ASMR: Flash in the marketing pan, or something more?

Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response (ASMR), or the experience of tingling sensations in the crown of the head, is rapidly growing in popularity and increasingly appearing in marketing campaigns. We look at why and the opportunity for brands


Brand opportunity

As Miles pointed out, the more senses that a brand can capture the more likely people are to feel that the brand understands the individual at a deeper level.

“I actually believe we have the potential to begin marketing to our representation system types as well as personality types to dig into new ways to segment that we haven’t yet done,” she said. “ASMR could be explored for deeper sonic branding opportunities, or used in sound mixes within our video and radio content, but also for a deepening into new experiential ideas specifically around it.

“We really do a subtle version of this right now with the signature sounds of the can opening, drinks pouring, and for automotive brands the specific sounds of each car’s engine is a real brand trigger. Even the IKEA ball room is a sensory experience that is intrinsically linked to the brand. This is a really exciting opportunity I think, and taking experiential marketing to a new level.”

Shields is equally convinced of the the trend's longer-term impact. “It’s hard to think such a niche genre can have longevity and sustain itself for quite a while. Yet is has grown exponentially over the last two years, and we’ll definitely see it across mainstream brands over the next couple of years, into more TV spots and in cross marketing as marketing continues to find a way to blur the lines between digital and human responses.”

As Mindshare head of innovation, Jack Smyth, pointed out, brands always used audio cuts tied into the brand experience. Schweppes is one such example.

"An audio brand is as important as visual brand. This is the latest exploration of how different senses interact. As we move forward, things like visual search will bring a renaissance in product design, and we’ll be going back to prominent branding,” he claimed. 

The future

Whether ASMR has the legs for longevity remains to be seen, but Miles is up for exploring the concept further.

“It will probably go really big for a bit, and may slow down after that but some of the executions will stick around for good I think,” she said. Nelson-Field agreed, saying as long as ASMR gives marketers an edge, it will remain.

“The fact is, we can’t make all of our ads funny, and consumers get sensitised to attempts at cut through, and concepts like ASMR are also very subjective. How soon it might annoy people, I don’t know, but it will be interesting to see how widely reaching it will be. Emotions are universal, but this could have limited effect because not all stimuli will affect all people in the same way,” she said.

“The threshold always changes, because once it’s expected it’s not unexpected anymore. This trend reminds me a bit of rich code media overlaid on a program. Initially, it was attention grabbing.

“I think marketers need to remember, people don’t really care about ads, and they don’t pay much attention to them. Even the best platform, which is TV, studies show in an average second you pay 58 per cent attention, and that’s the best case and that’s not ideal. We don’t care about the ads, we care about the programming.”

Krijnen and Bruijnooge said ASMR’s ongoing relevance as a tool to covertly influence people still remains to be proven.

"In terms of the ongoing relevance and impact, it feels like there is an enduring conversation around mindfulness and the desire to reject the pressures and pace of a tech driven world. ASMR represents a powerful way to tap into that narrative while it remains relevant and compelling to so many – however its ongoing relevance remains to be seen," they said.

Of course, not everyone responds to ASMR, or to every type of video, and the bigger picture should include marketers asking what they can do for the consumer.

“Marketers need to ask what can video to do a person rather than just inform them. There needs to be a real connection, whether its allowing someone to sit for hours on a train or listen to clicking ice in a glass," Shields said. "People are not just watching a TV anymore, so we must invest in content that delivers more to the person.”

commercials will continue to incorporate the principles of ASMR to provide viewers with a calm and soothing experience, rather than an intense and overwhelming pitch that can add to daily stress

Shenandoah University Professor, Craig Richard PhD


Smyth added ASMR is not a natural fit for all brands, and should not be attempted by those without a fit because you might risk alienating your audience. “It’s not a playground for all brands. You do need to have a product or a strategic fit with that ASMR community," he warned. 

“It also takes advantage of the most interesting advances in audio technology. For instance, 3D audio and a number of advances are starting to introduce an impact for all consumers, regardless of ASMR. Audio content that is more immersive and holds attention, of course a marketer will pay a premium for that.

“ASMR is encouraging brands to think uses of audio. The growth of streaming serves allows people to have more immersive experiences, and this is a natural evolution. However, the ASMR will become more discerning, so don’t jump on the bandwagon. If there’s not a natural product fit, your efforts may not go down well and there could be a backlash.”

Richard told CMO there are many signs indicating ASMR is not a fad or a temporary trend, but a new relaxation technique like yoga, deep breathing and massage therapy. “I think commercials will continue to incorporate the principles of ASMR to provide viewers with a calm and soothing experience, rather than an intense and overwhelming pitch that can add to daily stress,” he predicted. 

But for Murthy, ASMR runs the risk of being gimmicky, and could be a flash in the pan. “Behind the scenes it is growing at a rapid rate and brands will continue to look for opportunities to integrate it because there are opportunities," he concluded. 

“The message is, people are looking at different ways to create experiences and a connection, to earn them conversation, get people talking, offer inspiration and there is creativity to be found in things considered niche.” 

Follow CMO on Twitter: @CMOAustralia, take part in the CMO conversation on LinkedIn: CMO ANZ, join us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CMOAustralia, or check us out on Google+:google.com/+CmoAu      

 

 

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