YouTube “Hauls”: A New Way to Advertise

You’ve been told this before: the Internet saturates your life., influencing what you like, what you know and mainly what you buy. The latest marketing strategy is YouTube hauling videos, which give large companies a low-investment way of promoting their merchandise.

An article from NPR defined haul videos as “the YouTube equivalent of calling a best friend and gushing about a recent shopping spree. Trivial details are accepted and overexcitement is encouraged.”

In a haul video, people show off their recent purchases (like clothes, makeup, etc.) on screen.

Haul videos generally start with a disclaimer: “I am not trying to brag in any way. I bought this with all of my own money.”

Then the hauler say something along the lines of, “I just had to put that out there because I always get so many hateful comments.”

Next, the “beauty guru” meticulously takes each item out of the countless bags surrounding her and describes the articles of clothing: “There’s so much detailing on the sleeves and crochet is just so cute! I knew I had to buy it.”

Finally, all that’s left is a giveaway, often sponsored by a company that the hauler is partnered with.

YouTube sensations are everywhere in our society and regardless of how you feel about these videos, they are giving fashion savvy moms, shopaholic teens and hyper excited kids an outlet to flaunt their possessions in a socially acceptable manner.

Although there are both female and male haulers, the media has put more attention on females, with major news outlets like the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, Business Insider, Yahoo and NPR all publishing articles about this phenomenon.

Haulers attract tens of thousands of admiring fans and many major fashion retailers are also taking notice. Companies realize a huge marketing opportunity in these YouTubers and reason that giving them a few complementary pieces which then get shown to millions of viewers is a small price to pay for a noticeable increase in sales.

However, for the most successful haulers with the most views, this pastime garners lucrative incomes from sponsored videos and contracted partnerships with brands.

One company that relies on haulers is Windsor, an online retail store that turned to YouTube when it was struggling.

Evelyn Campos, Windsor’s assistant manager for online and marketing, says, “We needed a way to reach out to our customers without having a huge marketing budget and we felt this was right up our alley with our target demographic.”

The 20 haulers the company works with attracted more than 5 million views last year.

The influence wielded by YouTube haulers is so colossal that the aforementioned NPR story even outlines a “hauler totem pole.” High up on the totem pole are Elle and Blair Fowler known as allthatglitters21 and juicystar07 on YouTube, respectively. Sisters from Tennessee, they started hauling five years ago and since then, they have garnered 2,887,808 total subscribers with their perky personalities and perfectly coiffed heads. They have worked with many companies including JustFab and have even released two books, Beneath the Glitter and Where Beauty Lies. It doesn’t stop there. They have also started their own makeup line, Skylark, and phone case line with Cellairis.

Another hauler, Caitlin Ellsworth (Glamourista16), became so successful that she took hauling up as a part time job and now has relationships with over 15 companies, including the teenage girl’s coveted bible, Seventeen Magazine.

Haulers partner with companies in multiple ways, such as reviewing products, receiving commission on sales generated by the videos, and hosting contests to give away products from their corporate sponsors. Haulers often share a link with their viewers and every purchase made using that link generates income.

Ellsworth says, “You can definitely make a lot. Some girls are making six figures. So, it can definitely be a good job.”

Haulers are commonly part of YouTube’s “partners program,” which gives members a share of the profits from advertisements that appear on their videos.

Bottom line, the amount of money a hauler makes “depends on how many views you have,” says Margaret Healy, manager of strategic partnerships for YouTube.

Many haulers also join multi-channel networks, entities that affiliate with multiple YouTube channels. These networks offer partner management, digital rights management, monetization/sales and audience development, but they also keep a portion of the advertising revenue the haulers generate.

According to Lisa Green, head of industry, fashion and luxury brands at Google, “Haul videos are big and they are growing.”

There are more than 700,000 haul videos on YouTube today, up from 150,000 in 2010. There were 34,000 haul videos uploaded just in February 2013 alone and more than 6,000 were uploaded over the 2013 Thanksgiving weekend.

A Google study also indicated that 4 out of 10 people who watch a haul video end up virtually or physically visiting whatever store  mentioned.

Many girls aspire to become YouTube haulers who are praised as fashion gurus. 18-year-old Bethany Mota (macbarbie07) is another YouTube celebrity famous for her hauls. She is now a millionaire with her own fanbase, who call themselves “Motavators.”

Mota has 5,770,365 YouTube subscribers, two times more than that of Lady Gaga, Katy Perry and Beyoncé combined. She also has a whopping 2,660,304 Instagram followers, a number that is still climbing, which is more than that of Vogue, Elle, Marie Claire, Glamour and Cosmopolitan combined. Mota has also worked with large companies like JCPenney and Forever 21. You can see her on billboards in New York City, in Seventeen Magazine, at your local mall doing meet and greets, and her greatest endeavor yet, in Aéropostale campaigns promoting her own clothing line.

Aéropostale, with stock near a five-year low, introduced a Bethany Mota branded clothing and jewelry line in December of 2013 in an effort to boost sales and attract the teen girls who make up Mota’s fanbase. This commercial partnership is one of the highest profile alliances between a YouTuber and a public company, outlining the mass infiltration of marketing on YouTube’s most popular channels.

Recently, Mota went on tour around the United States in a decked out bus that formerly belonged to Keith Urban. As part of her deal with Aéropostale, she is surprising fans at the retailer’s many stores around the nation, which leads us to the meet-and-greets that many other YouTubers also hold. Fans often bring gifts and small trinkets to give to the gurus and excessive screaming is encouraged.

Why are teenagers everywhere so attracted to Mota?

As one fan puts it, “She’s super famous and super pretty.”

Fans find Mota relatable, like they do other YouTube haulers. They seem happier and more exciting than normal teenagers who take the bus to school everyday, but they also seem more approachable and real than movie stars and TV celebrities.

Hauls are feel-good videos with a very interesting dynamic. On the surface, self-proclaimed shopaholic girls are showing off their clothes, but behind all that are the endorsements, the sponsorships and the six figure salaries.

I have to admit, I often catch myself watching countless haul videos. While I don’t hesitate at all to hang up on a telemarketer, I am eager to listen to haulers essentially tell me what to buy —to tell me what’s “so in right now.”

Haul videos epitomize how YouTube has not only become a job market, but also a marketplace, marking the new age of advertising and consumerism.

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