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The Death of Brands at the Hand of Voice Assistants

People don’t care for the brand, they just want convenience

A portable AI system
Photo by Clay Banks from Unsplash

We’ve always been told that building a brand’s name is a winning strategy. Brands pour billions into establishing themselves in their industry and setting themselves in the back of the customer’s mind.

However, with these AI smart speakers deciding our purchases, brands’ names are starting to fade away from people’s memory and so does any effort from a brand to position its name on the market.

Do people even remember a brand’s name?

In a survey of affluence and wealth by YouGov in 2015, results showed that fewer people could identify their favorite brand in 2015 than they could in 2007 across many different industries.

The idea of a brand is to condense a series of rational and emotional associations into the minds of consumers, which is then used to guide their purchase decision process.

When you read “Coca-Cola,” you already have a particular image in your mind of what that name means. You can then put it into a series of rational attributes as well as a feeling that helps you easily identify it and place it inside your brand universe.

Companies have invested billions to shape your perspective on their brand. They use ads, packaging, price, and many other stimuli to create their unique image in your subconscious.

However, recent surveys have found that people are not as loyal to brands as they once were. They don’t feel they have a personal relationship with a brand because fewer brands are connecting with their audience. Why then hold onto a specific brand?

People can’t even name them!

What do search engines reveal about brands’ relevance?

When you type something in a search engine, you see what others have searched with those same keywords. So you get an idea of what people are looking for inside your domain.

In his book “The Four”, Scott Galloway states that fewer and fewer searches contain a brand’s name, which might suggest that people either don’t know the brand related to the product or simply don’t care.

Due to a prevailing search pattern, search engines might phase out showing brand names since it has become less relevant for the customer.

It gets worse with voice assistants

When people rely on audio signals to purchase products, they see even fewer attributes of the brand. They rely on what the voice assistant tells them about the product while visual cues, like packaging, are simply erased from the customer’s entire journey.

People are turning slowly but steadily toward a browserless experience powered solely by voice. Voice searches will become the norm instead of the exception.

Certain products are cheaper when you buy them via Alexa instead of through an internet browser, which has encouraged screenless purchases. The message is clear: “Why should you care about visuals? Let us handle everything through voice commands.”

We are in an age of instantness where we need things to happen now or we’ll look elsewhere to get it as soon as possible. It’s an age of convenience where we don’t want to spend a minute longer than we need to on any given task.

If Alexa fails to show you a product by a certain brand, will you go an extra step to open a browser to make the purchase? Or will you rely on the first choice displayed, even if the price isn’t fair?

Voice assistants are taking the concept of convenience to a whole new level.

Now, here’s an additional trick a voice assistant might use: only offer the choices that they want you to see. Why would Amazon display a product from its competition if it can promote its own label first?

As Galloway points out, Amazon will promote batteries from Amazon Basics, which is its own private label. But it will avoid showing you other choices, even if other options are available on Amazon.

If Amazon Basics accounts for a third of all online battery sales, why show the competitor’s product?

Alexa is the death of brands.


The reason why brand names are fading away from customers’ minds is two-fold.

  • First, customers are showing a lack of interest and a decrease in loyalty toward a brand. The number of people who can recall the name of their favorite brand has declined over the years, across all industries. This is related to having a weaker connection with brands, which in turn makes people less loyal to them. Plus, if we look at search engine patterns, fewer searches contain a brand’s name.
  • Second, the use of an audio process to purchase a product has changed people’s view of brands. Brands have fewer attributes to show customers, making them less memorable. And voice assistants guide the purchase process, which limits options. Options are further limited when the company behind the voice assistant is working to promote its own products.

Just think of how the voice assistant business has grown and think about where it’s heading:

  • Amazon has already sold 100 million Alexas.
  • The number of interactions between humans and conversational AI is growing at a fast rate: 2.5 billion interactions in 2018, and that number is expected to triple by 2023 (a modest prediction).
  • Retail sales from conversational AI will increase at a rate of 98 percent annually. At this rate, conversational AI will account for $112 billion in retail sales by 2023, up from $7.3 billion in 2019. This is all according to Juniper Research.

It looks like voice assistants are here to stay, don’t you think? Brands might be dying by their own hand but their death is being closely aided by voice assistants.

Alexa, Siri, Cortana, or Google Assistant — which one will kill the next big brand?

By Pavle Marinkovic on .

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