A woman sits before her webcam, sifting through the pages of a thick paperback book. The vocal condenser microphone that sits out of frame picks up every gentle rustle as her fingertips connect with the smooth sheets.
Many of the people hearing the amplified page turns are experiencing soothing sensations – gentle, static-like tingles that spread throughout the head, neck and spine. The auditory and visual elements in the video are triggering autonomous sensory meridian responses, known by most as ASMR. You’ve likely experienced it naturally while gazing into a crackling fire or dozing off during a thunderstorm.
“ASMR stimuli usually have one or more of the following traits: repetitive, methodical, steady pace, steady volume and/or non-threatening,” according to ASMR University. “The individuals that create these stimuli tend to have specific dispositions which include: kind, caring, empathetic, attentive, focused, trustworthy, dedicated and expert.”
Posting videos specifically to trigger ASMR is a trend currently flooding YouTube channels and Instagram explore pages around the world daily, and many brands are jumping on board. A strategic move as #ASMR yields upwards of 5.4 million posts on Instagram and a single video with ASMR content can accumulate more than 29 million views.
As the ASMR community continues to grow, so does the inherent selling power of triggering stimuli. Not only by releasing original content as KFC’s Colonel Sanders did last year, but through branded content partnerships with popular vloggers.
Just like a beauty brand might be mentioned by an influencer … many companies are realizing the potential of being featured in an ASMR video. As well as speaking and whispering, there’s a whole host of videos featuring wrappers being crinkled or opening cans – prime advertising potential for many household names.
Creating ads that attract and resonate with viewers is the goal for any advertiser, but imagine being able to illicit physical responses. Brands like IKEA and Applebee’s took it a step further by releasing long-form ambient experiences that not only showcase their products, but honor the integrity of the ASMR community as well.
IKEA’s authentic, 24-minute attempt at the cultural trend paid off, too:
“The video went viral and to date has had [2.3 million] views. IKEA says it saw a 4.5 percent increase in sales in store and a 5.1 percent increase online during the advertising campaign,” according to BBC.
Brands who effectively utilize ASMR are not only having fun with their messaging via culturally relevant trends, but they are also providing a useful resource to a community of people. Many are able to alleviate anxiety, depression and insomnia by watching ASMR-triggering videos. Just think of the people Applebee’s put to sleep with that hourlong video of sizzling meat sounds.
Although a niche interest, ASMR touches viewers in a deeply personal way and has the following to generate a high level of visibility for a product. By sponsoring a viral vlogger’s ASMR video, a brand is able to subtly and effectively place their name into the minds of engaged, loyal viewers. And while these videos may seem jarringly odd to the everyday consumer, some brands have already discovered that one way to cut through the noise of your competitors is to whisper.