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Tips & Tricks

KFC and ASMR: Marketing to an Underground Sensation

Nowadays, companies are expected to produce content that is visually and audibly appealing. When it comes to video marketing, where a brand’s content reaches viral status every other day, standing out can prove difficult.

While creating a compelling story is undoubtedly important, some companies are putting a ton of resources into sound quality. But why? The answer leads to more questions. Years ago, YouTube was inundated with videos that incorporate auditory stimuli to elicit a physical response.
This content is made for people with autonomous sensory meridian response, or ASMR. And like many emerging cultures and groups, companies are targeting this small, active community impassioned about the sounds coming through their headphones.

What is ASMR?

For those out of the loop, ASMR is a fairly new phenomena. As a result, there is little research behind ASMR, including how many people experience it and its mechanisms. The sole comprehensive study conducted in 2015 found that ASMRists were triggered by similar content (whispering), though most ASMR videos on YouTube also include a variety of other sounds like soft taps and gentle scraping.
The subject of ASMR videos may seem mundane and even boring on the surface: makeup brushes on microphones, fingernails tapping on plastic, participants crunching on a variety of foods and even scissors snipping hair. But what some come to realize is the subject matter has little bearing on the video’s quality; if it leads to euphoric “tingles” down the viewer’s spine, the video is a success. Many who create ASMR content for the community purchase quality binaural microphones to deliver 3D sound experiences, and put effort into creating lengthy videos that either stimulate viewers or lull them to sleep.
These tingles, while difficult to explain, are a thrill the typical ASMRist is seeking. ASMR YouTuber GentleWhispering characterized this feeling to VICE in 2012, saying, “It’s like a little explosion, and then just little sparkles and little stars going down [your back].” Others simply use the videos to beat insomnia, finding the audio content calming and soothing. Many who don’t experience ASMR still flock to such videos on YouTube to see what all the fuss is about, which presents an interesting opportunity for brands to reach both sides of the audience.

KFC bites into ASMR advertising.

Kentucky Fried Chicken may be the first company to effectively tap into this demographic. In July, the fast food brand released a video of their mascot Colonel Sanders—played by George Hamilton—enjoying some crispy fried chicken. The Colonel hits all the ASMR sweet spots in the video: careful whispering, a lack of abrupt and loud noises, and, most importantly, the rich sounds of crunching chicken. Whether amused or intrigued, YouTube’s ASMRists ate it up.

“Every once in awhile, a time comes when you find something you’ve never asked for, but needed all along,” one top comment on the video reads. A popular creator in the community, Heather Feather ASMR, dubbed the KFC’s new venture as “Kentucky Fried Tingles.” KFC clearly scored a niche hit with this creative content.

Marketing with ASMR.

The perks of this approach are pretty clear, as it opened KFC to a new channel in a memorable way. And, since ASMR videos are often watched by their intended viewers more than once, they have great shareability. However, brands need to be careful about how they dip their toes into ASMR.
First off, the content shouldn’t mock ASMR or question its validity, as that’s a sure way to offend this growing audience. And while a brand’s first priority is to advertise, the videos should be of value to those who enjoy ASMR content, just as the above KFC video delivers the right sounds blended seamlessly with product placement.
Like with any new marketing frontier, finding that balance between messaging and unique appeal is tricky. But when done correctly, brands will gain valuable insights into a unique audience and just might garner some loyal followers in the process.

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