A theme is a collection of sounds, responses, and visuals that enhance everyday features like weather, alarms, and greetings. By enabling a theme, customers are personalising their interaction with Alexa based on their interests. With Avatar: The Way of Water, for example, any fan out there can choose to hear facts about life on Pandora, hear its sounds when setting timers and pleasantries, and even learn Na’vi, the native language of people on Pandora.
DECORATE, DON’T DISTRACT
People turn to Alexa more and more for everyday tasks. Hands-free timers are incredibly handy in the kitchen, alarms can be set seamlessly to wake us up in the morning, and weather updates are useful when we sift through hangers to find the perfect outfit. But people also go to Alexa for fun facts and entertainment.
Themes are an opportunity to combine the two and inject more of people’s interests and fandom into their daily routines. Also, in the spirit of Amazon’s brand mission, they can offer educational moments for both children and adults.
The challenge is to decorate, not distract. Themes shouldn’t take away from the rapid usefulness of these features, but to offer delight, information, and customisation while still providing fast convenience.
IMMERSIVE. FUN. EDUCATIONAL.
Themes are a recent Amazon Alexa first-party feature. We came on the project to develop the second-ever theme, Avatar: The Way of Water, a third-party collaboration with Disney.
This meant we had a lot of creative freedom, but balancing a blockbuster like Avatar with a household name like Alexa definitely required a spirit of ingenuity. We had to think audio-first with a movie known for its great visuals.
Another challenge we faced from the beginning was the time limit – since we wanted to promote the upcoming Avatar movie before its release, we had to be quick on our feet with solutions.
We envisioned this experience as a way for people to get immersed in the sights and sounds of the wonderful world of Pandora, right ahead of the release of the second movie.
Abundant in fun facts and Na’vi trivia, the theme would delight hardcore fans, and appeal to Alexa adventure-seekers, who didn’t see the movie, but would be up for a unique journey.
In this case, themes would have a dual function: to entertain and to act as a marketing channel for the second Avatar movie. From a business perspective, the theme would drive awareness, excitement, and revenue around the release of the movie.
AN ADVENTURE BUILT AROUND PANDORA
With so many Avatar fan sites out there, we had to find ways to stand out. The first stage involved a content inventory of all the trivia, books, videos, information, and official sources of truth already available, and deciding what should go into the experience.
Then, we looked at how to integrate sounds and visuals of natural life on Pandora in our responses. Going back to the true purpose of these themes, we created an entire world in a one-of-a-kind voice experience.
In the end, we decided that the cherry on top for fans would be an original feature allowing people to hear and learn Na’vi phrases.
To fulfill the business promise of using themes as a marketing channel, we included a section where users can find out where the movie is showing, ask for ticket availability, and even book their tickets.
Rich Merrett, Creative Strategist at Vixen Labs, said: “Avatar was a great opportunity to showcase what Themes could do and immerse people in the world of Avatar.”
“WE WERE ALSO ABLE TO PUSH THE BOUNDARIES OF WHAT ALEXA COULD DO, AND TEACH ALEXA NA’VI, INCLUDING SOME NEAT TRICKS TO HELP WITH THE CLICKS IN THE LANGUAGE.”
PAVING THE WAY FOR MORE THEMES TO COME
- Avatar: The Way of Water became a fan favourite soon after its release.
- The experience has been revised and approved by James Cameron himself.
- Together with Amazon, we’ve improved functionality around this feature.
- It is the first third-party theme between Amazon, Vixen Labs, and Disney.
The success of this theme alone paves the way for many more to come. In December, Amazon released a holiday-exclusive theme to add a joyful flavour to the everyday during the winter festivities. Now, you can also try out Space, a theme for an out-of-this-world experience.
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