The weird and tingly world of ASMR – how can marketing campaigns harness this sensation?

a woman touching a microphone

Ever found yourself doom-scrolling TikTok and Instagram reels to find a calming voice, whispering into a microphone, while being mesmerised by their gentle use of hand gestures or microphone tapping? Then you’ve already had an introduction to the weird and wonderful world of ASMR!

ASMR, or autonomous sensory meridian response, is not a new concept or a TikTok trend. Evidence has shown it has existed for decades, long before it had a name, as the ‘ASMR’ term was coined in 2010 by a woman called Jennifer Allen who dove into the depths of Google to work out why her brain ‘tingled’ when she watched videos of outer space. A long trawl later, she coined the term autonomous (internal), sensory (a feeling), meridian (energy pathways), and response, but decided ASMR was much easier to say for short – we agree!

ASMR content gained momentum on YouTube around 2013, and there are now over 13 million ASMR videos on the platform with hundreds of videos being uploaded per day. Data from Google Trends also shows that it is still a popular and relevant source of content, with 2023 gaining higher interest on YouTube searches than the previous four years. TikTok is another platform that is seeing a rise in ASMR content, with the tag ‘ASMR’ being viewed over 860 billion times – it isn’t going away anytime soon!

The weird and tingly world of ASMR – how can marketing campaigns harness this sensation?

Okay, but what is ASMR and what’s it used for?

ASMR is actually the name of the physical phenomenon or feeling that people experience. It’s said to feel like a tingling sensation usually at the top of the head that then works down the spine. This is in response to certain sounds or visual stimuli – known to those in the ASMR world as ‘triggers.’ There are thousands of triggers out there – even ASMR slime videos! No judgement here, if that’s your thing!

Not everyone experiences ASMR. It is estimated only around 20% of people can experience the weird tingly sensation! Which is 100% not fair to the rest of us 80%. If you’re not sure whether you can experience ASMR, watch this video and find out!

People who seek out ASMR content report it helps them to sleep or relax, with others claiming it eases anxiety and aids concentration. Even those who don’t experience the tingly ASMR feels still consume the content for relaxation or sleep aid.

Craig Richard explains the brain science and benefits of ASMR in his 2019 TED talk if you’d like to find out more!

So, what does this mean for PR people and marketing teams?

ASMR style content has been a hidden gem amongst many marketing food and beverage campaigns, the iconic ‘tssst’ as a can of coke is being opened, or how Pringles use the well-known crunch throughout their adverts, not to mention the ‘snap, crackle and pop’ of rice crispies! All these brands expertly use ASMR to create associated sounds for the consumer to relate to their products.

PR, social media and marketing campaigns have the power to take ASMR content to a much more personal and experiential level than advertising, with the ability to create meaningful associations and relationships with brands – especially if the objective is to increase personal wellness.

The Relaxing Sound of Rain…

In 2019, Northern Irish homelessness charity, Simon Community launched an ASMR campaign that raised awareness of the 320,000 homeless people in Ireland.

The #HomelessASMR campaign is a two-video YouTube series that aired during Homelessness Awareness Week. It uses ASMR to bring to our attention the hardships of homelessness through elements we experience differently and more positively – such as rain and unsettled weather! Many of us enjoy tucking up into bed with the sound of rain pitter-pattering on the windows, to us it is relaxing and calming, but for those sleeping in a tent or even outside on shop fronts it is a much less pleasant experience.

The video takes you through a rollercoaster of a journey. It opens with soothing rain sounds, and as the video progresses the rain gets louder until it’s clear that it’s falling on a tent. Then a whisper can be heard, moving from left to right ‘what sends you to sleep … keeps them wide awake’ appears which creates an unnerving and uncomfortable realisation that the video has a much deeper purpose. The campaign is thought-provoking and a fresh, immersive take on raising awareness of homelessness using content that is on-trend and relevant.

Watch the video here and let us know your thoughts:

How the home and garden world can harness the ASMR energy

The home and garden sector offers ample opportunities for ASMR campaigns. The sharp snip of secateurs pruning a rose bush, water splashing from a watering can and drenching the vegetable patch, or simply the pouring of bird food into a feeder. There is an array of triggers that can be used to encourage ASMR response. Not only does this offer brands a new way to showcase their products, but it is also a fresh take on traditional methods of product and brand awareness through audio-visual campaigning!

To incorporate deeper meaning, the connotations and use of ASMR perfectly complement our reasons for gardening or taking care of wildlife, it makes us feel calm and relaxed…

To summarise…

This has just been a small snippet on the use of ASMR as an effective and different campaigning tactic. Not only does embracing this style of content allow brands to target a passionate and growing community, but it also helps raise brand and product awareness through a popular and relevant channel.

Research is ongoing into the science and technical side of ASMR response, but it’s clear from seeing the volume of searches, amount of content, and the discussions surrounding it, that it does have a positive impact on those who devour the tingly content and it’s not going away any time soon!

Brands should take this growing phenomenon in their stride and consider it in their creative campaigning – it could turn out to be an extremely successful approach!