Audio is hot again. From the rise of podcasts to the emergence of smart speakers like Amazon Echo and Google Home, it seems like marketers can’t stop talking about how to use voice. But what does this shift in focus mean for social media/community managers, graphic designers, and businesses that have used traditionally visual media to engage with customers?

By Matt Emmons

Lesson 1: Meet people where they are

Many of us engage with several different devices on a daily basis: the number of connected devices is a staggering: 7.8 devices per capita in the U.S. alone. With all of these devices come complexity: a variety of user interfaces to navigate and learn, frequent app updates to adapt to, and bad design all get in the way of what we’re trying to do. Wouldn’t it be easier if our devices could just understand us?

That’s why voice assistants are so alluring. Using natural language to get things done is a lot less mentally exhausting than having to figure out how to use a new app. In fact, we’re even witnessing strong consumer adoption of voice assistants to engage with and purchase from brands.

This rise of voice tells us that people want seamless experiences. Even small businesses can recognize this fatigue caused by our modern way of life and they can strive to offer content that is easy to engage with and has a clear call to action. It’s tempting to overdo it with all the marketing and creative tools available but going over the top isn’t necessarily the best way to get noticed. Instead, consider scaling back and ask yourself how your brand can create simpler interactions with your customer from clean copy to simple, yet effective designs.

Lesson 2: People are in search of immersive media

From the proliferation of viral playlists to binge-listening podcasts, we’ve seen people turning to newly immersive forms of media. And with a population that is increasingly on the go, these new forms of audio serve as a natural escape from commutes, chores, and more.

At first, this shift in focus may seem like bad news for brands that have invested in their visual assets (strong logo, marketing materials), but the resurgence of audio actually opens up new opportunities for cross-channel integrations that can leave a lasting impression on the viewer/listener. Take, for example, Spotlight, Spotify’s new multimedia format that adds visual elements to podcasts, audiobooks, and news bites.

When you’re in someone’s ear and in front of their eyes, you don’t need to shout. People are looking to new forms of media for an engaging story, and in turn, businesses should respect the user. With the sheer amount of available content, nobody has the time or patience for intrusive or obnoxious marketing techniques. To respect people’s desire to escape, rather than churning out a steady stream of subpar visuals that aren’t going to cut it, focus on creating high-quality content that delivers something of value to your target audience.

Lesson 3: Regardless of the medium, brand messaging is all about emotion

First there was the pivot to video, and now everyone’s paying attention to sound. Recently, we’ve seen a renewed attention to sonic branding, the use of a sound, song, or melody to help a brand’s identity. Can you recall the sound a Mac makes when you start it up? What pops in your head when you think of the insurance company Nationwide? That’s sonic branding.

But there’s no need to overhaul your marketing plan to emphasize audio. No matter the industry, your business needs a piece of media to tell your story. Consider how you can express your brand across the senses to reach your audience through emotion, regardless of the medium. Why? Because emotion is a strong driver of engagement. Think about the sounds that can be communicated visually, texture in terms of graphics, and the visual images conveyed by sound. And ultimately, how you can imply emotion across the senses.

Bottom line: Marketers can no longer specialize

Due in part to the proliferation of connected mobile devices and the speed of social media, our society is moving faster than ever. And consumers expect that content blends new media. To stay relevant in a constantly shifting industry, marketers need to be compelling and tie together copy, sound, and visuals in a comprehensive way to create an emotional connection with their audiences.

Matt Emmons is the VP of Marketing at PicMonkey, a visual communications platform that enables both non-designers and designers alike to quickly create stunning visuals for social media, marketing, and beyond. Matt previously served in executive marketing leadership roles for PopCap Games and EA Mobile. Connect with Matt on Instagram and Twitter.  

Alexa stock photo by Charles Brutlag/Shutterstock