A peppy blonde teenager sits on the floor of her spacious bedroom. “Hey guys! So today I’m going to be doing a back-to-school clothing haul,” she announces into the camera. The twelve-minute video, posted to YouTube on August 8th, already has almost four hundred thousand views. In it, Maddi Bragg talks about a recent shopping trip, showing off her purchases from stores like H&M and Pacsun with a running commentary.
The haul video isn’t exactly new. In 2013 Lisa Green, head of industry, fashion and luxury brands at Google, announced that “Haul videos are big, and they are growing.” Since then, the trend has proved to have some serious legs.
The influence of these videos is vast. A Google study indicated that four out of ten haul video viewers will go on to visit the stores mentioned, either online or in person. Most vloggers have large, engaged followings on the platform, and their videos outstrip many posted by brands themselves. For instance, Bragg’s video mentioning retailer Pacsun has more views than all but two of Pacsun’s two hundred and fourty uploads.
Bragg isn’t (yet) a member of the ranks of YouTube celebrities like fellow tween Bethany Mota, or British vlogger Zoella, whose huge followings have scored them partnerships with big-name brands and something approaching mainstream recognition. Rather, she’s one of the legions of young men and women turning to YouTube both to share and research their shopping choices. Content-creators like Bragg, and viral celebrities like Mota both play a role in creating the huge aggregate influence of the YouTube platform on young shoppers.
A new breed of celebrity has been born. A Variety survey found that YouTube celebrities were more popular than stars from music and Hollywood. The survey found that the five “most influential figures among Americans ages 13-18” were all YouTube celebrities. According to Variety, these vloggers “scored significantly higher than traditional celebrities across a range of characteristics considered to have the highest correlation to influencing purchases among teens.”
There are many ways for brands to take advantage of this influential trend. In particular, the beauty industry has been quick to take notice of the potential for collaboration. The L2 Digital IQ: Beauty 2014 study found that 37% of leading beauty brands already integrate vlogger content on their YouTube channels. Brands can also capitalize on native YouTube communities, by targeting ads to haul-related keywords. Some brands incentivize vloggers to feature their products, while others like Aeropostale have already forged official ties with YouTube’s youngest superstars.