Pencils Down. Headphones On.
An Oral Adventure Through ASMR.
First things first, if this is a piece about ASMR, why are you reading? Great question – which is why we put the one and only Jackson Murphy back in the P&G sound booth. So, nestle in tight, toss on a pair of noise canceling headphones, and join us as we take an intimate adventure through ASMR and what marketers and brands can learn from this new technique.
Do you hear that? That’s right – it’s just me. Just me, a microphone, and your full, undivided attention. If you ask any marketer about the issues with branding and advertising, it usually falls somewhere between “everyone is saying the same thing” and “audiences aren’t paying attention.” Well, what if there was a medium that consumers were willing to devote time to? What if there’s a way to communicate to the right audience in a way where you know the message will reach them? That, my friends is ASMR.
ASMR isn’t just a trend, it’s a full blown content phenomenon. YouTube searches for ASMR grew over 200% year-over-year in 2015 and keep growing. On its own, a top ASMR video can garner over 16 million views. Since 2008, there have been more YouTube searches for ASMR than there have been for “Candy” and “Chocolate.” Watching someone unwrap a rare Kit Kat might sound delicious, but it doesn’t compare to listening to someone eat one. Mmmmmm.
So, what is ASMR? Let’s take a trip back to 2010. It was an interesting time. The Social Network was selling out theatres, Lost found an ending, Donald Trump was still just doing reality television and the first iPad hit the Apple Store. And amidst all of these things, one Jennifer Allen would coin the phrase “Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response.” She did so after realizing that there wasn’t a term for a very specific type of “tingly sensation” she’d get from watching videos of space. For me, I noticed this sensation in the scenes of CBS’ Big Brother where they often whisper. I both hated it, and was addicted to it.
What she may not have realized is she was watching a very early rendition of an ASMR video. No background noise, calming visuals and experiencing a similar feeling akin to taking a sedative that begins on the scalp and moves down the body. Also known as “brain massage,” it’s triggered by placid sights and sounds such as whispers, accents, and crackles. To be fair, I also get these from watching Hallmark Christmas movies. These audible triggers have been around since the beginning of time. Cavemen experienced it, Jesus experienced it. What didn’t exist was a proper title for this sensation. Until Jennifer.
Giving this type of content a name was really only the beginning, as ASMR took off when the Facebook page, “ASMR Group” came about. Membership grew rapidly and globally. From here, it was only a matter of time before the YouTube community gave it a home with one of the first shared ASMR videos titled “Whisper 1 – hello!”. By 2013, there were over 50 dedicated ASMR channels on YouTube providing relaxing content like lens licking, soap shaving, and entire channels devoted to people eating crunchy foods.
As of right now, there are over 13 million ASMR videos on YouTube, millions of channel subscribers, a subreddit with almost 200K members, and an online ASMR University. Needless to say, ASMR isn’t going anywhere and it’s only getting bigger.
So, what can we learn from ASMR? Brands like Ikea, KFC and Dove Chocolates in China have already experimented with ASMR in some of their advertising. And although listening to someone talk about their room design or fold a pocket square is fun, the potential for brands in ASMR can go way beyond the technique.
One aspect that brands can explore is ASMR influencers. YouTube creators like SAS-ASMR, ASMR Darling and Gibi ASMR have millions of subscribers. Partnering with a popular YouTuber wouldn’t just put a brand in front of millions. Because of the long form nature of typical ASMR videos, a more thorough brand story can be explained, or even a detailed demonstration.
Another area to explore is ASMR-specific messaging and triggers that link back to your brand. Think of the “Click” every time you see an ad for Nintendo Switch. There’s never any background music or noise when you hear it and it immediately sets the tone for what you’re about to see. Another example is this Michelob Ultra commercial starring Zoe Kravitz. It isn’t just Zoe speaking into a mic, she taps the bottle, slowly rolls it on a table, and finally cracks it open. And she does it all while sitting alone above a tranquil waterfall. The message, without ever needing to say it, is relax and have a beer. Delicious.
ASMR has a built-in audience, it’s relatively cost-effective to produce, and it’s a content technique that’s only getting bigger. But like a lot of new techniques, brands should be smart about how they utilize ASMR. Don’t force it. Take it easy. Relax. And let the sounds of ASMR send a tingle down your spine.