Headphones on: How brands can connect with their audiences through ASMR
ASMR is no longer a niche pastime.
More and more brands are beginning to immerse themselves into the weird, wonderful, and often bizarre world of ASMR – from KFC’s soothing chicken sounds, to the Shower & Shave ASMR tutorials from LYNX – which, disclaimer, will be burnt into your mind forevermore as the word “beanbag” takes on a whole new meaning. But what really is ASMR? Why does it connect so well? And who is doing it best? Let’s explore.
What is ASMR?
ASMR (Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response) is the body’s involuntary response to a tranquil stimulus. The response includes an overall feeling of calm, and a fizzy, tingly sensation that travels down your body almost like getting a massage. AMSR responses are triggered when hearing gentle voices and repetitive sounds, like brushing, tapping or crunching. The responses can be heightened by good quality audio, and listening on headphones. The movement has gained a strong following, with content creators publishing over 13 million ASMR videos online and influencers like ASMR Darling and GentleWhispering amassing millions of followers.
ASMR responses vary between individuals, but one study found that as many as 75 percent of participants felt a pleasurable tingling sensation when they heard people whispering, and in these anxiety-inducing times, anything that brings relaxation and positivity is a welcome release.
Why does it work for brands?
ASMR builds positive feelings and associations, so it is a powerful and exciting new element to consider when working with brands. The unique format of ASMR videos allows you to deliver product benefits in a relaxing, pleasant, calming way- something that can be the antithesis of more conventional advertising, where sensory overload, evoking adrenaline and excitement, is more often used to capture attention.
Many listeners use ASMR content to fall asleep to, meaning that it can have great potential for soft influence, making a brand feel very close and comfortable, which could be particularly relevant for lifestyle or wellness brands.
W Magazine explored the potential of ASMR in 2016, launching a series of ASMR celebrity interviews. Salma Hayek, Jake Gyllenhaal and more big names answer questions (quietly!), while producing an accompaniment of ASMR-triggering sounds.
Brands & ASMR
ASMR recently gained mainstream visibility with Michelob Ultra Gold beer’s Superbowl advert. The commercial featured Zoe Kravitz sharing the experience of drinking a bottle of Michelob beer, speaking softly into two microphones while tapping and rolling a Michelob bottle. ASMR elements add interest and pleasure to this simple concept, communicating the brand’s values well.
IKEA & crisp bed sheets
IKEA, frequent producer of high concept ads, made use of the ASMR trend back in 2017. Their ‘Oddly IKEA’ video features an unseen narrator carefully running her hands over crisp, fresh sheets, making a bed and organising a closet with IKEA products for 25 minutes.
The soft and calming sounds perfectly encapsulate the feeling of comfort and care that the brand want their products to evoke, and with over 3 million views, it’s clearly connecting with their audience.
LYNX & “beanbag” shaving
LYNX have taken a different approach, combining humour with ASMR to create sensory Shower & Shave tutorials with the tagline, ‘Feel as Smooth as it Sounds.’
The videos feature a man offering comedic but informative lessons in ‘manscaping’, representing a development from the macho ads the brand is known for. Incorporating hi resolution recordings of shaving foam being sprayed and lathered, bathrobes being dropped, and a razor running through the foam, it’s unusual in using a male voice (ASMR voices are predominantly female), and in it’s irreverent, comedic slant, rather than focusing on relaxation. It’s a fun and unusual statement, adding new dimensions of the brand.
KFC & Finger Lickin’ Good Vibes
Rain… or chicken?
KFC launched an entire soundtrack as their entry into the ASMR space. Their three hour-long offerings, titled ‘Unwind’, ‘De-stress’ and ‘Relax’, reframe the sounds of simmering gravy, sizzling bacon and frying chicken. When listened to out of context they take on a completely different quality, evoking the sound of rain on a roof, or other conventionally relaxing sounds.
Other successful ads embracing ASMR include Renault, Audible and Carphone Warehouse. Audible has partnered with creator ItsBlitzzz; a natural match, considering Audible’s products and services are entirely audio based. Renault made use of the relaxing qualities of ASMR to communicate how smooth and quiet the experience of driving their electric car is. And Carphone Warehouse partnered with Sony to create videos to reduce the nation’s day to day anxiety levels.
ASMR fosters meaningful, sensory and above all positive experiences for listeners, and is no longer solely a niche pastime. With so many different possible applications, the potential for brands to connect with their audiences this way is endless and can be creatively adapted to feel relevant to a wide range of listeners.