The smart-home era...are you listening?

by Jenni Hayward
08 Jan 2018
5 main read
Share this article:
The smart-home era...are you listening?

My favourite advert of all time is by a cat food brand called Whiskas. In 1999, whilst I was enduring a commercial break during Blind Date, our pet cats went berserk. ‘The First Ever Commercial For Cats’ had come on the telly and for 30 seconds they jumped at the television set, meowing, purring and hissing uncontrollably. Suddenly, a pet food brand had my whole family’s undivided attention. 



Fast-forward nearly two decades, and it’s happening again, only this time it’s not our cats that brands are targeting, it is our smart-home devices.

You might also hear smart-home devices referred to as:

  • VCD (Voice Command Device)
  • Voice Controlled Home Automation
  • Voice Assistants
  • Voice Controlled Speaker
  • Smart Speakers with Artificial Intelligence

Only a week into 2018 and we can safely say that this is the year the smart-home era has finally dawned. Amazon reported that the Echo Dot was the best-selling product on its website over the Christmas period in the US, with speculation that it sold tens of millions of devices. The Amazon Alexa app also topped the US free app charts in both the US Google Play and iPhone App Stores on Christmas Day, closely followed by the Google Home app. That equates to an awful lot of devices, listening to an awful lot voices.

Although smart-home devices aren’t new (Amazon brought out Amazon Echo in 2015), a combination of the lower price point and increased competition from the likes of Google Home and the (soon-to-be-revealed) Apple HomePod, have meant that they have taken off - in a big way. The global smart home market is forecast to reach a value of more than 40 billion U.S. dollars by 2020.

I can’t help but think of Marshall McLuhan’s ‘The Medium is the Message’. He suggested that the way a person receives a message has a more profound impact on the person receiving the information than the information itself. He said that; the individual, family, work, society and leisure are all impacted by the introduction of new mediums. He based his theory on the changes he observed caused by new technologies such as the printing press and television and it was later proved by the widespread use of the internet. So it stands to reason that the advent of smart-home devices could be just as significant and this time brands are leading the charge.

So with a key to consumers’ homes in hand, what can brands do?

Dominos is a good example of one of the first brands to utilise the capabilities of Amazon Alexa to create its own ‘skill’ (set of actions that serve as an application for the voice technology). The brand has enabled its customers to order a pizza from the comfort of their own homes. They simply ask their device to 'launch Domino's', which links them to 'Dom' (Domino's AI personality) who will respond to their queries in a fun, on-brand way. Amazon pre-empted brands creating skills to interrupt users and so have created a restrictive ad policy banning third-party ads from skills, unless those skills stream content. This in turn has made brands have to be more innovative.

Campbell's Kitchen updated it's Campbell’s Kitchen skill using visual and voice technology to allow users to hear, see and interact with recipes as they prepare a meal. This type of brand enhancing experience is welcomed by Amazon.

Burger King led the guerrilla marketing charge with its award-winning ‘Google Home for the Whopper’ campaign that, with a 15 second ad, activated Google Homes to reel off the ingredients of a Whopper Burger. Of course, consumers got involved and controversy ensued resulting in even more press coverage and air time for the brand.


From a more traditional advertising perspective, opportunities for brands to promote their products are enormous. It is rumoured that Clorex and P&G are already in discussion with Amazon about advertising options. It is predicted that ads will 'focus on sponsorship opportunities within skills or use data about a buyer's shopping history to suggest products'. The possibilities are infinite and the competition is fierce.

Perhaps similarly to the influencer marketing boom, brands simply using the medium to push their goods are unlikely to win over their savvy consumers. It’s an exciting time for marketers who have a fresh playing field to create experiences that add to their customers' lives. CX is everything.

So, in the same way commercial breaks gave Whiskas an open window into my family home, smart-home devices are literally unlocking the front door to consumers' homes and inviting brands in for tea. As marketers it is our job to make sure our brands are the ones who get in first and get a seat at the dining table.

To find out more about what Adrenalin has been doing with smart-home devices and how we can help you, get in touch.

Share this article: