In a sporting event where everything is extravagant, from the half-time show to advertising budgets, how do brands beat the competition and cut through the noise? Do they crank the volume up or opt for subtlety?
Cutting Through the Noise
The Super Bowl is not known for subtlety. Helmets bang, bodies collide, and fans yell from the stands. The stakes are high, for the teams battling on the field and brands competing for our attention on television.
Michelob went to extremes with their 2019 ULTRA Pure Gold “The Pure Experience” commercial spot. Instead of joining the chorus of companies shouting for our attention, they delivered their message with a whisper.
What is ASMR?
For the majority of football fans, Michelob's commercial must have seemed like an alien transmission. However, ASMR (Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response) videos are an internet phenomenon and popular on YouTube. ASMR videos generally feature women tapping on hard objects, spritzing spray bottles, and talking in a rhythm of hushed tones to arouse a tingly sensation. ASMR purists will say that there’s nothing sexual about these videos, with the only titillation being the occasional shiver or goosebumps.
Although other brands like Dove chocolate used ASMR as a marketing strategy as far back as 2015, ASMR is still a relatively new marketing tactic.
Eating and drinking are multi-sensory experiences. Hunger is awakened by seeing a burger bubble and hearing it sizzle. Our lips pucker, seeing an ice-cold glass of lemonade. Here's where Michelob gets it right; drinking a beer causes a range of auditory and visual stimulations which make it a perfect star for an ASMR video.
However, not every brand venturing into ASMR advertisements hits the spot. This McDonald’s commercial featuring John Goodman, doesn’t feel right.
McDonald's: ASMR(ish) with John Goodman from Liza Rush on Vimeo.
Michelob used AMSR to highlight the small sights and sounds that are part of the beer-drinking experience to trigger our taste buds and thirst like Pavlov's dogs.
But jumping on an internet fad like ASMR is still a risky move. Many companies fail trying to be edgy or subversive, and with a 30-second Super Bowl commercial costing over $5 million dollars, Michelob was going to succeed or fail on the biggest advertising stage of the year.
Michelob’s ASMR Advertisement
ASMR is hardly an unknown genre of internet videos, with some of the most popular videos having over 30 million views. But chances are your parents or the average football fan has no idea what they are. And millennials were over making jokes about them years ago.
The video opens with a few quick cuts through a lush, green landscape to reveal the actor Zoë Kravitz seated at a wooden desk in a mountainous landscape far removed from civilization.
Sleepy eyed, she leans in close to the microphone, like a lover whispering into your ear, asking the viewer to, “let’s all experience something…together.” There isn’t a moment to analyze all of this gentle weirdness. We’re immediately drawn in to be an active participant in the experience without even questioning it.
She taps her fingers across the glistening golden bottle of Michelob ULTRA Pure Gold and then glances at the camera. Are you hearing what she’s hearing? Yes, we’re sharing this moment. She then says, “A place so pure you can feel it.” And yes, we’re feeling it too.
She then rolls the bottom of the bottle like a monk ringing a singing bowl. All of these tiny movements and sounds bring our complete focus to what she’s doing with this Michelob bottle.
This slow build reaches a climax which, doesn't veil its sensuality. With a quick movement, Zoë pops the cap, and we hear the escaping pressure as the camera pans from left to right with visuals of churning water. This moment, this explosion that we’ve been waiting for has finally come true. Ahh, the sweet release of beer.
4 Reasons Why Michelob’s ASMR Marketing Campaign Worked
At first, this ASMR advertisement may appear like a flop because of its weird factor, but critically speaking, the strategy and execution are worthy of our praise.
1. Respect for the Art Form
What’s the difference between cultural appropriation and cultural appreciation? Respect. Michelob delivered an authentic ASMR experience with great respect for the medium.
2. ASMR is a Fresh Idea
Beer companies often take the role of the affable bully. Whether they’re making fun of craft beer or other competitors, their jabs always seem like a friendly ribbing. Sure they're jerks, but the type of jerks that buy you a drink tell you there are no hard feelings.
This ASMR inspired commercial has none of that. There’s not even context for what’s happening. We don’t get so much as a knowing glance or wink acknowledging that all of this may seem a bit strange.
3. Product-Market Fit
Everything about this commercial is perfect. Not only is a glass bottle of cold beer an ideal ASMR prop, Michelob invited every man and woman watching the Super Bowl to share an intimate experience with their beer. When most beer companies target classic male sentiments, Michelob created an experience for everyone.
4. It Evokes Feelings
The pinnacle of advertising is to make your audience feel something. SpaceX wants to evoke feelings of awe and wonder for what is possible. Nike wants to inspire athletes to chase glory.
Michelob wanted to awaken feelings of pure refreshment, and used ASMR to trigger a spontaneous, "low-grade euphoria" or as some other brands call them, “Brain Orgasms.” Whether you felt a tingling sensation or not, Michelob’s ASMR commercial made all of us feel a little different.
Michelob Activated Our Taste Buds Through Our Eyes and Ears
Michelob hushed their competition with a whisper. Michelob used the science and intrigue of ASMR to arouse our senses with the effervescent sounds of their beer and the physicality of their product, giving us a thirst only a Michelob ULTRA Pure Gold could satisfy.
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