Be Here First: The Future of Voice-Interface Marketing

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Emily Binder is Founder and Voice Marketing Lead of Beetle Moment Marketing, a voice-first marketing agency focused on helping companies develop branding strategies for when voice is the primary interface for interacting with technology . . . a strong trend now and for the future.

Voice-activated devices (Amazon’s Alexa, Google’s Home [which recently gobbled up Nest], Apple’s Siri, Microsoft’s Cortana Home Assistant and Samsung’s Bixby are some of the bigger players in this highly competitive and rapidly growing market) are “new,” but will be increasingly used for making purchases. Emily recommends that companies should have their basic content—website and Amazon listing—optimized for voice search. She encourages companies to optimize for Google if they are only going to do one thing and for Alexa if the company is doing ecommerce on Amazon.

Voice search itself has a lot of kinks that need to be worked out . . . but the abilities of these devices are expanding daily. Voice-assistants (developed primarily by men) need to get better at recognizing and processing women’s speech patterns. Text-based search bar queries rely on key words. Voice search needs to be optimized for natural language patterns.

Emily believes that all brands should at least “play” in Alexa’s ecosystem—and get into the action right now with a flash briefing and a custom skill—a very powerful combination.

Flash briefing provides quick daily news bites, typically hourly or daily, covering “weather, local news, daily motivation, productivity tips, gardening tips.” With 100 million Alexa devices and only 8,600 briefings, there is a great scarcity of content. If companies put out a quality message on a regular basis, they can climb to the top of the rankings for their niche . . . fast.

Flash briefings should be no longer than 10 minutes. Emily would not go over 2 minutes and considers 30 to 60 seconds to be “the sweet spot.” Emily also recommends, “If you skip any day, make it Sunday,” and notes that listenership is highest in the early morning or early evening, at “moments of transition,” when people are getting ready for work, making coffee . . . preparing dinner and their hands are busy.

In the past year, Amazon Developer has simplified its user interface and provided templates, making it easier for people, even those who are not developers, to build custom skills for voice-activated devices. A WYSIWYG free Alexa skill-building and publishing tool, Storyline, was the foundation of up to 60% of early Alexa skills. Storyline pivoted at the end of 2018, changed its name to Invocable, and now provides prototyping for voice UX designers.

Emily also talks about some the leaders in the development of voice technology and the revolutionary developments that could come out of voice interfaced devices—from practical applications to the ability to have cross-generational conversations with people from the past.

Emily can be reached on her company’s website at: Beetlemoment.com, on Twitter @emilybinder or on Instagram @beetlemoment.

ROB: Welcome to the Marketing Agency Leadership Podcast. I’m your host, Rob Kischuk, and I am joined, live at South by Southwest, by Emily Binder. She is the Founder and Voice Marketing Lead of Beetle Moment Marketing based here in Austin, Texas. We’ve got a local now. Welcome to the podcast, Emily.

EMILY: Thanks, Rob. It’s great to be here.

ROB: Awesome to see you here. Why don’t you start off by giving us an intro to Beetle Moment and where you excel?

EMILY: Beetle Moment is a voice-first marketing agency, which means that we focus on strategies that help brands prepare for a world in which voice is the primary interface that we use to interact with technology, to make requests – whether that’s a voice assistant like Siri or Alexa or Google, it’s really important that brands establish a foundation now. So that’s our focus.

We also do some social strategy. That’s been my bread and butter for probably the last decade, but I’ve really shifted my focus into voice the last 2 years.

ROB: What was it that caught your attention about voice, where you felt the need to shift your focus or the opportunity to shift your focus?

EMILY: I was an early adopter. I had the first gen Amazon Echo, the big black cylinder, and I just had this light bulb moment as a marketer, which was I can do everything so easily without any friction for simple things like, “What’s the weather?”, “Turn on the music,” “What time is it?” The next step is obviously commerce, information, and then branded placements. I just saw the writing on the wall with it.

I’ve always been an auditory learner. I love podcasts, I love talking. I felt like voice is this powerful direction that marketing is going to clearly go.

ROB: How many voice devices do you have now?

EMILY: I have five, probably. Six. They’re getting to be more and more. You’ll notice that if you have a Nest or any kind of smart home device, those are going to become, or are already, voice-activated. Your car probably has a voice-activated system. So, you might have more than you realize.

ROB: Right, for sure. Of the voice-specific devices that people are trotting out, who’s doing it the best so far?

EMILY: Alexa is dominant for market share. That’s Amazon. But Google is catching up, and you’re going to see those two really battling it out. But there are some other players. Siri’s there. Cortana’s there. Bixby’s there. They’re all coming, and they’re getting more competitive.

I would say I like Google Home, the Google Assistant, the best. It is fastest and smartest. I’m a proponent of Alexa. I was speaking at the Alexa conference. It’s maybe blasphemy. I don’t know. But that’s just, from a user experience, the best. The Google devices, they’re so smart.

ROB: Right. Some of the people who try to interact with these voice devices feel frustrated because you kind of have to talk like a computer to them. How is that progressing? What have you seen?

EMILY: That is getting much better. In the last year alone, there’s been a 25% improvement in speech recognition just for Alexa, and Google’s getting better as well. But I will say this – this is an interesting note and something I’ve been thinking about lately – a lot of the programmers who’ve created these voice recognition systems are men, and the voice assistants, like Google Assistant and Alexa, are actually better at recognizing male speech patterns. So, it’s really important that there are more women designers and developers with these conversational interfaces.

ROB: That is interesting. I hadn’t heard that about the voice assistants, but it makes sense in that AI/Big Data training bias that people talk about.

EMILY: Of course.

ROB: It really impacts so many products. My robot vacuum breaks all the time because it’s not used to long hair. I think it’s a similar bias. You have guys in Silicon Valley with no kids, and then I have two daughters in the house as well. It chokes up on hair.

EMILY: My vacuum’s not smart and it chokes on my hair all the time. [laughs] It’s widespread.

ROB: It’s just a general vacuum problem, except maybe – probably all of them.

EMILY: That’s a good vacuum design opportunity, anybody listening in that field.

ROB: [laughs] This is not the vacuum design podcast, but maybe there’s an opportunity there.

EMILY: Yeah.

ROB: What do you find yourself using most often on voice assistance, and what are you seeing work for marketers most on voice assistance right now?

EMILY: My use case lately has been asking questions about celebrities while I’m watching TV. I’ll say, “Hey, Google, how old is Charlize Theron?” because I saw a picture of her eating a big piece of barbeque at South by Southwest on Instagram, and I’m like, she looks fantastic! How old is that lady? While I’m watching a TV show I’ll say, “Who’s this person married to?” or just stupid celebrity gossip things. That’s not something I’m proud of, necessarily; it’s just what I’ve been doing lately.

Other than that, I play music. I use Spotify. I love that. I’ll listen to podcasts sometimes. Those are good. Oh, and then of course with shopping, I add things to my list. I don’t necessarily complete the purchase. I’ll say, “Alexa, add paper towels,” things like that. I love to have everything in the cart. And I do reminders. In the middle of the night, if I wake up with a great idea at 3:00 in the morning, I’m like, “Computer, jot down note to talk to Rob tomorrow at 10 a.m.,” just so I don’t have to worry I’ll forget.

ROB: Right. I love what you just did there subtly, where you worked to not trigger anybody’s voice assistant. You said “computer.”

EMILY: I need to stop – we’ll say “Lexie.” Sometimes you’ll hear people do that. But everybody mute your device because I’ll probably drop another Alexa on this.

ROB: This is a bad episode for people with voice assistants in the room, but it’s fun.

EMILY: Yeah. But the second part of your question, which was for marketers, for brands, what are the big opportunities – we’re in early days, Phase I. The best thing to do is make sure that you have your basic content, like your site and your Amazon listing, optimized for voice search. This is essentially like SEO 2.0. Which is a silly term.

But when you optimize for voice search, you’re doing something a little bit different than optimizing for regular typed-in queries. You’re optimizing for natural language queries, which tend to be longer and tend to start with journalist questions like, “Who, what, where, when, how, why.” That’s just a matter of weaving that into your site text or into the information you have to make sure you can answer those kind of questions, and you’ll come to the top of search results.

The last thing you want as a brand is if somebody says to Google or Alexa, “Hey, what’s the best B2B social media management listening tool?” or something – you don’t want your competitor showing up, and you definitely don’t want a generic answer that’s a big miss where you could’ve provided more information. So, go look at Wikipedia, look at the Position Zero on Google. Make sure you’re already there.

ROB: So, you can use – from a practitioner perspective, the Google search rankings for these human phrases are reflective of how you will be found.

EMILY: Yes, that’s correct.

ROB: We talked to someone before about where all the different platforms are drawing their data. For instance, when you’re looking at Alexa, does Alexa use Google’s rankings? How do you know?

EMILY: That’s a great question. Everybody asks this. It’s a mishmash. Alexa’s search engine is coming from Bing, it’s coming from a few other sources. Google is coming from mostly Google. If you ask Siri, she’s scraping all different sources. You might even get some DuckDuckGo in there, who knows. It’s a little bit nebulous.

But the point is they’re going to be scraping information from Yelp or Amazon or Google, and you need to make sure that you’re present where all of those places might draw from. But if you’re only going to do one thing, optimize for Google. Optimize Amazon search results if you’re doing ecommerce on Amazon.

The voice search optimization is really important, but the other thing I would encourage all brands to do is to play in Alexa’s ecosystem. This is where shopping is happening, and if you’re selling something, you need to be there. The way to get your foot in the door right now is a flash briefing and a custom skill. The two of them together is very powerful.

ROB: Dig into those. Flash briefings and custom skills.

EMILY: Anybody listening to this who has an Alexa and doesn’t have flash briefing set up, you need to go do this, because it’s one of the coolest features. It’s basically quick daily news bites. They refresh either hourly or daily, for the most part, and you can get weather, local news, daily motivation, productivity tips, gardening tips – whatever your fancy, there’s a flash briefing for you most of the time.

But actually, what’s really neat about it – 100 million Alexa devices out there, but only 8,600 flash briefings, so you have a huge distribution platform and a scarcity of content. It’s very easy to climb to the top of those rankings for whatever your niche is.

ROB: What are you seeing in the uptake rates on those? How do you get the data on people using your flash briefing, and what’s the growth curve look like for people who are ranking well?

EMILY: The growth is crazy if your briefing is good quality. You can’t just set one up and then forget to update it a couple times because people will disable your skill. Just like they’re going to stop listening to your podcast if you don’t consistently bring the same quality every week or whatever your cadence is. Flash briefings that I’ve done for a couple of my clients are climbing the rankings like crazy.

You know J Cornelius, Nine Labs in Atlanta, friend of the pod? [laughs]

ROB: Yeah, he is a friend of the pod. I think he was here somewhere this week, but I’m not sure.

EMILY: Yes, yes. J’s fantastic, and Nine Labs – we launched a briefing for them. It’s called Design Driven. I highly recommend you check it out. It’s J doing expert UI and product design tips. We launched that like a month ago; it’s already in the top three search results for his top five keywords, like “UI,” “UX,” “design,” “product,” because he’s the best that there is on this topic. There’s not a lot of competition.

ROB: How do people operationalize the cadence? It sounds overwhelming. It sounds like a new thing that people probably aren’t doing. It seems like it could easily be like the podcast that launches and has three episodes and then stops. How are people making it part of their habit and cadence?

EMILY: Do you mean as a creator?

ROB: Yeah, as a creator, are there ways to make the burden lower, or just to get into a good habit?

EMILY: The habit and the commitment are really important. I recommend daily. If you’re going to skip one day a week, skip Sundays. The listenership is high on the weekdays in the early morning and in the evening. These are bookends of people’s days. Alexa flash briefing occupies moments of transition, so your hands are busy either getting ready for work, making coffee, or at the end of the day you’re making dinner, you’re just winding down. You need to have your flash briefing fresh daily for that to meet that person when they’re ready for it.

The thing I recommend is batch the recordings. Do about 14 or 15 at a time, and make them really short and quick. It doesn’t take long to record it.

ROB: Got it. What is a good length, and what’s the maximum length?

EMILY: The maximum length is 10 minutes. I would not go over 2 minutes. I think about 30 to 60 seconds is the sweet spot.

ROB: Are the metrics on this, are the analytics all within some creator portal, like with iTunes when you have an app? Do you log into Amazon and look at your numbers there.

EMILY: Yes, it’s very similar. You log into Amazon Developer. Anybody can set up a free account. You have early days of analytics. It’s like one page of things that you can see, like how many enablements, how many unique listeners, how many plays, and then for which time period.

ROB: Are they telling you your ranking, or do you just have to figure that out?

EMILY: You have to manually look it up. When I track it for clients, I’m literally taking screenshots. I’m telling you how 1.0 this is. But I track it. You need proof to say, “Okay J, Design Driven was ranking #8 last week and now you’re #2.”

ROB: It’s like before any SEO tools.

EMILY: Yeah, it’s just like that. But it’s already gotten better, Rob. Just in the last year, the UI of going into Amazon Developer and trying to do this is so much better. They’ve got the blueprints now, so it’s easier for a lot of people to make skills. You don’t have to be a developer.

ROB: You mentioned custom skills a little bit. Let’s drill deeper there.

EMILY: Okay, this is really exciting. You can do just about anything your heart desires that’s possible with a custom skill. There are some brands that have started playing with this, and I’ve seen some really cool examples. I’ve seen some where it’s just get your foot in the door, put the stake in the ground.

Here’s an example of a brand that’s doing something cool with a custom skill. Stubb’s Barbeque, which is right here in Austin. There’s an agency, Proof Advertising, here, and they came out with the custom skill for Stubb’s, which is actually taking historic recordings of C.B. Stubblefield, the legend, the bluesman, the barbeque master, and it’s his actual voice recorded over the decades that he was speaking and doing things. He’s got his recipes and he’s got his favorite blues, and you hear him and you can interact with him.

It’s really powerful, really branded, delightful, assistive. And then of course, it’s not a hard push, hard sell, but you can say “Alexa, put Stubb’s barbeque sauce in my cart.” You’re right there. You’re thinking about it, top of mind. You’re making dinner.

ROB: Is there any sort of geographical component to how people find it, or they just wouldn’t search for it if they weren’t near here?

EMILY: Right now, as far as I know, there’s no geographical component. It’s based on your country. If you have a U.S. skill, it’s in the U.S. I have to have a separate skill for my Canadian listeners and my UK listeners for the flash briefing, for example.

ROB: Right. I’m thinking now – it sparked my mind – did you get a chance to go into the Trump Tweet Museum at the Driskill?

EMILY: Not yet.

ROB: I think it’s closed. Bad news.

EMILY: Gosh.

ROB: The Daily Show put this Trump Tweet Museum together. They did a very good job. No matter what your politics are, I think you can enjoy it. It makes me think there should be an Alexa skill that reads you Trump tweets sequentially.

EMILY: Oh gosh, that’s a great idea.

ROB: [laughs] I have the full archive of Trump’s tweets if you want it. I’ll send it over.

EMILY: Yeah. That would be pretty easy to build. You wouldn’t have to do a lot of creative work. It would be a text-to-speech skill, for the most part.

ROB: Right. Or you could find some weird person on Fiverr that could read like Trump. There’s probably someone somewhere.

EMILY: Oh yeah, that’s a really good idea. What you’re talking about is just delight. Most of the skills right now are delightful. Some of them are also useful, but we’re going to start to see more utility.

For example, Tide. That brand has a skill that helps you get a stain out. It’s no frills, it’s not exciting. They don’t even have much sonic branding, which is kind of a miss. But it’s useful. When I spill red wine on a white blouse, I say, “Alexa, open Tide. How do I get out a wine stain?” In that moment, I need it quickly and my hands are busy.

ROB: That makes sense. Quickly, hands are busy doing something else. You’re getting ready in the morning, you’re cooking, you’re doing this sort of thing. That’s interesting.

What do you think some of the obstacles are to moving more towards utility?

EMILY: It’s just that right now, the voice assistant is not as contextual and smart as we would love for it to be. It’s getting there slowly but surely. It has a lot of trouble sometimes with recognizing tone and intent, and that is more on the NLP, natural language processing, and the neuroscientific side of all this, not the marketing side. So the technology is getting there and catching up with what people really would love to be able to do with it.

ROB: Right. You mentioned the text-to-speech as a way to get off the ground quickly. Are there tools that are out there for building Alexa skills, maybe even a cross-platform skill?

EMILY: There are some tools. Originally there was Storyline, which everybody in the voice-first community remembers and misses, because they became Invocable and they changed their model. Vasili and his team were giving so much to the voice-first community that first year.

Basically, they opened up their tool – it was like a WYSIWYG for building an Alexa skill. Drag & drop, and you could set up this whole “if this, then that” kind of web. It was something like 60% of the skills in the Alexa skill store were from Storyline. They’re still out there and doing things, but it’s more enterprise level now. That’s not available unless you want to pay for it – which anyone listening to this, if you have some budget for it, try it. They’re real smart guys.

ROB: How much does it cost?

EMILY: I’m not certain. I want to say a couple hundred bucks a month, but I don’t know. Don’t quote me on that.

ROB: So, it’s not a full enterprise price point. If you have revenue tied to it, you could justify it, essentially.

EMILY: Yeah. This is the kind of thing, though, Rob – this is like in the early days of YouTube or Twitter. Was the revenue tied to it? Do you remember trying to justify social media 8 years ago? Like, what’s the ROI of my Facebook page in 2011? It was hard to do.

ROB: Yeah. And then to get people to pay for ads after that. Goodness gracious.

EMILY: Right.

ROB: Switching gears a little bit, what are some things you’ve learned while building Beetle Moment that if you were starting over today, you might do a little differently?

EMILY: That’s a good one. First, I think I would invest in a graphic designer and offloading some of the things – I try to do everything by myself, and it would be more efficient to just have help on some of those tasks. I learned later it’s worth just paying somebody to help you on things that aren’t necessarily your forte.

What else? I guess I would probably get more strategic. I wasn’t as strategic at first. I was kind of like, “whatever happens this first year, things are flying at me and I’m going to pick which ones I want to do.” Now, looking back, it would be great to have had a more strategic plan. It didn’t hurt me, but it would’ve been even better if I had. I know that’s a little bit vague, but you know how it is when you first start out.

ROB: Sure. Who have you found to be a good sounding board? Where do you get your wisdom outside of yourself?

EMILY: I have a few people that I would say are mentors, people that are pretty wise when it comes to business, pretty experienced. My parents are both entrepreneurs. I’ll ask them questions all the time. They both have their own businesses and have for decades, and they have very different approaches. My mom is a market researcher, so she’s 100% client services, and my dad is more of a solopreneur, software engineer, object oriented testing. Not agile. It’s old school. He’s in a very different mindset. But they both have their unique viewpoints.

So. I’ll ask them, I’ll ask friends from Atlanta that have been in business and had agencies or had executive recruiting firms.

ROB: So, your dad’s not building Alexa skills?

EMILY: No, but he’s really interested in voice. My parents are always ahead of the curve. They’re in their late sixties; they were the first people on LinkedIn, I swear, that I knew. They were telling me that I had to get on LinkedIn.

ROB: Interesting. What else are they telling you now? What are these early adopters telling us?

EMILY: Well, everybody’s telling me, “Stick with voice. It’s about to be really hot. It’s good that you’re working on it because we hear more and more about it every day.”

ROB: Right. Do you think that the platforms will get less selfish? What I mean by that is, when you look at even Chromecast, you can’t stream Prime. When you ask Alice, Lexie – I’m trying not to torture people’s voice devices more than we already have – when you ask Lexie to play music, Lexie tries to play music from Amazon, and unless you are very specific, will not play your Spotify. It’s a little user-hostile, I would say. Is that going to shift? Is it going to happen if they are forced to?

EMILY: It’s a good question. I don’t know that it’s going to become agnostic. I don’t see Amazon or Google becoming agnostic with those things. I think that what we’ll see is there might be other voice assistants that are agnostic. If you think of browsers, find your Brave browser, but a voice assistant that’s like that. Maybe like a Firefox, an open source that is able to search everyone and everything. That might be the future.

There’s a guy named Brian Roemmele. He’s known as the Oracle of Voice. If you want to think about where this is headed, follow Brian Roemmele. It’ll give you the chills, the things he talks about the future, whether we’re headed with it.

ROB: What’s an example?

EMILY: At the Alexa conference he introduced an idea called the Wisdom Keeper, which is very complicated, but I’ll just simplify it. There will be the idea of every person throughout their life has a voice assistant which is pretty much their shadow, by their side, recording everything. It’s not in the cloud, though; it’s totally secure.

Then when you die, your Wisdom Keeper lives on so that your grandchildren can basically interact with your Wisdom Keeper when you’re dead and say, “Granny M, what did you do when you were 22 facing this issue? I’m trying to graduate college and I need help.” That voice assistant – maybe this is 80 years in the future, maybe it’s only 50 – yeah, it’s headed toward that type of interaction.

ROB: It sounds a little bit like the intersection of two Black Mirror episodes as well.

EMILY: A hundred percent. I love Black Mirror. [laughs]

ROB: Yeah, it’s like the one where you can play back everything from your head combined –

EMILY: Was it “The Re-Do”?

ROB: I don’t recall what it was called.

EMILY: It’s “The History of You.”

ROB: “The Complete History of You” combined with the one where they bring the boyfriend back to life.

EMILY: It’s totally that. It’s combining those.

ROB: It’s those two together, but not sinister and with voice.

EMILY: Yep, not sinister. No problem at all.

ROB: You mentioned we have the Oracle of Voice. We will find the Oracle of Voice. We’ll try to put that in the show notes. But if you put your Oracle of Voice hat on, what do you see coming up that’s exciting? What would we be talking about if we sit down here next year that has happened in the past year?

EMILY: Everyone’s going to have a flash briefing. You think podcasts are popular? Podcasts are so crowded. You know this. I have one. You’re in this bloody red sea of sharks. That’s the internet. That’s social media. That’s even podcasting. Everyone and their brother has a presence. You go to this pure, clean blue ocean of voice, and suddenly that’s going to start getting more crowded.

Flash briefing is so table stakes, get your foot in the door, why aren’t you doing it? You can crawl into your customer’s ear, as I say at Beetle Moment, every day, with warm human audio. So intimate. Such an easy way to build this long relationship.

I’ve always thought it was a little silly when we talk about “build a relationship, have a conversation on social media,” because it sounds like you’re trying so hard to ram this really human connection into a medium that is, frankly, 1’s and 0’s. But when you go to voice, that really does feel like a relationship.

ROB: Right. Going back to the text-to-speech thing, are there very good text-to-speech engines that you think are good for a flash briefing? Or is it all a little bit mechanical, still?

EMILY: I’m not certain what you mean, but I think you mean is there a way to plug the text in so that it gets read a certain way?

ROB: Is that a thing? Or it’s just not human?

EMILY: Right now it’s in Lexie’s voice.

ROB: Oh, the whole flash briefing is in Lexie’s voice? So you set up a podcast feed, almost, like an RSS feed type thing, and Alexa pulls it in and gives you a flash briefing.

EMILY: Right. You have to use certain tools to get that to happen, but I wouldn’t recommend it. I would recommend using a real human voice.

ROB: That’s pretty interesting. Again, I think you gave a good tip there with batching and knocking out a lot of content at once, because it’s not a lot of content overall. It’s small doses of stuff that puts you right in people’s ears. That’s the nice part about a podcast too. It’s humanity in people’s ears.

We’re also here in the middle of this big mess we call South by Southwest. Have you seen anybody doing anything interesting? Thankfully we don’t have the voice-enabled microwaves here. We don’t have appliances rammed down our throat. But what have you seen maybe that is interesting that somebody’s doing with voice?

EMILY: Frankly, I don’t have a badge, and I haven’t been to any voice talks here. I’ve just been to some regular marketing ones, and I don’t think people are talking about voice nearly enough.

ROB: I certainly didn’t see very much on the schedule.

EMILY: Cathy Pearl, who’s one of the “mothers” of voice –

ROB: We have an oracle and a mother. What is your title?

EMILY: [laughs] I’m not sure yet. She does design. I think she’s at Google now, but she wrote the handbook, which is called Designing for Voice User Interfaces. She was here and presented something. I would’ve loved to have gone, but I didn’t have a pass this year. So, Cathy Pearl, very smart woman if you want to look at some of her work too.

ROB: Very cool. Number one, we’ve got to get you a title. Number two, we’ve got to get you into the panel picker, so you’ll have the badge and the session next year.

EMILY: Next year, man. [laughs]

ROB: You probably know plenty of interesting people you could pull in. You know how it is, the ability to feature clients and then you’re just the moderator, and then people want to hear from you. If you just come in and you’re like, “I’m an agency, I’m a vendor,” they’re like, “Eh, no.” Nobody wants that.

EMILY: Nobody wants that, no.

ROB: So that’s pretty interesting. Anything in particular you’ve taken away from the places you have been and the stuff you have heard that’s interesting, looking into the future of marketing?

EMILY: I think being first and being early is invaluable. When I look back at brands that I’ve worked on, jobs that I’ve had, whenever I saw something coming down the pike and I had to convince leadership that it was going to be important – it’s a jump. It’s hard to get people to invest money and put budget behind something that’s not necessarily revenue-driving yet, or even measurable yet.

But that’s the art of it, knowing, “This is going to be important. I want to be first here.” When you have that head start, it’s so important. And no one can catch you, because you’re first. Look at the people who were first on YouTube and Twitter and how many followers they have, and their handle has one or two letters in it.

ROB: How do you think about figuring out which things are real and which things are false starts? You have the perhaps counterexamples – and I’m not trying to say you’re wrong, but you have your Vines, your Periscopes, and Meerkats, even. Goodness gracious, I hadn’t even thought about that one.

EMILY: I remember that year when they were all – do you remember Yo? Remember that app?

ROB: I loosely remember it.

EMILY: It was really fun.

ROB: Yes, I do remember it now. Holy cow. So annoying, but very funny. [laughs]

EMILY: You would say “Just Yo me when you get there. Just send me a Yo.

ROB: I didn’t get to that level of operational utility. So how do you think about which things are the false starts and which things are true with an enduring future?

EMILY: All those quick video apps that you mentioned, those were fun, but they were all so similar. Not one of them was necessarily a leader, and they were using the same technology that was already available and familiar.

Seth Godin, This Is Marketing, fantastic book. I’ve been talking about his idea of the pattern and breaking the pattern, setting a new pattern. He says that when you’re on a brand new platform or brand new technology, there is no established pattern. People don’t know how to use it or what it’s supposed to be used for. What does this look like? If you’re first, you set the pattern. You set the pace. So that’s what I think would separate the false starts from the true blazing a new trail.

ROB: Right. I think what’s also interesting there with the instant video type stuff, they were not wrong. Live video is very much a thing. It is just more in the domain of your Facebook Lives, your Instagram Lives – what is the app all the kids use?

EMILY: Snapchat?

ROB: TikTok, is it?

EMILY: I have to understand TikTok. My friend Melanie sent me an article and I need to still read up on that. But I feel like you can only put so much information in your brain, and you can’t keep up with every new tool.

Frankly, when you get down to it, most of these tools are tactics. They’re not necessarily strategic. You can’t pursue “my Meerkat strategy.” What is your overall brand strategy? Where do you need to be? Where are your customers? Where are your customers going to be in 2 years? They’re going to be ordering things with their voices, Rob.

ROB: And they may not use the devices we know today. There could be something completely different. Sony could just nail it, I don’t know. I doubt it, but…

EMILY: Sure, it’s possible.

ROB: You have Google, you have Amazon. One of these will succeed. And if you have a voice strategy, it doesn’t matter who wins because whatever emerges, you’re going to have a voice strategy.

EMILY: Something that I would recommend: if you are a brand or you work with brands and they don’t have any sonic branding, any audio logo, audio marks – sonic branding to me is the overarching – it’s not your look and feel, like your visual identity; it’s the sound of your brand. These are the kind of voices, this is the kind of music, this is the feeling we want to evoke with everything that we have that’s audio.

You need to figure that out. Go back to your personas or avatars and say, what does my exact target customer look like and what does she or he want to hear? What would appeal to that person? Start getting that out in the wild now, because there’s a 2 year learning curve for you to associate a sound with a brand.

What MasterCard just did – brilliant. They introduced this little six-note audio mark that’s going to play every time somebody completes a transaction.

ROB: It’s like T-Mobile. When I say “the T-Mobile sound,” people will know. Everybody’s thinking that in their heads right now, what that sound is.

EMILY: Yeah. I am too.

ROB: If somebody else is curious and they’re a brand or working with a brand, they should also call you, right?

EMILY: Absolutely.

ROB: How do people find you and Beetle Moment when they want to, Emily?

EMILY: Beetlemoment.com. It’s “beetle” with two E’s, like the bug. Crawl into your customer’s ear. Or you can find me on Twitter @emilybinder or @beetlemoment. That’s Instagram, that’s everywhere.

ROB: Excellent. Emily, thank you for coming on the podcast. Thank you for dropping a ton of knowledge. This is probably a faster-talking podcast, so you might have needed to slow it down from 2x to 1x. We appreciate that. Thank you for meeting up, Emily.

EMILY: You’re welcome, Rob. I enjoyed it.

ROB: Be well.

Thank you for listening. The Marketing Agency Leadership Podcast is presented by Converge. Converge helps digital marketing agencies and brands automate their reporting so they can be more profitable, accurate, and responsive. To learn more about how Converge can automate your marketing reporting, email info@convergehq.com, or visit us on the web at convergehq.com.

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