Catalogs.com is into haul videos.
Four months ago, I would have said, "what?" My teens have not yet joined the legions of webcammers and YouTubers.
Four months ago, "haul videos" were not even in my online radar.
But now, I am watching haul videos, and having a lot of fun. A haul video is a customer review -- on steroids. Instead of rating a product with clickable gold stars and writing a couple sentences about why you like a pair of shoes, for example, here's the concept: grab your video camera (a good webcam will work) and find your inner actress!
Anyone with the ability to chatter amiably, hold up product and engage the camera has the potential to become an online-product-review personality.
Haul videos started with YouTube-ing teenagers sharing the fruits of their mall shopping trips - their "mall haul." The haul videos were a lot of giggling, bragging, and some impromptu modeling of the latest high school fashion trends. The teens gave a from-the-heart thumbs up or down. The haul video phenomenon even created its own superstars, like Elle and Blair Fowler. The sisters are building a little empire out of producing haul videos of products that they are now paid to review. I read there was talk of a move to Hollywood. Haul videos can be big business.
For many major retailers, marketing through haul videos is a serious component of the corporate annual advertising campaign. The FCC requires disclosure of haul video sponsorship - when a retailer buys the clothes and/or pays the reviewer. Many haul video makers are looking for underwriting and a closet of free clothing. Still, there are plenty of haul videographers who are happily providing free - or close to it - product reviews and entertaining YouTube surfing.
I think haul videos are fun, as long as they are not slick commercials. You can watch professionally produced advertisements on TV. A haul video has to have a component of "real" to it. Part of the charm of the haul video is its home-made quality, and the frankness of the reviewer's opinions. If the haul video reviewer says they love a skirt, you want to believe that they mean it. If they say that you should buy one, too, you want to believe it.
In my opinion, there is a way for a retailer to win in the haul video genre. In the spirit of a real customer review, retailers have have to keep it real. Sponsor the video, underwrite the product, but refrain from scripting, directing and editing. It's a fine line, but it would be a shame to have commercial interests overrun what is really "fun" about YouTube - the user-generated content component of the online video experience.
Back to where I started: Catalogs.com is into haul videos. We even (gently) sponsored a haul video for one of our catalog retailers, Soul Flower, produced by a real catalog shopper, Ginna. Catalogs.com provided the "shopping spree," ... everything else is real Ginna. I am hooked. These haul videos have a mesmerizing charm to them.
What do you think?