By James Doc / May 23, 2022
Since COVID-19 highlighted the need for healthy hand washing habits, Sony stepped in to help keep people safe. Calling on their epic roster of artists, they assembled a collection of 20-second hand washing tunes, which Vixen Labs turned into a helpful and fun voice experience.
Child washes their hands while listening to tunes from Vixen Labs and Sony Hand Wash Tunes Skill.

Featuring a collection of exclusive audio timers from top musicians such as Dodie, D Munoz, The Rainbow Collection, and JP Saxe, Hand Wash Tunes keeps everyone in the family — from adults to children — engaged while washing their hands. The skill promotes a different artist every 48 hours, allows users to choose the same favourite tune multiple times, and ensures a thorough hand wash, in line with the NHS regulations.

AND SUDDENLY, EVERYTHING STOPPED

Nobody is likely to forget how COVID-19 changed everything overnight. One day, we were all going about our lives, and the next day you weren’t sure if it was safe to leave the house. It was also a time that shone a spotlight on our cleaning habits and, perhaps, none more so than how we wash our hands.

Prior to 2020, how many times did anyone give thought to the right amount of time to spend washing hands? But when COVID hit, everyone knew that you needed 20 seconds for a proper clean. This may not seem like much, but when you’re washing your hands more than ever before, those 20 seconds can add up pretty quickly.

We had already been speaking to Sony about ways we could integrate their artists into a voice experience, but COVID-19 became the most compelling reason to create a skill — one that would help keep people safe.

Blue Alexa speaker playing Hand Wash Tunes next to a white microscope.

SPREADING MUSIC INSTEAD OF GERMS

Since 1929, Sony has been an innovative force in the recording industry, so if anyone knows music, it’s them. As Sony’s voice partner, we’ve regularly worked together to enhance their legacy with the latest voice technology, and this was an exciting opportunity to create something that would both help people protect themselves and their families while engaging with music fans and driving awareness of Sony artists. 

Healthy habits begin in the home and our Voice Consumer Index 2021 showed that it’s also where people use voice the most. Nearly a third of consumers across all age groups are using voice assistants daily and almost half weekly. We also found that around 40% are conducting health and wellness related searches already, so there was demand for guidance. 

Whatever we built needed to address three key challenges: how to get people to try it, how to keep them motivated for the full 20-second wash, and how to keep them coming back time and time again.

Blue Alexa speaker playing Hand Wash Tunes next to a white microscope.
“HAND WASH TUNES IS A GREAT EXAMPLE OF VOICE TECHNOLOGY AT ITS BEST.” 

“The skill builds habits through sound and music, incorporates real voices and music alongside text-to-speech, and was tied into marketing from the beginning”, said James Poulter, CEO at Vixen Labs.

GETTING THE BAND TOGETHER

This presented an interesting challenge. On the one hand, we only needed something that would keep people engaged for 20 seconds. On the other hand, we only had 20 seconds to give people an experience. Clearly, variety needed to be a key component of this build. 

As a basic rule, people had been advised to sing Happy Birthday twice to measure out 20 seconds. That’s an easy guideline, but not necessarily the most entertaining option, so we wanted to create something a bit more exciting. Luckily, Sony has one of the most diverse and exciting rosters of artists in the world, so naturally, we needed to get them involved. 

Working together with Sony to avoid the issue of song licensing, which would have been expensive and legally challenging, we settled on a plan to invite artists to record either reworked versions of their songs, or else wholly original hand wash tunes. Artists were excited to get involved and soon we had a collection of fun and unique songs from a dozen artists.

Artists featured in Hand Wash Tunes Skill developed by Sony and Vixen Labs.

With the bulk of the content sorted, we built a short voice journey that would provide users with a randomised Hand Wash Tune every 48 hours, helping ensure that the experience would stay fresh and surprising through repeat uses. The finished skill was a fun, convenient, and hands-free way of protecting people and their families, using the cutting-edge functionality of voice to tackle the needs of an unprecedented world event. The additional benefit of using high-profile artists was the opportunity to appeal to both families, through fun music, and youths, through their favourite artists, all within the same experience.

The air of uncertainty and anxiety brought on by COVID-19 added a sense of urgency to the project and we were able to speed from ideation to launch in just 6 weeks. With such a truncated timeline, we wanted to make sure the Skill still launched with a splash, so we brought Amazon into the discussion. They were excited to jump on board in promoting a skill with such potential to help people, and so they created a designated promotional card to run on devices with viewports. For the two weeks following the launch of Hand Wash Tunes, Alexa devices would display the invocation, driving users to try out the skill. 

RESULTS: SEEING AND HEARING STARS

  • Averaging a 4 star rating, Hand Wash Tunes users frequently emphasised its mix of helpfulness and fun, while many also mentioned how much they enjoyed using the skill as a family. 
  • Hand Wash Tunes launched with a flurry of coverage and received almost 900 Amazon reviews in the UK and US within the first few months.
  • It illustrated the value to artists of connecting directly with fans via voice.
  • The skill informed Sony’s decisions to launch artist-driven voice skills.
  • Some of the artists promoted their involvement in the skill by posting videos of themselves using it, which then added a layer of organic promotion that laid the groundwork for future artist-driven Sony voice skills, such as Number One Fan.
  • The deceptive simplicity of Hand Wash Tunes demonstrates how seamlessly voice can bring together a variety of distinct elements and distill them into a single, intuitive experience.

Hand Wash Tunes Skill Store Logo

FANCY TRYING THE SKILL YOURSELF?

Whether you want to be sure you’re washing your hands for the right amount of time, or you just want to make it a bit more fun, give Hand Wash Tunes a try!

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