the family for millions of people. With Alexa programming growing ever more refined and powerful, it seems as if there’s no end to what smart speakers can do around the house.

And now thanks to some recent upgrades, you can add “trick or treating management” and “voting assistance” to the list.

Why Alexa’s new tricks are a real treat
Alexa’s ability to respond to what’s happening in the world around us is one of its most intriguing qualities. A great recent example is Alexa’s capability for making event-driven announcements via smart cameras and doorbells. These announcements can be customized to fit almost any event, including holidays, birthdays, and other special occasions.

During Halloween, if a smart doorbell sees kids approaching, Alexa can be programmed to turn on house lights and music and either welcome trick or treaters to a home — or inform them that the candy supply has been depleted and the home is closed until next year.

Amazon released two new APIs (Doorbell Event Source and Motion Sensor) that allow developers to quickly and easily add this functionality. Once added, Alexa users can enable the announcement feature in Alexa’s Smart Home device settings section. This new integrated feature comes off the heels of Amazon’s recent purchase of Ring, the smart doorbell company.

Some Alexa devices (including the Echo Spot and Show, also allow for the enabling of two-way communication via smart camera between residents and those knocking on their doors.

How Alexa is creating more informed voters
Halloween isn’t the only example of Amazon working to make Alexa’s skills more timely and relevant. Prior to Election Day in the United States on Nov. 6, Amazon equipped Alexa with a much wider base of election data. This information included polling station locations, real-time election results, and detailed information about various local ballot measures — exactly the kind of information that voters need, but often have a hard time finding in one central location.

All of the election information delivered by Alexa is strenuously non-partisan; Amazon worked with three partners to help furnish the necessary data: RealClearPolitics for polling, the Associated Press for election results and Ballotpedia for ballot measure language and explanations. Amazon said it chose these sources because they were the most “credible and neutral” that the company could find.

Amazon assembled its own “war room” of data scientists, engineers, and other personnel to ensure the election information provided by Alexa was as accurate as possible. Given the recent electoral disinformation controversies involving Facebook and other social platforms, it’s not surprising that Amazon chose to prioritize neutrality and accuracy.

For Alexa users, the ability to access high-quality election data that’s updated in real time is a significant plus — and one more example of how Alexa programming is improving the lives of users in small but tangible ways.

Looking for a skilled Alexa programming partner?
As a digital marketing agency, we help clients maximize the reach and power of Alexa by creating skills that help deliver valuable products, services, and information to their consumers. If your business could benefit from a new, more sophisticated approach to Alexa programming, please don’t hesitate to contact us today.

Meet Spot: Amazon’s Solution to Enhancing Voice & Video Technologies

If software is really “eating the world,” no company is more likely to come down with a vicious case of indigestion than Amazon. In just a couple of decades, the company has redefined the experience of shopping, transformed office life via Amazon Web Services and introduced us to Alexa — their friendly, helpful voice assistant. 

A casual observer might say the creation of Alexa — as popular as she is — is somewhat inconsequential for a company that helped reinvent shopping and working. 

And that casual observer would be utterly wrong.

Why Alexa and voice technology offer extraordinary possibilities for brands 

Amazon is working to make voice technology an indispensable part of our daily lives by following a two-pronged strategy: Improving Alexa’s underlying software to make her more powerful and life-like, with also rolling out a plethora of new Alexa-equipped hardware devices, each designed to fulfill a specific role.

One example: The Amazon Spot — a compact, Alexa-equipped device with added features made possible through the touchscreen. While it might first appear to be a simple, whimsical looking home device, the Spot has much more going on under the surface — and it starts with a concept called machine vision.

The Echo Spot uses artificial intelligence-equipped video and voice processing to allow Alexa to better understand the surrounding environment. By merging voice with visuals, Alexa can use her facial recognition capabilities to perform tasks such as adjusting room temperatures, alerting you when friends or packages arrive at the door or guide you through custom recipes.

At its recent hardware rollout in September, Amazon debuted more than a dozen new products and product upgrades, most of which came equipped with Alexa. The tech giant seems intent about deploying Alexa’s capabilities in every possible device — not only in our homes but also in our vehicles as well.

Amazon’s push to make Alexa omnipresent in our daily lives is no big strategic secret. In a recent company earnings call, Amazon hinted that Alexa would be a key growth driver in the years ahead, not merely in e-commerce, but in digital streaming services and other channels.

A new paradigm

The debut of the iPhone seems like a seminal event in retrospect, but at the time it left some observers decidedly underwhelmed — a TechCrunch review even predicted the iPhone would “bomb” because consumers would hate the now-revolutionary touchscreen design.

We can’t judge these early misapprehensions too harshly, however — it’s often difficult to grasp paradigm-shifting technology in its early stages. 

Voice technology is developing along the same curve. At first, these devices seemed to be a useful but hardly essential household luxury. As the technology grows more powerful, however, the true nature of this shift will become apparent. 

Voice app development and new hardware devices such as Amazon Spot will make the technology more accessible, easier to use and, ultimately, harder to live without — and that’s something that should draw the attention of every marketer.

The takeaway

Much as the notion of carrying a tiny computer that’s integrated into every aspect of your life would have seemed far-fetched as late as the year 2000, replacing the conventional smartphone with advanced voice assistants (in hundreds or thousands of different forms) today seems remarkable.

Soon, however, Alexa, Siri, and Google Assistant will be our constant companions, ready to help execute an almost limitless series of tasks with great efficiency and precision. The maturation of the underlying machine learning technology — and countless new skills being added through voice app development — will help speed this process.

While voice assistant-enabled commercial transactions may be a novelty for many today, they will soon become commonplace. This means that brands that begin deploying voice technology at this (still early) stage will carve out a significant edge in the voice and visual ecosystem.

Contact our voice engineering services team today to get the edge on voice technology.

Amazon’s Alexa Just Powered up – Here’s What Marketers Need to Know

Voice technology continues to surge in terms of adoption, with global smart speaker sales up 187% in 2018’s second quarter. The world’s largest manufacturers collectively shipped nearly 17 million voice technology devices in the second quarter, up from roughly 9 million units in the first quarter.

These numbers are evidence of an ongoing shift from touch to voice as the default manner by which we access connected devices. Someday soon, the idea of navigating through daily life by tapping on a smartphone screen may seem as quaint as visiting the neighborhood video rental store.

This has massive implications for advertisers and marketers, of course — and one of the best ways to capitalize on this is the effective use of Alexa Skill programming.

Evolving from basic Skills to a nearly limitless future

While Alexa’s current Skills are geared toward basic topics and operations, new tools are being released that will profoundly expand the powers of Amazon’s smart speakers.

The company recently staged its Amazon Fall Device Announcement Event in Seattle, rolling out more than 70 new devices and developer tools.

Let’s take a closer look at some of the most relevant of these new voice products, features, and tools debuted out in September:

Next generation Echo devices

The third generation Echo Dot gets a redesign and better sound, while the second generation Echo Show features improved sound and a larger display. The second generation Echo Plus allows consumers to automatically discover and set up connected lights, locks and plugs with a simple voice command.

New Echo companion devices

The Echo Input, Echo Sub and Echo Link allows Alexa to be added to existing speakers and enables direct streaming from high fidelity stereo systems.

Echo On-the-Go

Alexa can now go mobile, as On-the-Go allows users to add her to their car or truck.

New Alexa features

Along with new products and new product iterations, Alexa is getting smarter and more powerful. New features include guided cooking, email, Skype and streaming music integration, plus smart home and security features.

Added developer tools

Amazon has introduced a new developer language (Amazon Presentation Language) that is designed to help integrate voice with visuals. The company also introduced the fourth iteration of their Smart Home API and Alexa Connect Kit.

Amazon’s decision to focus on adding a visual component to its voice technology devices is telling. The company is attempting to improve the user experience and make voice technology more accessible. Along with new hardware devices, the introduction of Amazon Presentation Language will give developers one more powerful tool in their arsenal.

In the coming years, Alexa’s capabilities will grow exponentially as she transitions from fulfilling basic and relatively straightforward tasks to handling more advanced processes. Alexa’s cloud-based machine learning capabilities ensure that she grows smarter over time, improving in understanding and natural language processing and accuracy. Amazon’s goal is to have Alexa tightly integrated into consumer life, both at home and in commercial settings. 

The takeaway

In terms of marketing, the introduction of new devices, features and Alexa Skill programming tools is an exciting development. As Skills grow more refined and powerful, they will become competitive in terms of audience reach with smartphone applications. 

Savvy brands will stay at the vanguard of the shift to voice technology, using Alexa Skills to sell, market products and services, and deepen engagement with their audiences.

Contact our voice experts today to get your brand’s Alexa Skill programming jumpstarted.

Looking for Better Classroom Engagement? Work With Alexa…

In just a few years, digital assistants have gone from a novelty to nearly ubiquitous. Much like the smartphone revolution a decade earlier, Amazon Alexa and Google Home are transforming the way we live, work and learn. This could not be more apparent anywhere else than in the classroom, where Alexa programming is helping drive superior educational outcomes while getting students more engaged with the learning process.

How voice technology is being implemented in classrooms

Products such as Amazon Alexa are a natural fit for today’s classroom. They are relatively inexpensive to purchase, they can be easily programmed to provide a vast amount of educational functionality and — most importantly — students love interacting with A.I.-driven voice assistants.

So, how are teachers and administrators using Alexa and other platforms in the classroom? Let’s take a look at a few of the most popular implementations:

Storytelling 

Alexa is capable of reading stories to students, including popular audiobooks. This is particularly well-suited for younger classrooms, where the novelty of having a voice assistant lead “story time” is always an attraction.

Mathematics 

In addition to reading stories, Alexa has the ability to perform calculations and teach basic math skills. This can liven up instruction and provide teachers with an easy resource to check student work after class is over.

History lessons 

Along with her ability to spin a tale, Alexa is also a current events whiz, as she can offer daily news rundowns. Alexa programming also allows teachers to use the device to administer historical trivia games and other content.

Science 

Alexa can also be programmed to deliver basic science lessons on everything from biology to the natural world or deliver popular science-focused podcasts.

Administrative functions

Teaching isn’t all about lecturing or offering hands-on instruction. Alexa’s programmed skills can help teachers with classroom time management tasks (by setting reminders) along with providing students a resource to discover information on their own, without having to interrupt the teacher.

These implementations represent just a few of the ways Alexa is being used to improve the learning experience. As the number of Alexa voice applications (or “skills”) continues to grow, teachers will have an even greater number of creative, voice-based approaches to deploy in the classroom.

Preparing for a voice-activated future

Growth in the voice assistant market has been explosive in recent years — and adoption of smart speakers is projected to rise by another 1000% by 2023. We are quickly shifting from a world mediated through a keyboard to a world that is run largely by voice command.

Whether at home, in the office or in the classroom, voice assistants are quickly becoming our default option for interfacing with the connected world. Schools that stay at the vanguard of this change will be best equipped to help their students navigate this transition.

A top Orlando marketing agency like BIGEYE can assist in this process by delivering sophisticated Alexa programming services at a competitive rate. Equipped with the right set of skills, Alexa can keep students engaged and excited while allowing teachers to work more efficiently at the same time. Talk with our voice engineers today to learn more about how we can personalize voice technology for your classroom.