Position your mouse over this link, close your eyes, click and just listen. Listen to a soft female voice describe the texture of a pillowcase while scratching its surface with her nails. Listen as she runs her hands up the mattress and over the comforter. You don't even need to buy the sheets. If you close your eyes, you can pretend you already own them and it’s your own hands running over the 200-thread-count sheets.
Who put up this video? Your strange suite mate who has an obsession for bed linens and niche YouTube videos? An autonomous sensory meridian response (ASMR) star on youtube? No, none of the above. It was none other than IKEA, the Swedish furniture and (allegedly) horse eating company.
IKEA-ASMR, a phrase I never thought I'd have the opportunity to type out, first graced the internet approximately two years ago and has been updated regularly since. The latest update came from IKEA-Australia (in case you were worried about the Australians missing out on the fun). It's got a meager 33 comments and approximately 16,000 views.
That number pales in comparison to the first ASMR commercial posted that garnered approximately 8,000 comments and 70,000 likes. Comments range from praise for the "IKEA gods" to a stronger hatred for the furniture company and its auditory shenanigans that I ever thought possible. It's worth noting that most reactions were positive: maybe IKEA's marketing department is onto something.
To get just a taste of the ASMR movement on YouTube, all you have to do is type in a quick YouTube search to realize that there isn't a bottom of the results page. Everyone and their mother seem to be cashing in on the infectious phenomenon and with great success too.
Accounts like Gentle Whispering ASMR have upward of 1.8 million subscribers with video titles reading, "Sleep-inducing Haircut," — although I don't what about having someone handle scissors near your face could possibly be sleep-inducing. Another popular video is called, "ASMR Santa Snooze," which is bizarre beyond words but nonetheless successful.
If amateurs can create spectacular ASMR sensations, then certainly IKEA, a company with marketing coffers filled to the brim, certainly can. The quality of its shots, sound effects and the overall composition of the commercial are indisputably good, as expected. That said, IKEA didn't bring anything new to the table — it just hopped on the bandwagon. It would have been interesting to see a unique take on the movement, but IKEA decided a classic ASMR commercial was risky enough.
What effects does ASMR have on our brain and what makes us so compelled to listen? ASMR acts on the pleasure center of the brain, according to National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI). ASMR elicits the same reaction in the brain as being with a loved one, according to the article. Some go as far as to claim that it's sexual in nature, but most agree that it is not.
But ASMR does not have the same effect on everyone, according to another NCBI study. Some people feel a tingling sensation on their scalp, while others don't feel anything at all. How can a tingling sensation sell IKEA furniture? Those who felt the tingling had a more pleasant affect or mhood, according to the article.
It's been shown that people in good moods are more easily persuaded, according to "SAGE Journals." By associating its products and furniture with pleasant feelings, IKEA can trick you into thinking that its products are inherently good.
This isn't the first time a company's marketing department has used psychology to keep its product in the back of your mind. Marketing psychology has become part of every major company's toolbox, from figuring out what reactions people have to certain colors to surveillance capitalism. Are you comfortable with mind-reading marketing schemes? Can we out-think IKEA's attempt to manipulate us?
Regardless of your answers to these questions, IKEA's commercial has fanned the flames of the conversation surrounding ASMR. Love it or hate it, it's here to stay.