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Deck The Hauls

A quick search for “haul video” on YouTube reveals over 7 million results. Now, while all of these may not be authentic haul videos — that’s a video in which a YouTube “personality” shares the spoils of a recent shopping trip — the sheer volume of the search results speaks to the ever-increasing popularity of these videos.

So, what is a haul video, and how can brands tap into the video gold of these viral hits?

In 2013, as haul videos were rapidly gaining popularity (and viral-ity) on YouTube, Advertising Age dissected the trend, noting both the authenticity — low production value, unscripted and highly enthusiastic performances — as well as the ability for viewers to feel like they were part of the content, interacting through comments, questions and having their own visceral reactions to what they were seeing on the screen.

Haul videos, as ReelSEO points out, also play an important role in the discovery process for consumers. Shopping for holiday gifts is a process that requires a bit more research than other casual purchases; and among millennials, YouTube has become the most trusted platform to conduct that research. These videos also serve as a sort of digital window shopping, allowing users to get a more detailed view of a product, listen to a person discuss details that may not otherwise come up in online reviews and see exactly what a piece of clothing looks like on an actual real-life (non-model size) person.

Additionally, the ReelSEO story continues, haul videos are a great way for brands to announce and promote special deals and promotions. By partnering with established haul video stars, brands can gain access to an engaged audience that values the opinion of the reviewer. By providing unique coupon codes for the YouTuber to share with their audience, these partnerships also become measurable for brands looking to gauge the efficacy of such influencer marketing programs.

Haul videos are particularly popular with young women in their teens and early twenties. Many of the rising stars of the trend also fit this demographic. Zoella, Bethany Mota, Alexandrea Garza and Meredith Foster are young YouTube sensations who garner millions of views on their shopping haul videos and attract millions of subscribers to their channels, who sign up to receive notifications every time they post a new video. These young women aren’t only attracting views; they are also driving real sales for the brands they partner with. According to Glew.io, Google states that 40 percent of shoppers who watch “haul” videos will purchase a highlighted product.

And these superstars’ power stretches far beyond YouTube. Bethany Mota, for example, has an Instagram following of 5.4 million — that’s larger than Elle, Glamour and Cosmopolitan magazines combined. This has made the now 19-year-old social media star an attractive partner for brands like Aeropostale. Just before the 2014 holiday season, the teen apparel fixture introduced a Bethany Mota-branded clothing and jewelry line that featured sweaters, skirts and even a sequined bustier. While brands are used to working with celebrities to endorse their products, this was one of the largest deals to date with a celebrity whose exposure was almost completely limited to social media.

The authenticity that these self-made social stars bring to a brand campaign is something, as Advertising Age notes in its article on the trend, that advertising creatives seek to do on their own but often fall short on. YouTube stars have replaced the reality TV stars of the early 2000s — think “Jersey Shore” or “The Hills” (now stop thinking about them so you can find happiness again) — who feigned at authenticity but often got caught up in over-the-top dramas manufactured by producers to keep viewers tuned in. YouTube haul video stars are unscripted, unrehearsed and often are offering their own uncensored opinions on products and offerings of the brands they are reviewing.

Within the genre of haul videos, specialties are emerging. Sneaker haul videos, according to The Next Web, are one of the fastest-growing sub-genres, having experienced 72 percent year-over-year growth in 2015. Prepare to see more and more “sneakerheads” (often male) hitting the digital airwaves in the year ahead, as this trend shows no signs of slowing.

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