Major Retailers Latch on to 'Hauler' Viral Videos

J.C. Penny, others turn to tech savvy teen "haulers" for viral marketing.

ByERIC NOLL and LEE FERRAN via via logo
March 20, 2010, 6:47 PM

July 14, 2010— -- The first thing every tween or teen girl does right after getting home from the mall is show off her shopping spree. But thanks to the Internet, girls are doing more than bragging about their fashion finds to their best friends.

A growing phenomenon called "haul videos" allows the girls to show off their purchases to the whole world on sites like YouTube.

Now, major retailers -- always eager to find new ways to market to teens and tweens -- are giving the haul video makers a commercial makeover by actively recruiting a handful of them for back-to-school marketing campaigns. And it could mean big business.

There are more than 150,000 haul videos currently on YouTube, and some videos are racking up tens of millions of views.

CLICK HERE to learn how to make a "haul" video from the pros.

Hauls are, in a sense, short product review videos. The "vlogger," or video blogger, shows off her goods, gushing about everything from lip gloss to flip-flops and gives her opinion on the quality of the products.

"Haul videos are the perfect marriage of two of Generation Y's favorite things: technology and shopping," Kit Yarrow, a consumer psychologist, told "GMA" in March for an initial report on this phenomenon. "It's a vicarious pleasure. You don't have to spend the money and you still get the thrill; it's a bit like pornography."

Haul videos are not just about blowing allowance money on designer clothes. The vloggers brag about scouring sales at drug stores and bargain outlets, too.

While haul videos are making one girl's shopping treasure into another's online entertainment, they're also transforming these savvy shoppers into young tycoons. Some videos are being viewed millions of times, and the vloggers are cashing in -- scoring sponsorships, product deals and magazine spreads.

"We have some haul videos that compare to major cable channels in views," Shishir Mehrotra, director of Product Management at YouTube, said.

Mehrotra scours YouTube looking for top talent. When he finds a vlogger who has cultivated a large following, he'll offer a YouTube partnership to them.

The YouTube Partner Program allows budding entrepreneurs to get paid to make videos and pocket a cut of the ad revenue.

"We have hundreds of partners that make over $1,000 a month, and we have several that are making six figures and really are supporting a living off of YouTube," Mehotra says.

The stores are also compensating some of the vloggers. J.C. Penny has deals with six girls to create back-to-school videos in exchange for gift cards from $250 to $1,000, according to a report by USA Today.

"It's one of the most innovative things we're doing this fall," Mike Boylson, chief marketing officer at J.C. Penny, told USA Today. "All of these haulers have followers and friends. That's how you start the ball rolling."

American Eagle is also getting in on the action, USA Today reported, with its own version of AE hauls.

Sponsored Vloggers Play by FTC Rules

Since fans and advertisers are hanging on their every cyber word, vloggers now must comply with new Federal Trade Commission governing sponsorship. While they are allowed to accept free merchandise, haul video vloggers must disclose if they are being paid by a company to review a product. Any person with a webcam and an audience can become a professional paid haul video expert.

Sisters Elle Fowler, 21, and Blair Fowler, 16, from Tennessee, are two of the phenomenon's biggest stars. Combined, their videos have been viewed 75 million times.

Forever 21 is reportedly in talks with the sisters to promote their line, though nothing solid has come of the deal.

Their popularity translates into sales for companies, too. Just 24 hours after posting a review of a watch they bought, it sold out in every color, and the company's website crashed from the boost in traffic.

The sisters receive merchandise to review, and they have a partnership with YouTube that allows them to get paid for the videos they make. The sisters say they are so successful that Blair is now home schooled so she can concentrate on making more videos.

Here is Elle and Blair's recipe for creating the perfect haul video, as they told "GMA" in March:

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