According to Google, there are more people are searching for ‘ASMR’ on YouTube than ‘candy’ or ‘chocolate’.

Why? And why is KFC involved?

For some, ASMR (or autonomous sensory meridian response) provides far more pleasure than a chicken thigh.

If you’re unaware of the phenomenon or exactly how brands are getting in on the act - here’s a run-down of all you need to know.

What is ASMR?

If you’ve ever been sent into a state of pure relaxation from hearing someone turn the pages of a newspaper or speaking particularly softly – you might be tuned into the effects of ASMR. 

Essentially, it is the response some people have to specific sounds, triggering a tingling sensation that extends over the scalp and body. 

Thanks to its calming and almost sedative-like effect, it is increasingly being used as a way of soothing anxiety and relieving insomnia.

There are now over 5.2m videos relating to ASMR on YouTube, with the most popular garnering over 16m views.

Who is creating it?

While some of the most popular ASMR content consists of old videos, like the dulcet tones of American painter, Bob Ross, an entirely new generation of ASMR practitioners (or ASMRtists as they’re also known) are popping up.

You’re probably aware of Zoella or Jenna Marbles – but what about Heather Feather or GentleWhispering? 

Combined, the latter has over 116,000 subscribers. 

While it might not come close to the millions watching other mainstream channels - it certainly shows the growing number of people discovering this rather niche community. 

How are brands getting involved?

Just like a beauty brand might be mentioned by an influencer such as Fleur De Force, many companies are realising 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.

The ultimate proof that this trend has selling power is KFC’s recent foray into the genre.

Starring George Hamilton as the legendary Colonel Sanders, its ASMR ad depicts the ‘Extra Crispy Colonel’ talking about pocket squares and eating fried chicken. 

And yes, it is as odd as it sounds.

So odd in fact that it’s hard not to see it as a parody of the genre. 

And yet, KFC does appear to be taking it seriously.

Speaking about the ad, the brand’s Chief Marketing Officer, Kevin Hochman said: “This is a community that is absolutely infatuated and enthusiastic about the sensorial experience of sound... To me it makes a lot of sense why we would at least try to enter this space in a small way. There’s a lot of comfort that’s associated with ASMR, and that’s what our food delivers.”

It's not the only brand to get involved.

Dove Chocolate released two ASMR ads in China last year, both including specific ASMR triggers like unwrapping paper and soft chewing sounds. 

Likewise, Pepsi gave a nod to the trend in a recent Instagram of its famous carbonated beverage. 

What is the potential of ASMR?

With influencer marketing reported to become a $10bn industry within the next five years, we’re used to seeing brands capitalising on the YouTube generation.

So will ASMR become another money-making opportunity – or is it just a passing fad?

It’s hard to see how such a niche genre can gain any real traction.

For viewers that don’t feel any relaxing effects, most of the videos will probably seem boring (and downright bonkers).

Similarly, for dedicated fans - those who use it to help serious issues like depression, PTSD or insomnia - the exposure and brand involvement is likely to feel unwelcome. 

However, with earning potential for ASMRtists and the undeniable search interest, it is certainly a fascinating new avenue for brands to explore. 

Nikki Gilliland

Published 21 September, 2016 by Nikki Gilliland @ Econsultancy

Nikki is a Writer at Econsultancy. You can follow her on Twitter or connect via LinkedIn.

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Michael Harrod, Personal at Personal

I really hope ASMR doesn't become overly commercialized :(

12 months ago

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