ASMR was once a YouTube niche trend, but now it’s appearing in museums and ads, and funding creative empires. KFC was one of the first brands to capitalize on this phenomenon, but others will likely follow suit.
But what is ASMR?
ASMR or Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response, is a sensation triggered by soft sounds like whispering, hair brushing, or page turning. Not everyone feels ASMR, but those who do describe a tingling sensation in the base of their skull or the back of their neck. The trend emerged on YouTube in 2008 and shows now sign of slowing down. According to Co. Design,
As of [August 2017], there are over 9 million ASMR videos on YouTube. According to Google’s internal data, ASMR grew over 200% in 2015 and continues to grow consistently. […]
The term ASMR is pseudo-scientific; there hasn’t been any major academic research yet on this subject. Early adopters of ASMR would compile clips of “tingling triggers”—the rustle of trees in nature documentaries, for example, or the sound of typing in a commercial. Bob Ross, the famously ‘fro’ed host of 1990s instructional painting videos, turned out to be a popular source of ASMR found footage. As the community grew online, people began making their own videos. Since ASMR triggers can be different person to person, DIY videos offer up a spectrum of different scenes and scenarios. Some are made of tightly cropped shots of hands popping bubble wrap, crinkling paper, or scratching rough surfaces. Others feature ASMRtists—mainly women—speaking directly into the camera, usually at a whisper (for some, intimate attention triggers ASMR). Still others feature role play and fantastical settings, giving narrative context to the sounds that provoke ASMR feelings. […]
[B]y and large, most people in the ASMR community consider it to be more about relaxation and self-care. Many watch the videos to ease anxiety, insomnia, or depression. Even people who don’t feel the tingling sensation can find the videos therapeutic.
Why it’s hot
ASMR’s is not simply growing in the fringes of the internet. The power that this experience gives artists and others to connect with audiences in a physical and visceral way is bringing it fully into the mainstream. IKEA is one of the brands quick to capitalize on the trend, releasing an ASMR audio version of their traditional catalog.