ASMR: Beer, Sneakers, and Haircuts – What Is the World Coming Too?

I just thought it was a strange Super Bowl commercial.

But as we were watching the ad for Michelob Ultra Pure Gold, my son said: “That’s ASMR!”

As you might have guessed, I had no idea what he meant.

Fortunately, the Wall Street Journal had a story about it in today’s paper.

Here’s an excerpt:

ASMR, or “autonomous sensory meridian response,” is a meditative phenomenon that’s surging in popularity. It describes a tingling sensation some people experience in the scalp and spine when hearing certain everyday tactile sounds recorded in a quiet, repetitive, scratchy and often lightly percussive manner.

Crinkling a newspaper. Spraying a water bottle. Typing on a keyboard. Stirring macaroni and cheese. Whispering into a microphone. Tapping literally anything.

Millions of people these days watch or listen to videos of strangers performing these mundane actions. They say they’re mesmerized. They say it relaxes them and even helps them doze off during restless times.

There’s even an app, Tingles, that focuses on ASMR.

And for at least one person, making ASMR videos is his full-time job. Matt Almendinger—better known as “Matty Tingles” to over 180,000 subscribers, has sponsorship deals he says pay as much as $15,000 per video.

So I figured checking out Matty Tingles would be a good way for me to get up to speed.

Many of his videos are role plays; in some videos he’s working in an Apple store, in another he’s working at a game store. Sneaker videos are another niche of Matty’s. In all of his videos, Matty talks in a hushed tones and looks for ways to make noise with everyday objects, whether it’s pushing the buttons on a game controller, scratching a shoebox, or clicking a pen.

Here’s one of his more popular videos, dealing with sneakers. Be sure you have your volume turned up, or you are not going to hear him talking. Also, note that it takes him five minutes to actually get to the point of the video; I’m not sure if that is part of the ASMR technique or if it’s part of Matty’s style, but I found it annoying. The actual shoebox first appears at about 4:50 in the video. When I first watched Matty tapping and scratching the box, I burst out laughing. Do people really watch this stuff? Apparently so – this video has over 500,000 views and over 1,600 comments! So hats off to Matty for finding a niche and catering to it.

If you fast forward through the video, like I did (it’s 34 minutes long), you will catch glimpses of Matty tapping and scratching a variety of sneakers.

If you want to see one of his role-playing videos, here is one of him acting like an Apple employee:

Another popular type of ASMR video is haircutting (Matty has one of those as well), but I thought I’d show you what many consider to be the first example of ASMR on the big screen. It’s a scene from the movie, “Battle of the Sexes”.

According to a story on Fast Company’s web site, the most riveting scene in the movie occurs not on a tennis court but in a beauty salon. Early in the film, a then-married Bille-Jean King (played by Emma Stone) encounters hairdresser Marilyn Barnett (Andrea Riseborough) for the first time. There is a quietly seductive interaction going on between the two women, who clearly feel an instantaneous attraction, as Barnett cuts King’s hair.

The directors, Valerie Faris and Jonathan Dayton, used a special close-up lens to capture the looks exchanged between the women and their telling gestures, but it isn’t just the visual close-ups that establish the intimacy. It’s the sound mix, too–the scissors snipping, the whoosh of the blow dryers, and the other sounds of the salon melt away at one point, turning the whispers shared between King and Barnett into audio close-ups.

Faris and Dayton note that they were trying to use ASMR. “It’s this effect created when somebody like a dental hygienist, or someone cutting your hair, or doing your makeup, talks in a certain way,” Faris explains. “There’s a certain response that it elicits, not for everyone, but for some people–it’s relaxing.”

Here’s the video:

I’ll admit these videos don’t elicit any response from me. To me, it’s just another in a collection of odd videos that are extremely popular on the internet, like Mukbang, pressure washing, study with me, squishies, and unpacking/toy reviews.

One thing all these videos have in common is lots and lots of views, so obviously I’m missing something. Obviously many people seem to find value in watching them.

While the Michelob Ultra Pure Gold commercial certainly succeeded in getting lots of views (nearly 14 million at this point), and in bringing ASMR into the mainstream (as defined by me finally knowing about it), it remains to be seen if the ad increases beer sales.

One commenter to the WSJ article is not too optimistic:

“…no one that drinks beer enough to move the needle cares about product content labels, corn starch or asmr….”

Nice how he got in digs at two beer commercials in one comment…



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