Don't be an onion! Why your customers need to say your brand out loud
Let me set the scene; It's 2026, you are sitting in your living room watching TV and you remember "damn, I need a new pair of shoes." You know what you want as you're replacing your old ones which have seen better days - so you ask your digital assistant.
"Alexa, buy a pair of blue Converse All Stars size 11, please"
And you're done! You've ordered and paid for a pair of shoes which are now on their way to your office, your preferred delivery location for a weekday. It's all so extremely easy - and you didn't even have to look away from that TV show you were binge-watching.
Now, you're in the kitchen, and you've just used your last onion, so you need to order some more. Again, your digital assistant is on the case - all you have to say is:
"Alexa, add onions to my basket"
Now, this is where the problems are going to start: when adding the onions, you've outsourced the decision of the brand and supplier to your digital assistant. There is nothing wrong with that - I do it all the time, in fact both of these examples reflect my behaviour. At the end of the day, I don't care what onions are ordered... does anyone? And should I care? Or does anyone care enough that they would open up their grocery app and hunt for the right brand of onion, when it takes you less than 2 seconds to just let your assistant do it.
The reason for this is due to me treating onions as a commodity, an items that merits minimum brain power as far as I'm concerned. Advertisers and brands might be less enamoured with my nonchalance as it puts pressure on them to get me to switch to their potentially better onions.
As a consumer, I have a choice: either I "know my onions", or let Alexa and Google decide.
When I thought about this more and more, I realised that how I feel about onions is similar to how I feel about more and more products.
The only brands I am loyal to (for now) are:
- Google - I use Android and almost all of their services
- Uniqlo - In and out fast and I know which sizes fit me
- Barbour - For coats
- Heinz ketchup - for me, there is no other ketchup
- 3M post-its - the one and only
- Amazon - 99% of my product searches happen there
This list used to be longer, mainly because I used to think about what brand I was purchasing for pretty much everything. I felt like everything needed to be a brand name for it to be of good quality. And Amazon played a big role in shaking me out of this - suddenly I was buying from brands I had never heard of, and using reviews from other users as my key reason for purchase, and not what brand I "thought" had the best quality.
Nowadays, however, I frame most purchase decisions in terms of "does this provide me with what I need foe the least fuss and best service?" With Uniqlo, I know exactly what size I am for all their products, and I can get everything I need, which means when I go clothes shopping, I only need to go to one shop. For Heinz, it is the flavour of my childhood and, because of that, I can objectively tell the differences between it and other brands.
If we come back to my earlier point about saying a brand out loud, let's say that the percentage of products being bought via voice increases. That means that if you, as a brand, can't get a potential customer to say your product out loud, then you are going to either be beholden to the marketplace that the customer is buying from, or you will have to pay for the privilege of being recommended. This means that if I don't explicitly ask for your product, then you will be, in effect, dead to me.
Saying your brand out loud is so important, Google forces you to say "Hey Google" or "OK Google." Whilst annoying, I think they know exactly how important it is to get users to say your name out loud - it creates a connection and familiarity that you can't get any other way.
In the near future, brands are going to have to work very hard and with more than a little creative invention to ensure they're still on our mental radar, ensuring that not only do we have a picture of their products in our minds but, more importantly, we're motivated to request those items by name. Otherwise, they risk becoming onions.