Ask the Air: The Amazon Echo and Event Marketing

Ask the Air: The Amazon Echo and Event Marketing

Where did you go to find your latest local event?

Did you ask the air? Did it answer back? Chances are good that if you didn’t ask a voice-assisted device about local events this week, you will soon.

A recent report from stated that 67 million voice-assisted devices will be in use in the U.S. by 2019. That got me thinking about how much has changed in the relatively short amount of time that I’ve had Amazon’s Echo—a smart speaker device, for those not in the know—in my own home.

The Amazon Echo connects to the voice-controlled “Alexa” service, which works as a sort of virtual personal assistant. You can wake up the device with your voice by saying, “Alexa,” “Echo,” “Amazon,” or “Computer” followed by your command or request.

For instance, if you say, “Alexa, turn up the volume," the speaker volume goes up.

Apple’s Siri and Google Assistant are two other popular examples of virtual personal assistants. These smart devices are invading millions of American's homes, have led the conversation on the “Internet of things” (ioT) and I’m a fan.

With voice-assisted devices, the answers can actually come from thin air.

Would Amazon Echo meet our expectations? We didn’t know in the beginning.

When the Amazon Echo was widely released in the United States on June 23, 2015, we already had one in our house for a little while. As Amazon Prime subscribers, we were invited to pre-order and receive the devices earlier than the masses.

We had no idea at the time how the Amazon Echo’s presence would transform the way we live and the expectations we carry for the world around us.

I won’t lie. Every time I get frustrated when I ask for something out loud and I am met with silence rather than Alexa’s (mostly) reliable response, I am reminded of that scene with Scotty from Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home when he approaches a computer in the 20th century with a “Hello Computer” which is meant to wake it up.

(Sounds eerily familiar to what we can do today, right?!).

At first, we loved the novelty, but recognized its shortcomings.

My brother-in-law and sister received their Amazon Echo right around the same time as we did, so we were excited to compare notes.

We loved what the device could do, but we were also frustrated by the seemingly obvious help we thought it should be able to provide, but didn’t at the time.

We couldn’t understand why when we asked when a sports team was playing on TV, Echo couldn’t answer us. It wasn’t as smart as it is now.

I was annoyed, for example, that the Echo couldn’t provide the key ingredients for a simple Manhattan. I can safely—and happily—say that this is no longer the case!

My brother-in-law appreciated the shopping list feature. He loved that he could just tell the Echo out loud what he needed, add something to his shopping list and then access it via mobile app while out and about at the store.

Yet we wanted more. Even with all that magic, we wanted more.

And we got it.

Changes came. There were weekly improvements.
And the Echo keeps getting smarter.

Amazon’s regular “What’s new with Alexa?” email updates on the new things that the Echo can do are impossible to keep up with when they arrive so frequently.

Not that anyone’s complaining.

New skills, features and app integrations are all good for owners of the device. We’re now able to control home temperature, security and lighting just by saying something to the air. It’s empowering.

Amazon has even added new variations of the classic Echo tower and welcomed the Echo Dot (which we’ve placed in almost every room of our house). The company has also released a whole bunch of other new products that I haven’t had a chance to play with yet, but I’m sure I will welcome into my home eventually.

The Echo changes and so do we.

Since the arrival of the Echo (in 2015), my household has changed in ways that are impossible to ignore:

  • Our old alarm clocks sit looking miserable with their “one-trick pony” features. It’s so much easier to just tell the Echo when we want to wake up.
  • I cook a lot so I’m always using a timer in the kitchen and now my first choice is the Echo Dot, with the stove and egg timer as second and third choices for different dishes.
  • We can all play DJ in every room (or all the rooms) with our music, playing our preferred playlists from Spotify. The devices can act as one unified speaker system throughout your house—if you set it up right.
  • We now have an intercom system for the house.
  • I can listen to my favorite podcasts and Audible books anywhere in the house within earshot of an Echo or Echo Dot.
  • We check the temperature and weather for our area every morning—no need to tap into a keyboard, turn on TV or anything. We just need to ask.
  • The news of the day is given to us from our preferred sources we select for our Flash briefing.
  • I can even be a fun sister and send messages to my sister’s household through their Amazon Echo just to mess with them.
  • We can check a flight status or call my Mom or ask why the sky is blue.

Amazon has added many of the features we initially thought were missing.

I still want more.

When I was a kid, I wished I could have my own soundtrack playing as I walked through the world. Just like back then, now I hate it when I realize I can’t ask Alexa or “the air” for my usual information in the ways that I do at home, because I’m not … at home.

Sometimes I discover I am in a home of a friend with an Echo and I feel a surge of excitement. I can ask for songs to play that I think they’ll like. I can even irritate them by insisting they listen to my latest Association Chat podcast episode.

It’s amazing what technology can do!

Now I’ll run into a new limitation and remind myself that if I keep an eye out for the next, “What’s the latest with Alexa?” email from Amazon, I’ll likely see it addressed.

Where is all of this heading? And how does it impact meetings and events?

Good question.

The Amazon Echo has new friends: Echo Dot, Amazon Tap, Echo Look, Echo Show, etc.

Advertisers are experimenting with how to get in people’s ears when they are using their smart devices at home. Producers of audible content are figuring out how to get featured in the homes or ears of their target audiences.

Could event marketers use voice assisted devices and create a way to update registrants about new additions to the conference schedule or fun updates about speakers—event speakers, not audio speakers—in a way that would delight and build anticipation?

What if I, as a registered attendee, could opt-in for select voice reminders leading up to the conference? I don’t read every email, but I do listen to every voice alert I receive.

Questions to ask:

  • How might I incorporate voice search considerations into my next event marketing plan?
  • In what ways could I use voice search to delight potential attendees?
  • What kind of audible content might I provide through a voice-assisted device like the Echo that my audience would love to receive?
  • What should I do to prepare for when voice is the primary driver of e-commerce?
  • Now that my audience’s expectations are changing, what will they expect from me?

For the record, I’m asking these questions too.

So far, my Echo hasn’t had an answer for me yet.

[Author’s Note: This post has been adapted for the Meetings Today Blog with an eye toward the industry from an article I previously wrote and published on my Amplified Growth blog].

Editors' Note: The views expressed by contributing bloggers are their own and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Meetings Today or its parent company.

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Posted by KiKi L'Italien

KiKi is the founder and CEO of Amplified Growth, a D.C.-based digital marketing consultancy.

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