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Mar 1, 2019    Industry Intrigue

Drip, Tingle, and Buy: ASMR and Unconscious Advertising


The Sound Medium

In your typical, cliche, waterfall sunset scene, which would be any Instagram influencers ideal setting, there are going to be a few characteristics always present.

You’ll have the waterfall, majestically cascading down a mossy green rock side. You’ll have the girl with her hair thrown back like she’s taking some over the top shower before her day job. And finally, you’ll have the overly willing boyfriend standing behind the lens.

But what these images tend not to include, mainly because they are images, are the sounds that occur in the scene being shot. Which in this case, would be the naturally flowing water (or the frustrated sighs and exhales of the BF).

Sounds like these, natural flowing water, bubbles in a glass of golden champagne, or the soft-spoken whisper of a soothing voice all have the capability of invoking a certain level of auditory stimulation in our bodies. These physiological responses most commonly manifest themselves as hair standing up on the back of our necks. Or chills running down our spine. However, in the scientific realm, they’re officially referred to as Autonomous Sensory Meridian Responses – ASMR.

Defined by the “subjective experience of low-grade euphoria” characterized by “a combination of positive feelings and a distinct static-like tingling sensation on the skin”, ASMR has been around for essentially all of human existence. 

But it wasn’t until October 2007 that a 21-year-old submitted a post on a website called, Study Health, that others started connecting the dots, saying they had experienced similar occurrences. And thus, a discovery was made that revealed more secrets about the mystery of the human mind. And what do we, as a civilization do when we encounter a discovery like this? Well, we try to exploit it for money of course.

Auditory Induced Head Orgasm

When ideating names for this new discovery, one of the proposed titles was Auditory Induced Head Orgasm. And with a name like that, there’s no wonder why advertising and marketing agencies would try to implement it in their tactics.

While several marketing consultants may have unintentionally incorporated ASMR features into their promotional tactics, Dove Chocolate was the first to do it on purpose. Aimed at the Chinese market, Dove launched an ASMR campaign with spots including a woman unwrapping one of the chocolate bars, delicately breaking off a piece between her lips, and quietly murmuring, “The feeling of chocolate slowly melting on my tongue.”

Now, after watching this, even I needed to take a step back from my keyboard. As a connoisseur of chocolate myself, I have always thought of the sweet treat as a blissful relief from the monotony of an unsuccessful diet. But never have I seen it being portrayed as the next best thing to a DMT trip. And, as an individual who claims to be impenetrable to the effects of marketing, I must admit, Dove has left me wondering how silky smooth their chocolate really is.

Aside from Dove, 5 Gum, who operates under Wrigley, is probably one of the biggest proponents of ASMR as an advertising and marketing device. From a half-naked man lying in an enormous pit of oscillating marbles, to a woman skydiving into a tunnel only to be left levitating above a massive collection of hair dryers, 5 gum knows how to make you feel it.

But the difference back then was marketing and brand strategy consultants didn’t fully understand the effects of ASMR. They didn’t understand the potential it had to influence their audience.

Now, they do.

Another One of Our Flavored Fancies

Outside of being a marketing device and promotional tactic, ASMR has become a very popular trend in the digital world. The term is searched on Google just under 2,000,000 times per month, and YouTube channels and individuals alike have begun sprouting up focused solely on tickling your backbone and feathering your fancies with ASMR sounds and visuals.

But, from a marketing perspective, Michelob Ultra and their recent 45 second Super Bowl spot has probably been the most wholesome and accurate portrayal of ASMR marketing tactics being employed to date.

Making sure to catch the viewer from the start, the spot opens with a sequence of action shots from nature until we are met with the beautiful Zoe Kravitz, who, with the tantalizing voice of an angel, whispers into the microphone, “Let’s all experience something, together.”

At this point, even if it’s prepping to be a middle school play, I’m ready to experience whatever comes. Bring it on, Zoe.

What happens next is a sequence of auditory and visual stimuli meant to trigger ASMR. Her nails clinking on the glass bottle. More whispering. Shot of a waterfall (waterfalls are a must, as we discussed). The swirling of the bottom of the bottle along a wooden surface. The twisting and crack of the bottle cap. And you guessed it, more whispering.

Now, at the end of this commercial, it’s safe to say you might want more than a Michelob Ultra Organic Gold Brew. But, for a majority of viewers, we think this spot is definitely going to resurface the next time they take a walk down the beer aisle.

With ads like these, there’s no doubt ASMR is an effective tool for branding strategists and media marketing agencies alike. But how do you compete when you can’t afford it?

Budgets Aren’t Boundaries

While we would love to pitch work to our clients that included celebrity features and enhanced, top-of-the-line sound effects from real-life natural landscapes, they just don’t have the budget for it.

We are a marketing and brand strategy consultancy that works with startups and smaller companies who might just be getting their roots. No way are they about to spend millions of dollars on ONE ad campaign that is meant to make you feel “tingly.”

Nor do they need to.

While we would love to incorporate ASMR tactics into our creative and have plans to do so, the platforms we’ve operated on (successfully) for years have been without the help of an autonomous sensory facet. Users scroll through Facebook and Instagram at blazing speeds, waiting for something to catch their attention. And we’re here to tell you that it’s not going to be the dripping of a fountain or the cracking of a beer that does it.

The fact of the matter is that 85% of Facebook video is watched without sound, so unless that user is looking for something specific to listen to, or accidentally has their volume on, they aren’t going to hear what you’ve recorded. That’s why at our Austin-based digital marketing consultancy we focus on copy and design as the central elements to an ad. And the results have paid off.

When other advertising agencies are given a large budget, their mouths start watering and they begin thinking of how to spend it to the very last penny. When we get a bigger budget to work with, we look at it as a dog groomer would look at an overgrown Tibetan Mastiff preparing for summer. What areas can we cut down, and how are we going to make this puppy look as good as possible with the least amount of hair?

So, if overpriced special effects and celebrity features are what you’re looking for in your next piece of advertising material, you’ll have to look elsewhere. In fact, you can probably find it in any agency named after some sort of multi-letter acronym.

With us, Rock Candy Media, what you’ll get is always going to be raw and original. We might not be able to get Zoe Kravitz to whisper sweet nothings to your audience. But we know how to make them feel like she is.

Come take a trip with us. There are waterfalls to be found.

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