As we enter a new year, it’s important to take a look at emerging marketing technologies and understand how they might fit into your annual goals for content planning. Voice is certainly one of the technologies content strategists and site owners should keep an eye on for 2018, and Alexa skills offer a relatively natural entry point for brands focused on churning out useful consumer content.

We’ll likely see a flurry of brands hop on the Alexa skill bandwagon in 2018, but as with all marketing tactics, not all brands will do it well. Simply creating a skill without clear user objectives and brand authority behind it is unlikely to yield the results you’re after. You must identify a voice for your brand and stick to it in your scripts, develop audio cues and music to provide a better listening experience, offer extensive information that won’t overwhelm your users, and take time to carefully craft a call-to-action (CTA) that works on a voice platform.

Fortunately, several brands have already taken the plunge in creating Alexa skill content, providing examples of what works on this new content platform and what doesn’t. Taking the time to understand what they have done well and what they could do better can help you as you work toward launching your own skill.

Here are four examples of creative ways brands use Alexa skills in content marketing.

1. Ask Purina

The Ask Purina skill offers up detailed information on various dog breeds. The brand’s goal for the skill is to help aspiring dog owners find the right breeds to fit their needs based on the criteria they provide. Users can use the skill to ask Alexa things like “Tell me which breeds are best with children” and “Find breeds that are good in apartments.” The skill reaches users who are likely to use Purina’s product as potentially new dog owners who have yet to establish brand loyalty to another dog food. User comments praise the amount of quality information the skill provides and also seem to appreciate its integration with Amazon Echo Show devices.

The skill currently has a 4.5-star rating from nine users. The only negative review says Purina “excludes the American Pitbull.” Feedback from only nine users doesn’t really give you a lot to work with, but most skills don’t have a lot of user reviews at this point. That’s why it will be important to check comments on multiple skills over time.

2. Tide — Stain Remover

The Tide Stain Remover skill offers up a brilliant example of content marketing using the Alexa skill market. The skill provides users with detailed, step-by-step, voice instructions on removing over 200 types of stains. It provides extremely useful content to consumers who have already realized they need help with removing a stain and establishes goodwill for the company that specializes in providing garment care products.

The skill currently has a 3.5-star rating from 25 consumers. The bulk of the negative reviews say the skill plays commercials that make them lose interest. This could be an example of going a bit overboard with the CTA, but the overall concept is useful and on-brand.

3. Johnnie Walker

Whiskey connoisseurs often take their consumption pretty seriously. Johnnie Walker tapped into this in its attempt to use an Alexa skill for content marketing. The skill, which has a 55-star rating from 11 users, offers the options to choose a label based on personal preferences, buy a bottle, learn a little more about whiskey, or partake in a guided tasting. Users must confirm they are at least 21 years old to access the skill. This skill is an excellent example of how a brand can maintain consistent messaging and topical relevance while providing a piece of voice content that consumers can interact with.

Though the skill has exclusively positive reviews, one drawback for new users could be the heavy focus on Johnnie Walker products. If the brand were to modify the skill to appeal to users who are not already loyal fans of their particular brand of whiskey, it could help them attract new buyers.

4. Zyrtec — Your Daily AllergyCast

If you have allergies, you likely understand how unexpected sniffling and watery eyes can put a damper on an otherwise beautiful spring outing. Allergy medicine brand Zyrtec created a skill to help allergy sufferers evaluate weather, pollen count, and prominent allergens in their area before they leave the house. The skill even provides a personal Allergy Impact Score that tells users how the day’s allergens might make them feel. This is a smart play for the brand as it encourages users to pick up a bottle of allergy meds on certain days. The best part is, it provides a helpful resource for potential product users regardless of whether or not they choose to purchase specifically from Zyrtec.

The skill only has a 3-star rating from 22 users, which indicates it could stand to work through a few bugs. Users specifically noted city identification as an issue. Initial bugs aside, the overall concept of the skill provides a solid example of how content marketers can create interesting voice content for their brands.

Adapting your approach for voice marketing

As you prepare your voice strategy in 2018, it will be important to note the wins and fails of the skills currently on the market. This will help you gain a deeper understanding of how a skill can either help or hinder your brand’s reputation when you set it loose in the Amazon Marketplace.

For example, Zyrtec’s city recognition bug earned their skill a low rating and turned multiple users away. Perhaps more thorough QA testing could have helped prevent this?

On the flip side, commenters on Purina’s skill seem jazzed about its ability to integrate with the Echo Show to display photos of different dog breeds. Maybe similar visual integration would be helpful for your users?

And how about all the comments on Tide’s skill that complained about the long and overly promotional CTA? It might be worth analyzing its approach to determine how you can make yours more concise and less annoying.

Before you hop on the Alexa skill bandwagon this year, take time to research the current market and develop a better understanding of what consumers need and want from you on this medium. After all, you have the luxury of looking to the early adopters to identify details that make and break branded skills.