If you’ve yet to plan and budget for your next marketing strategy, your company might want to consider this data prior to sitting down with the team.
Voices recently partnered with Modev, a global network of technology events and communities at the forefront of innovation, to survey some of the industry’s top brands to learn about their voice branding efforts. (Keep in mind: Roughly 50% of the companies we surveyed were small to medium-sized enterprises).
40% of respondents said they plan on using voice or sonic branding in their 2022 marketing strategy.
In this Voice Branding Trends Report for 2022, we’ll break down why voice branding is a trend for 2022 and beyond.
At a Glance
- Voice Assistant Applications are Top Priority
- Cost and Budget is the Major Hurdle
- Voice Branding isn’t a Fad
- Willingness to Partner Up
1. Voice Assistant Applications are Top Priority
In our survey, one of the biggest stats that popped out to us was the fact that voice assistant applications are the most important area of focus for marketers in 2022.
More than 40% of those surveyed said voice assistant applications were the top priority trends for them. More than 35% said social audio was a priority for them; while a little over 20% identified podcasting as their priority in 2022.
Coming out of the boom of the smart speaker and voice assistant boom, 2022 is seeing a focus or better put, honing in, on strengthening voice assistant applications that can be used on smartphones, tablets, laptops, video game consoles and smart speakers.
Let one of the leading thought leaders in the voice tech space, Bret Kinsella, CEO of Voicebot.ai explain where we are and how we got to this stage in voice assistant tech:
“It is hard to say smart speakers are anything but an astounding success as a product category. There are now 95 million U.S. adults that have at least one and 50% of device owners use them daily. That is a formidable product category with intense user loyalty,” Kinsella writes in Voicebot’s 2022 Report: The Rise and Stall of the U.S. Smart Speaker Market.
“Smart speakers powered by Alexa, Google Assistant, and Siri represented a white-hot consumer device market in the 2016-2019 period. Surging sales were accompanied by a deluge of popular culture appearances. However, high double-digit growth rates were replaced by low single digit growth the past two years. The pandemic didn’t help with smart speaker sales but the segment’s weakness was already evident in Voicebot’s national consumer survey in January 2020 before the world went into lockdown,” he continued in the report.
Voices’ marketplace saw similar trends through our job postings for voice assistants: In the last five years (2017-2022), voice assistant job postings on Voices have grown by 2,543%.
There are currently 15,430 voice talent on Voices that use the ‘Voice Assistant’ tag as a service they can provide to clients.
While social audio and podcasting are still important trends, voice assistant applications like voice-enabled search and voice commands were just more important at this point in time.
“You don’t hear the same buzz about Amazon Echos, Google Homes and other household smart speakers like you did a couple of years ago. This doesn’t mean that usage is down, but instead that it’s become part of our everyday life,” Voices Vice President of Marketing, Angela Hawkins says.
“Smart speakers are being used by 95 million Americans and have quickly become a normal piece of household technology. They are no longer a novelty but a household appliance almost as common as a microwave. Now marketers are wanting to create more usable applications for these common voice-activated devices.”
We’ve been hearing for a while that “This is the year voice branding and sonic branding gets mass adoption”.
While that narrative certainly becomes more of a reality each calendar year, our findings suggest a more gradual climb.
Based on the volume of ‘Voice Assistant’ job postings on the platform, we anticipate more steady growth in 2023; rather than a ‘Year of the Voice’ type boom.
“We’re not going backwards when it comes to audio, it’s going to be more important as time goes on. In ear assistants are essentially here, so ensuring that is a high quality brand experience is more important than ever. – Pete Erickson, Chief Executive Officer of Modev
“Where the voice tech industry is growing is the further development of voice assistant applications. More voice-first apps are flooding the market – from smart speakers to appliances – to continue to add value to your work and life. – Voices Vice President of Marketing, Angela Hawkins
There’s lots to be excited about in the next 12 months and Bret Kinsella, founder and CEO of Voicebot.ai gives us a peek at what’s in store for voice application trends in 2023:
“Two trends to look for in 2023 around voice AI include command & control features. The command and control features will deliver information and execute commands based on simple natural language requests. Expect less conversation and more quick interactions. These features will be added to mobile apps, consumer devices, and smart TVs in growing numbers. Many consumer brands will launch to both learn and be able to show they have a presence in these new spaces for digital interaction. The virtual beings will have personalities, speak, and support natural language interactions,” said Kinsella.
However, there are still some things to consider before mass adoption with major brands takes place:
- Custom and Authentic Voice Assistants
Progress has been made but surveys are showing consumers are wanting familiar and more regionalized voices. Voice fatigue is a thing, and many consumers have been clamoring for other options beyond Siri, Alexa, etc.
There is some clarity needed on how much it costs to develop a custom voice assistant, but all-in-all companies are still waiting for the price of voice branding services to drop before they start using some of that sacred marketing budget on it.
Our prediction is 2025 will truly be the ‘Year of the Voice’; meaning most major Fortune 500 companies and trending brands will have a sonic brand or utilize voice branding in meaningful ways.
2. Cost and Budget is the Major Hurdle
Over the past few years, a problem has emerged in the voice branding space: Cost & Budget.
We will dive deeper into why that is, the disconnect between the services provided and the cost expected. For now, we need to take a look at what the typical costs are associated with hiring a voice over, which is foundational to any sonic branding campaign.
According to a report from 4A’s, large and encompassing sonic branding budgets typically range between $60,000 and several hundred thousand dollars.
But there are much more cost effective ways to start your brand’s forray into sonic branding; Creating a 2-3 second sonic brand element or voice branding jingle for example, will only cost you around $1,000 to $2,000 USD.
Marketing spending can be broken down into the following categories of business size:
- Small Business
- Medium-sized business
- Large Enterprise
These three business types view the purpose of their marketing very differently and spend accordingly.
For example, here are the three category’s average marketing spending budgets:
In a Business Development Centre of Canada survey of more than 1,400 businesses, small businesses were spending $30,000 ($23,660 USD) on marketing. While businesses of 20-49 employees spent $60,000 ($47,319 USD). Finally, companies with 50 or more employees tend to spend around $100,000 ($78,865 USD) on marketing efforts.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Small Business Administration suggests that small businesses (revenue less than $5 million annually) spend 7-8% of total revenue for marketing.
Deloitte’s annual CMO Survey suggested that medium-sized businesses are spending around 11.7% of total company-wide budget, as of February 2021.
Gartner has noted that large enterprises’ marketing budgets have been hit hard; suggesting that companies with revenue of more than $2 billion were reporting the lowest average marketing budget at 5.7%.
Typically, a large enterprise should be spending around 11%, according to Hubspot.
Industry Can Dictate
Another thing to note regarding marketing budgets is it varies based on Industry. According to Deloitte’s 2020 CMO Survey, at the high end, the education sector spent 19.4% of its total budget on marketing. On the low end, the Energy industry spent 4% on marketing. Other industries look like this:
- Healthcare: 7%
- Consulting: 13%
- Technology/Software: 12%
According to the Business Development Centre of Canada, the average marketing budget for a B2B company is 2-5%. While a B2C company should spend between 5-10%.
Voice Branding Budgets
Now that we know the budget averages and different industry standards for annual marketing budgets, we can dive into the specifics of the costs of Voice Branding strategies.
The reality is that while many companies want to implement voice-first strategies and new voice branding initiatives, there’s not much left in the marketing budget to do that. Which is where we’re seeing such a holdup for implementation and usage.
“What I think brands should recognize is that you can start voice branding at any budget. It can start with a sonic logo that you place at the end of your videos, or a custom voice for your phone system. As your branding budget increases, you can level up your voice branding campaigns. ” Hawkins says.
Simply put, costs will continue to go down. Customization services will increase; meaning that a variety of price points will be available.
Some market education will need to be done by Voice-first organizations like Voices and others to inform buyers of the affordability of creating custom voices and using creative and cost effective voice branding techniques.
“Cost and budget are the two constant topics that come up in our line of work. And while that may or may not change, the positive news is time of delivery and cost for implementation of custom voice branding campaigns will decrease as the proliferation of new voice tech emerges.
Every industry is now being touched and are beginning to use sonic branding in relevant ways to their target markets; Automotive, electronics, pharmaceutical, tech, education, tourism, sports and recreation, the list goes on and on. With increased interest, we predict a steady increase in spending in voice branding.
While you can’t control your marketing budget, you can right the right voice within your budget for your custom voice branding campaigns.” – Voices VP of Marketing, Angela Hawkins
“Just like VHS tapes didn’t kill movie theaters, which was touted as inevitable in the 80’s, synthetic human voices are not going to kill voice over artists, it will do the opposite. It’s a new era in AI based interaction and I’m here for it.” – Pete Erickson, Chief Executive Officer of Modev
3. Voice Branding Isn’t a Fad
It’s no accident that voice over job postings on Voices has gone up 45% in the last five years (2017-2021).
More companies want voice-first content, technology and services, and these transactions on our platform speak to that.
We also believed that voice branding wasn’t a flash in the pan, and invested thoughtfully through the creation of Voices’ Sonic Logo.
According to a report by Tracxn, Speech and Voice Recognition is one of the most active sectors for investors, with an overall funding of $9.07B USD in 450+ companies. It is also interesting to note that around half of the funding has been raised in the last 3 years (2018-2020).
“Plug and Play Tech Center, Techstars, MassChallenge, 500 Global, Right Side Capital Management are amongst the most active investors in this sector, by number of investments. Voice analytics, speech to text, customer engagement, automotive, clinical documentation are some of the top business models attracting major funding,” the report goes on to state.
When smart speakers like the Amazon Echo and Google Home started to gain mass adoption in people’s homes, is was very common to see thought leadership pieces claiming that either “Voice Tech Was A Fad” or that is was “The Second Coming of the Internet”. While neither of those claims have panned out, it’s clear that Sonic Branding and Voice-First Marketing isn’t a fad.
Another tipping point was in February 2019, when Netflix and Mastercard debut their Sonic Brands. (Mastercard spent a whopping $15 million USD to do theirs).
Take a look at Mastercard’s sonic branding ‘Master Soundscape’ here:
The impact of this campaign has had still ripples through physical transactions on every Mastercard, on most updated Point of Sale devices. Merchants and shoppers have grown accustomed to the Mastercard sonic branding chime every time a successful transaction on a Mastercard goes through.
Netflix revealed their iconic Logo Animation and Sonic Brand in February of 2019, a melody that through a pandemic stricken 2020 and 2021 has forever been seared into the ears of viewers.
And while there was significant momentum picking up for other major brands to launch their own sonic brands, it came to a halt in February 2020 due to the COVID-19 Pandemic. All marketing budgets were either paused or shifted spending on new COVID-19-related messaging.
The positive news is we’re now seeing that strong sonic branding momentum from the second half of 2019 begin to take life again and push into the second half of 2022, as we begin to see marketing budgets take on similar pre-pandemic spending habits.
Colgate, with the help of MassiveMusic London, revealed their Sonic Brand in July 2021.
This sonic branding campaign launched Colgate into the top 50 sonic brands of 2022, where they finished 39th.
Here’s to more sonic brands launching in 2023.
More Fortune 500 companies, along with cutting-edge technology companies, will use Voice Branding to engage with their audiences.
“With the advancement of ASR (Automatic Speech Recognition) technology the intent and response experience is getting so much better. Voice over actors are also now able to create synthetic versions of their IP-protected voices and thus, they’ll be able to scale their talents in ways not previously possible. – Pete Erickson, Chief Executive Officer of Modev
Voices VP of Marketing Angela Hawkins explains further:
“It’s exciting when the industry you’re in, begins to situate itself into the mainstream and become ‘the new thing in marketing’. But what I will say is this: Over my three and a half years at Voices, I’ve seen such steady, stable growth in the sonic branding space. And we have the data to back this up.
We know that in my time here at Voices, Voice Assistant jobs posting have grown by 1,582%. Anecdotally, we also have the stories that support this trend. We’re continually seeing more job postings from Fortune 500 companies for voice branding-type projects on our platform.
And over the past 28 months, Voices is also being asked to speak to this topic on a regular basis in media and publications. As VP of Marketing at Voices, I also can see our need to implement and invest in more voice-specific campaigns and content. I predict this will continue to increase in 2023.”
4. Willingness to Partner Up
Voices has seen an unprecedented amount of major brands diving into the sonic branding world.
Recently, we’ve been working with a major car manufacturer and another voice technology company to create a custom voice assistant for their vehicle, delivering a curated experience for their drivers. We believe we’re going to see more willingness from major brands to seek assistance and guidance from leaders in the voice-first space to develop these sonic identities.
As voice branding spreads into more traditional industries like agriculture, automotive and pharmaceutical, we’ll start seeing more of a need for these three-to-four company partnerships to execute the specific voice ask of that company.
According to a report from VentureBeat, Voice technology has seen adoption in farming, where companies like AgVoice, founded by farm owner and technologist Bruce Rasa, uses voice technology to improve data management. It claims to have a 50% improvement in performance.
And Fortune 500 companies need not look any further than Wal-Mart big time adoption of voice tech.
The retail giant brought a voice assistant into its stores via the Ask Sam voice app. The app is a voice-driven tool for employees that brings together information like employee schedules, stock information, and even recipes. Wal-Mart says that this keeps employees on the floor, instead of needing to go find a computer to look up information.
This app took several partnerships and parties at the table to launch fully for Wal-Mart.
“One trend I’m noticing in 2022, is the openness and willingness emerging in the voice branding space,” Voices Vice President of Marketing Angela Hawkins explains. “More and more marketing teams are interested in implementing a branded voice into their technology to reach their audience, but because these projects are often complex, and need expertise across disciplines, they require multiple companies to team up to execute.”
We predict a major increase in the number of third-party companies that specialize in helping companies master the deployment of voice-first strategies.
As of December 2021, there were over 700 voice-first companies that exist globally. We believe there will be many more companies popping up across the globe to provide these services: Voices predicts there will be more than 1,000 voice-first technology companies by 2023.
“I believe, as interest grows in voice branding from technology companies, that we will continue to see a need for partnerships to enable the launch of custom voice branding campaigns. And while that won’t last forever, we will work to ensure that we can help these companies realize their voice branding ambitions.” – Voices VP of Marketing, Angela Hawkins
“Veritone Voice is an incredible synthetic voice creator that takes a human voice and then allows that voice to speak in any language they support.
Deepgram is on the cutting edge of ASR – their founder Scott Stephenson is a particle physicist, which tells you how deeply they look at speech recognition down to the bit.
Gridspace built their own telephony stack to transform call center communications and are now powering billions of call center minutes with highly accurate AI based interactions for companies like USAA and Bloomberg.
Speechly has also built an assistant framework from the ground up to bring voice tech to any application or website. No need for a company to offload their traffic to a third party. They just completed the Y Combinator class of winter 2021/22 and I expect very good things from them going forward.” – Pete Erickson, Chief Executive Officer of Modev
The VOICE community curated by Modev includes more than 150,000 developers, designers and technology leaders focusing on voice tech, conversational AI, and ambient computing.
This report was created to measure the industry’s growing commitment to voice/sonic branding. We surveyed some of the industry’s top brands to learn about their voice branding efforts. Here are some key takeaways from this report: Roughly 50% of companies surveyed were small to medium-sized enterprises.
With over two million members, Voices is the #1 voice marketplace connecting talent and clients complete creative projects. Since 2005, the biggest and most beloved brands have entrusted Voices to help them find their voice. Headquartered in London, Canada, Voices helps service clients and voice talent in over 160 countries.