ASMR videos rack up millions of views by serving up soothing sounds and visuals to stressed out young consumers—and brands are increasingly using the niche trend to create some calming marketing…
We’ve been tracking the rise of ASMR for some time, and the soothing trend shows no sign of slowing down. Millennials & Gen Z teens are relaxing with ASMR videos—short for autonomous sensory meridian response—that rack up hundreds of millions of views on YouTube, Facebook, and Instagram. In fact, according to Instagram’s annual report, ASMR made the biggest mark as a niche community in 2018 with viral trends like soap cutting and slime making a lot of noise for a mostly silent trend. The videos can feature a variety of activities that result in quiet, comforting sounds that for some result in a tingling feeling—whispering, soap cutting, paper cutting, and, of course, slime smooshing, are just a few. We even talked to one startup that’s working to turn the internet sensation into a series of in-person experiences.
Why are they such a sensation? Gen Z and Millennials are the most stressed, anxious generations to date—and they’re looking for ways to escape the noise of the world and calm their minds. Our trend In Their Heads explored their increasing interest in mental health, mindfulness, and mini stress relievers. Watching or listening to these oddly satisfying snippets is just one way mental self-care needs are being met digitally (coloring books and meditation apps as just a couple of other examples.) The founder of Whisperlodge told Ypulse, “A lot of people…use ASMR to relax and calm their anxieties, so I imagine the stress and uncertainty of being an intersectional human in any country in 2018 also drives people to find an affordable and safe way to self-soothe.” In a recent survey, 15% of 13-36-year-olds told us they have listened to ASMR videos to calm/relax or to escape their stress.
Even though it’s a niche trend, and certainly a little on the odd side for brand activations, we’ve seen an acceleration of marketing that taps into the trend, and uses ASMR as a vehicle for branded content. Here are five campaigns that have racked up views and interest using autonomous sensory meridian response:
IKEA may have been one of, if not the, first brands to tapped into this oddly satisfying video trend. Their surprisingly on-brand 25-minute ASMR ad premiered in August of 2017, and currently has over 2 million YouTube views. As Adweek reported, viewers of the “Oddly IKEA” campaign could watch and listen to a woman run her hands over cotton sheets, fold and unfold perfectly stacked cloth shelves, and flatten cushions just to see them rise slowly back up. The ad showcased dorm room furniture as part of their back-to-school push—an early case of a brand using ASMR to market to the anxiety generations.
W Magazine x Cardi B
In October of 2018, Cardi B performed the auditory YouTube trend ASMR for W Magazine. That’s right, the acclaimed rapper (she’s one of Millennials’ and Gen Z’s favorite music artists) reportedly plays autonomous sensory meridian response videos every night before bed and wants to share her passion with fans. She teamed up with W Magazine for a video in which she expertly whispers about her career, providing her own echoes and sound effects to boot. The video currently has almost 15 million views on YouTube.
In December of last year, BuzzFeed turned Zippo’s signature click-to-ignite sound into soothing ASMR. According to AListDaily, the media and lighter brands teamed up for a series of videos; in the first, “People Make an ASMR Video for the First Time,” participants attempt to softly whisper and cut paper (two popular autonomous sensory meridian trends), then they take out their Zippo lighters. The click-to-open sound is so distinctive that it’s trademarked, and has just the right comforting tone for ASMR fodder. MarketingDive reports that the brand even released a “curated” ASMR lighter collection that was all about celebrating that unique Zippo sound.
KFC is using their fried chicken to tap into the mental health trend. Ad Age reported that for the U.K.’s annual Mindfulness Day in the fall of 2018, the fast food brand promoted a series of autonomous sensory median response videos. But, instead of featuring the usual slime or ice chips, they filmed “frying chicken, simmering gravy and sizzling bacon.” The anxiety-calming videos are available at KFChill.co.uk, where visitors are told “It’s time to free your mind and immerse yourself in the actual sounds of the KFC Gravy Mega Box.” Listeners are first shown natural imagery—like rainfall and blowing leaves—that could be the source of the sounds, before being shown the menu items that are actually being recorded. And we have to admit, the experience is deliciously soothing.
Watching paint dry might be boring, but listening to paint being stirred is apparently “surprisingly relaxing.” That’s according to Architectural Digest, who reported that Behr Paint Company released an ASMR video featuring the many steps of painting a room. According to the video’s description, it features “the distinctive sounds of the DIY experience: taping a wall, painting with a roller brush and revealing a job well done.” Even the colors of paint selected for the video are calming tones. The brand released the video in December, just in time, as Adweek pointed out, to “ease holiday-induced anxiety”—or to convince people that New Year’s resolutions about DIY won’t be that stressful.