For those of you who’ve listened to the podcast, you’ll know that I’m a complete advocate for sonic branding and sound design. Episodes with Joel Beckerman, Eric Seay and Ben McCulloch dive deep into the topic.

And I vlogged recently about the voice branding conundrum and the challenge of having a consistent brand voice that you can use across all channels, not just voice.

However, after speaking with Jon Bloom, Senior Conversation Designer at Google, on the show last week, he got me thinking.

Jon spoke about how Google Assistant already has a persona that you can leverage in your actions.

Leveraging trust in the platforms

Think about it, people are building habits and trust in their digital assistants. People are speaking to Google Assistant every day and investing in its persona.

Brands can leverage the trust that users have, and are building, in their voice assistant by piggybacking on the persona of the assistant.

Adam Cheyer, co-founder of Siri, Viv Labs, and VP R&D at Samsung Mobile, spoke at Project Voice in January about how users want one assistant. Not a million.

Creating applications that use the persona of the assistant, rather than your brand, helps keep in line with this ‘one assistant’ experience.

Changing persona can have negative effects

Changing the voice and persona of your voice applications to something different from the standard persona of the assistant can, in some cases, have a negative effect.

Adva Levin, founder of Pretzel Labs, joined us on the podcast recently to share how to create a brand persona for voice applications. We discussed the value and merit in using voice actors to record dialogue.

The audio quality of recorded dialogue is obviously much better than text-to-speech, and Voicebot found that recorded dialogue has a better effect on call to action retention than text-to-speech.

Even so, when Adva swapped out the standard Alexa voice for recorded dialogue in one of her skills, users were caught off guard, asking ‘what’s happened to Alexa?’

It depends on the experience

I’m still fairly bullish on sonic branding and sound design, yet I’m also convinced that utilising the trust that users already have in their voice assistant and keeping the persona of your app in line with that could be a good idea.

Perhaps it depends on the experience. If you’re creating an interactive story, game or content based experience, then perhaps working on a character is worth it.

However, for service based voice experiences, such as restaurant reservations, taxi bookings and the like, don’t users care more about getting a job done over and above the persona or brand doing it for them?

Peter Nann, Senior Consultant at Cognigy, thinks so. He said “Users don’t care about your branded voice on a daily basis, they just care about getting shit done.”

And “I also don’t want my assistant to behave as a mere receptionist, directing my call to the best ‘expert’. I want to talk to my assistant, who is the expert at everything, and who talks to my bank for me.”

The need for research

All of this is entirely speculative. The truth is, this really needs research. Research to figure out whether users do want one assistant to act on their behalf, with all interactions reflecting the persona of the assistant, or whether they expect each brand to have their own unique persona and branded presence on their assistants.

To collaborate on this research, please reach out.

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