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Special Project

Special Project
From the 15th Annual Shorty Awards

AARP TikTok: Gen X ASMR Series

Finalist in TikTok


How do you enhance perceptions of your brand and establish a connection with a generation that has often been overlooked?

Once dubbed “America’s neglected middle child,” Generation X has quietly aged into AARP’s 50-plus community. Our challenge: How do we capture the attention of Generation X and establish AARP as a destination for them? To meet that goal, we did something that might make you say, “wait, what?” We joined TikTok.

Our objectives were straightforward:

Early learnings from our first few months on TikTok told us that humor, nostalgia and trends were key elements for success. With that in mind, we developed the concept for what became our most popular content series: Gen X ASMR.   

Strategy and Execution

Initially conceived as a spoof on the ubiquitous ASMR trend, the first Gen X ASMR video featured “AARP TikTok guy” Craig whispering into a mic and using nostalgic items to create sounds that transported Gen Xers back to their 1980s childhoods: blowing into a Nintendo cartridge, cranking a manual pencil sharpener, rewinding a VHS tape in a VCR, and creating static on a spinning record player. The results were incredible: our first “viral” hit, this video gained 500K views in two days, received 72K likes, 5.5K comments and 14.5K shares. Not only did we get laughs, but we were flooded with requests for more sounds.

Capturing the momentum of the first video, we immediately got to work on episode two – responding to a comment requesting the sound of a metal Slinky, along with asks for dot-matrix printer paper, rewinding a cassette with a pencil, and the rip of Velcro on a Trapper Keeper. We continued to encourage audience participation, and the requests kept coming. To date, we’ve published 13 Gen X ASMR episodes, each one inspired by user comments, featuring nostalgic items like an Etch-a-Sketch, Aquanet hairspray, a typewriter, TV static, a slap bracelet, a rotary phone, Operation and Perfection, and more. We even snuck in a Rick Roll.

The serialized approach supports increased brand recognition through repetition, improves brand affinity through opportunities for positive interaction, and drives significant audience growth. In short, Gen X ASMR has been a vital tool in building our TikTok community – providing entertainment, authentic connection and meaningful engagement with our target audience.


This series put AARP on the map with our target audience, and has been a primary driver of community growth and engagement. So far, Gen X ASMR has generated:

It has also moved the needle when it comes to building brand affinity among Gen Xers. The proof is in the comments, which show an overwhelmingly positive sentiment as users find unexpected joy on our channel:


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