CANNES: Voice technology has the potential to “transform” marketing, according to Keith Weed, chief marketing and communications officer at Unilever, the consumer packaged goods manufacturer.

Weed discussed the disruptive power of voice-activated solutions – a trend currently embodied by interactive speakers like Amazon Echo and Google Home – during a session at the 2018 Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity

“I think the whole shift into voice is going to transform [marketing],” he said. (For more, read WARC’s in-depth report: Unilever’s Weed pin points digital-marketing painpoints.)

Interactive devices in this category are already providing a rapidly-growing audience with the means to access entertainment content, search for useful information and even complete purchases via oral commands.

As such, brand stewards will need to learn – and embrace – skillsets far more advanced than for “lumps of glass and metal”, Weed’s catch-all descriptor for smartphones, laptops and tablets.

Indeed, Weed suggested, the voice revolution will reshape the marketing landscape. “I think once we start talking to technology, it can make a huge shift,” he said.

Building on this theme, he proposed to the Cannes delegates that marketers will be required to grasp an entirely new communications lexicon – and do so quickly.

“Why do I say it’s going to be much more difficult?” Weed asked. And he answered with a dilemma: “How do you advertise in a voice environment? What does Dove sound like? I don’t know. Dove doesn’t really have a voice per se.”

Such issues, argued Unilever’s marketing chief – who also oversees brands like Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, Hellmann’s mayonnaise and Axe deodorant – will be “a whole new challenge about how the voice-driven ecosphere works”.

Weed outlined a wide range of other roadblocks now facing the digital ecosystem, including worries related to brand safety and influencer marketing. But the challenge of voice could outweigh even these sizable problems.

“I think what we’re going to see in five years is something that's going to make life a lot more difficult than the debate we’re having right now,” said Weed.

Sourced from WARC