Quiet Content: The Secret Ingredient in The Great British Bake Off

Jun 20, 2019


By now you’ve likely heard about the revelation that is burnout. The topic of burnout has been around for a while but recently resurfaced after a BuzzFeed article dubbed millennials the burnout generation, which caused an uproar from new burnout believers.

But if you haven’t heard about it, the premise is simple. Our brains are working overtime as a result of technology, culture, and social changes. Our technology has advanced so much that we take work with us everywhere we go, even when we shouldn’t be working. Our culture sometimes shames us into thinking that doing nothing means laziness or even failure. And society has told us that we need to constantly be crafting our identity or our brand, even at the expense of our happiness and our self-confidence.

The symptoms? Lack of focus and motivation, reduced performance and ability to connect and create, difficulty concentrating, being apathetic about work, and fatigue.

So what does this have to do with marketing?

If millennials are burned out, then let’s face it—most business decision makers and the clients paying your next invoice are also burned out. It’s fair to say that we’re burned out in other ways too—like from advertising content.

Can you cut through the noise…by being quiet?

Think about it. We are constantly being advertised to. We see a huge number of ads every day— estimates put the actual number between 4,000 and 10,000 a day for the average American. Each comes with its own set of added stimuli. We have to see a lot of shiny and flashy things a day, and in a matter of seconds, our brain has to sort out what we want from what we don’t want. As digesters of content, we’re tired. We. Are. Burned. Out.

An antidote is emerging: quiet content. Against the current environment of agitation and noise, quiet content stands out because of its calming nature that provides readers and viewers space to breathe, for example, in shows such as The Great British Bake Off.

Enter GBBO and ASMR

More than 14 million people have tuned into The Great British Bake Off (GBBO). The show has established a crazy cult following since its first airing in 2010. That’s a lot of followers for cupcakes and bread.

Why? Because viewers claim that it’s the most wholesome and plain reality TV show that you’ll ever see. It’s a show that capitalizes on simple and genuine interactions. It’s almost the most anti-reality TV show out there because GBBO rarely pushes drama. It’s imperfect and boring, in a delightful way. People are relaxed by the show, where they find peace and a haven away from the burnout of everyday life.

GBBO isn’t the only content that capitalizes on the quiet. There’s content that aims to elicit an Autonomic Sensory Meridian Response (ASMR), which can be described as “a tingling at the crown of the head, which may continue down the spine and the rest of the body, in a wave of euphoria, followed by Zen-like relaxation.” A Columbia University sleep disorder specialist, Dr. Carl W. Bazil suggests that ASMR videos are a way to unwind: “ASMR videos seem to be a variation on finding ways to shut your brain down.”

My hypothesis is this: quiet content can be just as good if not better than loud, super-engaging, complex content.

A Marketing Hypothesis Proven Correct

How do we know that quiet content can be just as good? Because of social listening. Social listening is when search engines scour the web and find where brands or topics were mentioned. This can include keywords, tags, and untagged mentions. We use our own proprietary technology to hear what consumers and prospects are saying about topics, and—for a price—there are tools out there that can do it as well.

Using social listening and sentiment analysis, we were able to track these topics in specific geological areas and monitor reactions that those topics generate. Turns out consumers are really tired of being marketed to over and over by irrelevant or noisy content.

In a study about new data on why people hate ads, we found this: 83% of people agree with the statement “Not all ads are bad, but I want to filter out the really obnoxious ones.”  And 91% of people say ads are more intrusive today than 2–3 years ago.

People are looking for something subtler and more relaxed, and for content that makes them care. Turns out that ASMR and GBBO are two examples of a trend that not only relax people but engage people.

Big brands have also figured this out. Ikea used ASMR in a video ad for college furniture. This video has over 2.5 million views. Here’s an ASMR advertisement for Lincoln with Matthew McConaughey softly narrating over a scene of a bull majestically standing in an open road. That one has 3.3 million views.

How to Reduce Burnout for Everyone

There’s an adage: “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” And in the case of content and advertising burnout, that is absolutely true.

Companies like Ikea, Lincoln, and even my own are using social media listening tools and sentiment analysis to take a lot of the guesswork out of marketing to deliver better, more resonant content.

These tools help us build content marketing plans with more assurance and less effort. No more spinning wheels and making assumptions about what people want. Instead, we can explore the internet and discover what people actually say they want.  

Turns out that sometimes, in a world full of noise, being quiet can get you noticed.


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