JC Penney, Forever 21 “Haul” In User-Generated Videos For Back to School Promos

In an age where consumer-generated content reigns, tech-savvy consumers have found a new way to support their shopping habits — by broadcasting their latest finds on YouTube for the social sphere to see.

The videos, known as “hauls,” have made an impressive impact on YouTube, as more than 159,000 have been posted to the user-generated site. Retailers have taken notice, and several are now integrating the concept into their overall marketing strategy.

JC Penney, Forever 21 and American Eagle have all tapped hauls to get a bigger bite of market share, as the National Retail Federation predicts back to school shopping for grades K-12 to reach $21.35 billion. JC Penny recently announced plans to give gift cards to teens who create haul videos after shopping at the store.


“Anytime a retailer or manufacturer can get a consumer to evangelize their offering to their peers and social network it is a clear win,” said Matt Britton, CEO of Mr. Youth, a New York-based social media agency focused on strategic marketing messaging for teens. “With the growing reach and influence of today’s teen consumer and the fading impact of traditional media, this trend exemplifies the new and often sophisticated choices retailers face in reaching consumers. Any major seasonal tent pole for a retailer (Holiday, Back To School, Dads & Grads, etc.) can effectively use ‘haul videos’ to reach consumers in a unique and memorable fashion.”

Back to school shopping is generally expected to look up this year. The average 2010 spend consumers say they will make for back-to-school clothing and supplies is $584, up 10% over a year ago, according to a national survey conducted by Brand Keys, a New York-based brand and customer loyalty research consultancy.

While some retailers are harnessing the haul videos for viral promotion, Urban Outfitters is taking the concept a step further by offering the “UO Haul: Shop & Tell” Contest, giving haulers the chance to win up to $500 in gift cards.

Hauling in Cash
Haul videos can be a lucrative opportunity, for some. Some haulers receive money from the companies whose products they review — typically in disclosed posts. Haulers with corporate sponsors sometimes host contests, giving away products as a way to attract new subscribers.

Two popular Internet haulers, sisters Blair and Elle Fowler, gave one retailer a particularly big boost. Only 24 hours after they posted a review of a watch they bought, it sold out in every color and the company’s web site crashed from the boost in traffic, according to ABC News. The sisters are even in talks with Forever 21 for a lucrative contract, although nothing has yet been set in stone. The sisters’ videos have been viewed over 75 million times on YouTube.

Although the hauling trend has indefinite potential for growth, Britton encourages retailers to think about the potential drawbacks, which, he said, include:

  • “Participating consumers spreading misinformation about products including price and quality;
  • Consumers creating haul videos that aren’t on brand which could chip away at a retailers overall equity;
  • The lack of ability to maintain a consistent message from such an effort that is coming from such a diverse audience of content creators.”

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