KFC, Lynx, Netflix and the bizarre trend you've probably never heard of

Netflix: Bates munches on a chocolate-coated pickled gherkin
Netflix: Bates munches on a chocolate-coated pickled gherkin

Pop your headphone in for these ASMR-inspired ads.

Type "ASMR" into Google’s search engine and it will throw out an estimated 96 million results, while the gently whispered YouTube videos inspired by the aural trend amass millions of views.

The increasingly popular phenomenon – autonomous sensory meridian response – is a sensation people experience in reaction to certain noises, such as whispering, brushing and tapping.

It is said to be similar to the tingling sensation felt when someone brushes their fingertips lightly against your skin – but in your brain.

A lavish amount of shaving cream, a softly spoken narrator and multiple microphones providing surround-sound of a man shaving his body is how Lynx entered the online world of ASMR:

"Shavetorials" by 72andSunny Amsterdam is the latest ad to tap into the popular trend.

But the Unilever brand isn’t the only one to have jumped on the "brain-orgasm" bandwagon. Here’s how other brands have experimented with the sensory craze.

Ikea 'Oddly Ikea'

The quarter-of-an-hour-long video, by Ogilvy New York, meanders through a student’s dorm, highlighting products such as duvets and lamps, while asking viewers to listen to how nice it sounds when the bed sheets are smoothed. The brand captioned the digital spot on YouTube: "Let Ikea dorm room solutions relax you in our new oddly satisfying ASMR video."

Dove 'Angelababy'

BBDO Beijing turned the "Silky smooth" tagline of chocolate brand Dove (Galaxy in the UK) into reality in a sensory-inspired series of ads. One spot reveals a woman unwrapping a chocolate bar, with a rustle of the packaging, before biting and chewing on a piece. Finally, she whispers: "The ultimate enjoyment should be as silky smooth as this." Another film features a man grinding cacao beans to make the bar of chocolate.

Renault 'A relaxing electric vehicle experience'

Renault teamed up with influencer ASMR Zeitgeist to promote its electric model, the Zoe. In the video on his YouTube channel, conceptualised by The Loft Publicis Conseil, ASMR Zeitgeist taps on the bonnet and strokes its interiors to highlight various areas of the car, before driving the vehicle, which makes a crackling sound as it crunches over dry leaves on the road.

Safeguard Phillipines 'The wash'

A woman washes her dirty hands after preparing a meal in this video for the antibacterial soap-maker's Filipino audience. The sound of vegetables being chopped and bubbles forming on her lathered hands is intense. It's paired with extreme close-up shots of the product in use for maximum impact. Safeguard captioned the YouTube video: "Because handwashing has never been this relaxing."

Pure Gold 'The pure experience'

The brewer enlisted the help of Zoë Kravitz for its 2019 Super Bowl spot. The 45-second ad, by FCB Chicago, focuses on how pure the product is, drawing on the natural surroundings and emphasised by the sound of waves crashing against rocks and beer pouring into a glass, forming a foamy head as it bubbles.

Norrland Guld Ljus 'The ear beer'

The Swedish alcoholic brand insists you enjoy its beer with your ear in a spot by Akestam Holst. The film, which was released on Spotify, YouTube and Apple Music, experiments with senses to get consumers as close as possible to feeling like they're drinking the product.  

KFC 'Extra crispy'

The fast-food chain also joined forces with a celebrity for its experimental spot. Actor George Hamilton is the brand’s founder, Colonel Sanders, in this strange spot by Wieden & Kennedy Portland that sees him folding pocket squares while enjoying a bucket of the crispy stuff. Viewers can enjoy the contrasting sounds of silky fabric and chomping noises.

Netflix 'Disjointed edition'

Netflix partnered actress Kathy Bates to poke fun at the craze with a two-and-a-half-minute video. In the trailer, which promotes Disjointed, a series about a cannabis lawyer, activist and long-time user, Bates eats (and subsequently spits out) a chocolate-coated pickled gherkin and says: "If you’re getting off to this, you’re a freak."

Squarespace 'Who is JohnMalkovich.com?'

Squarespace didn’t say its 2017 Super Bowl ad  which features actor John Malkovich talking close to a microphone and typing loudly on a computer  is ASMR-inspired. However, the most popular comments from viewers on the video suggest otherwise. Fabian Velasquez says: "This gave me ASMR tingles." The spot was made by Squarespace and creative agency John X Hannes.

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