There’s a big social media trend that’s becoming impossible to ignore… but you might still have to lean in closely to hear about it. It’s ASMR, which doesn’t stand for “whispery brain massage feelings,” but might as well.
Content designed to trigger ASMR (autonomous sensory meridian response) has been growing in popularity on YouTube and other platforms for a while now, with influencers like ASMR Darling and GentleWhispering amassing millions of followers.
The commercial, which featured Zoe Kravitz speaking softly into two microphones while tapping and rolling a Michelob bottle, probably had a lot of football fans scratching their suddenly-tingling heads.
If you too are curious about this relaxing phenomenon, read on!
Bonus: Get all the insight and tools you need to inform your social strategy in 2019 with our free social trends toolkit. Find out how successful brands are adapting to each trend, access data from over 3,000 customer surveys, and read the full report.
What is ASMR?
ASMR essentially means the body’s involuntary (“autonomous!”) response to a tranquil stimulus. The response includes an overall feeling of peace and calm, and a fizzy, tingly sensation that travels down your body.
You’ve probably experienced ASMR before, even if you didn’t know it. It’s that shivery feeling that you got from playing the “the chills” at childhood sleepovers, or from someone using one of those wire head massagers on your scalp. You may also experience it while watching Bob Ross videos; the painter is a patron saint of ASMR.
Different sensations trigger ASMR in different people. But many people find sounds are particularly effective, which is why videos are a powerful medium for sharing ASMR.
Gentle voices and repetitive sounds, like brushing, tapping or crunching, are characteristic of these videos. But some are more bizarre, like @craftyslimecreator, a teen who plays with slime in her extremely popular videos.
ASMR videos are a particularly wholesome corner of the internet. Their only purpose is to help people chill out and feel good, which explains why they’ve become so popular.
9 brands cashing in on ASMR on social media
It makes perfect sense that companies would get in on this trend. ASMR builds positive feelings and associations, which is exactly how you want your customers to feel about your brand.
And as it turns out, there are a lot of creative ways to incorporate ASMR into your social media content! Check out some examples below.
Hear me out—Pringles have been cashing in on ASMR since before it was a trend. Their ads have always made use of rhythmic tapping, popping and crunching sounds. This 1996 commercial is a perfect example.
These sounds definitely helped them establish a distinctive brand identity—I’m not the only one who can identify the sound of a Pringles can being opened from across a crowded room. But it also relied on the same principles of ASMR: certain sounds evoke good feelings.
IKEA is always churning out weird, high-concept ads (remember this Spike Jonze gem about the sad, discarded lamp?) So of course they went all-in on ASMR in this video, which features a whispering narrator carefully making a bed and organizing a closet with IKEA products.
It’s a full 25 minutes long, and has over 2.4 million views. The comments are extremely positive, proving that customers are open to brands making use of this trend.
Not sure how to incorporate ASMR into your content strategy? When in doubt, partner with an expert!
That’s what cosmetics brand Lush did when they collaborated with influencer ASMR Darling on this sponsored video.
In the video, ASMR Darling (real name Taylor) goes through an evening skin care routine of Lush products. Her pace is leisurely, which is typical of ASMR videos. You can’t rush relaxation!
She whispers softly about each product, while gently tapping and scratching the containers. There are also long sequences of bath bombs and steamer tabs fizzing. It’s an effective showcase for Lush products that feels authentic to her brand as an influencer.
It’s also very soothing. By the end, you’ll feel ready for bed too.
My YouTube algorithm assumes I’m in need of some project management tools, which might be why I see this ad spot so often. But I never skip past the beginning, because I find it so relaxing!
Bonus: Get all the insight and tools you need to inform your social strategy in 2019 with our free social trends toolkit. Find out how successful brands are adapting to each trend, access data from over 3,000 customer surveys, and read the full report.Get the free toolkit now!
The ad shows someone using the Monday.com software. As they complete their last task, a flood of satisfying sounds and images flood the screen: peeling the sticker off a new iPhone, popping bubble wrap, cracking open a cold beer.
If you find yourself unmoved by the usual whispery-scratchy ASMR videos, this might do it for you.
5. W Magazine
W Magazine was a pretty early adopter of this trend, launching a series of ASMR celebrity interviews in 2016.
Often the celebrities are mystified by the trend, but seem to be having fun anyway. It provides an accessible entry point for folks who may not know ASMR but are up for an unusual interview format with their favorite actor.
And ASMR enthusiasts can appreciate the commitment to creativity: Aubrey Plaza’s video includes cornflakes, stuffed animals and peacock feathers. Each video includes a different mix of sounds and sensations, tailored to the celebrity.
Lincoln is a stately auto brand that you wouldn’t necessarily expect to jump on the ASMR bandwagon. However, this video with their brand ambassador Matthew McConaughey nails the genre.
The video features ambient chimes and whistling wind as McConaughey gently narrates an encounter with a bull. Unlike most car commercials, which try to emulate Fast and the Furious sequences, this one is extremely chill. There is no speeding, no rapid gear-shifting, and barely any driving at all. Who knew a car ride could be so calming?
Beyond the Lincoln ad, McConaughey’s soothing twang is popular among ASMR fans— just listen to him read a bedtime story through the Calm app.
7. Sidney Garber
Fine jewelry brand Sidney Garber partnered with ASMR influencer Bread Face in this intriguing ad.
If you haven’t encountered her unique style of ASMR before, Bread Face is an influencer who has been making a name for herself since 2015 by smushing her face into baked goods. Her videos are exactly what you would expect, and strangely enjoyable.
The video was produced by Garage magazine as part of a “Fine Dining” ASMR series. It features Bread Face tapping, crushing, and rolling various breads over her face.
This might be the strangest example in our round-up, but it’s also very memorable! And isn’t that the hallmark of a great ad?
8. Kentucky Fried Chicken
Yes, even the Colonel is into ASMR these days. In fact, KFC outdid the competition by launching an entire soundtrack: KFChill.
Three tracks— “unwind,” “de-stress” and “relax”—offer a distinct and tasty blend of sounds. Like simmering gravy, sizzling bacon and frying chicken.
You might laugh, but it’s surprisingly effective. Frying chicken really does sound like rain softly falling on your roof, which is one of the most comforting sounds on earth.
For those who want to get serious about their KFChill, you can download a full hour of each track.
KFC’s commitment to relaxation didn’t end with their ASMR soundtrack: they also released a gravy-scented candle. The perfect scent to accompany a simmering-gravy recording.
9. Dove Chocolate
Back in 2015, Dove chocolate created one of the first ASMR-focused ad campaigns. The videos feature textbook ASMR sounds like wrappers crinkling and chocolate snapping.
They released two videos, one with a female model and the other with a man. It’s one of the few examples featuring a male voice, as ASMR tends to be female-dominated.
Dove took ASMR very seriously, and had their ads scientifically tested to learn if they really did relax viewers. Their also campaign included a webpage where viewers could track their heart rate as they watched the ads to validate the calming effect.
Did the campaign work? ASMR enthusiasts seem to think so. And I definitely want chocolate after watching the videos.
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