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Thursday, 08/06/17

From Fidget Spinners To Voice Search

By Iain Hardie, Account Director


Unless you have kids you probably have no idea what a fidget spinner is but you may have used voice search.  The reason for the connection will become clear soon enough. I am a Dad of two, a 7 year old and 10 month baby.  Being a child of the 80's I am acutely aware of how quickly things can change.  I remember my first Walkman, my first Discman and even when Netflix used to send you DVDs in the post. 

The one constant is change and technology has advanced so much that we get more impatient every day.  Something new is always around the corner but how long it stays depends on how well it can meet a functional need whilst also being able to continually innovate and adapt.  Ultimately this boils down to how people interact with it and how much of their attention it can grab again and again, but spotting the difference between a fad and a trend isn't easy.

Fidget what?

So, the first time I heard about fidget spinners was when my 7 year old Struan simply asked for one.  The conversation went something like this:

Struan:  "Dad, can you get me a fidget spinner, order it online so it can come tomorrow, I need it for school"

Me:  "What's a fidget spinner and why do you need it for school?"

Struan:   "It's a thing you spin in your hand, look, I'll show you. Sam has one"

Me:   "Ok, show me"

He quickly opened YouTube for kids, tapped the voice search icon and quietly asked for the best fidget spinners.  This showed me how easily voice search worked for him, and how he had no need to type, just simply swipe and choose a video.  Before I bought one I did my own research, I went old school and typed in my search query.  Once I filtered out the adverts and other noise on the search page I discovered that this isn't really a new product, it all started in 1993 as a tool to help children with autism and ADHD focus. 

Whilst the concept has been around for a while the resurgence is really down to product innovation. The decision as to whether or not these new versions of the toy stick around is still up for debate but there are hundreds if not thousands of variants.  17 out of the top 20 toys on Amazon are fidget spinners.  The toy also goes beyond children, with Forbes claiming these are the must have office toy for 2017.  Meetings will have already been held by marketers on how they can piggy back on this fidget spinner craze.  Mostly around how they can have their own branded version or develop a digital version and sell it in the app store

Meeting the functional need naturally

So how does this connect to voice search other than my 7 year old son?  Speaking aloud comes naturally so it is no surprise that adoption is on the increase, it is most definitely a trend. Changing people's behaviour through products such as Siri, Alexa and OK Google as well as in the latest TVs.  Google stated recently that 20% of searches are now voice. This will continue to grow especially as over 50% of total searches are on a mobile device.  Brands need to figure out how to operate simply in the present whilst also having the foresight to understand how consumers will behave in the future. 

When it comes to brand success and voice search I believe this lies in how they can use it to engage with people in a natural way.  At the moment my son is my reference point, I look to see how he interacts with different forms of media and products.  The way he shifts from playing online to playing in the physical world is seamless.  Voice search is all about making that natural connection immediately with a contextually relevant, useful and trustworthy answer.  The important thing in all of this is to remember the user, at the end of the day they ask the question and they choose the answer most relevant to them.  

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