It might feel like the economy is still in the dumps, but look no further than YouTube to turn a CEO's frown upside down. There you'll find (mostly) young girls expressing their unadulterated love for the stuff they just bought. It's the showiest show and tell; it's PG girl porn; it's an internet phenomenon slowly raking in bigger view counts... the haul video.
Several thousand have been posted to YouTube this month alone. They're often organized by store (like Target, H&M, CVS) or type of product (cosmetics, accessories, shoes, even stamps.) These girls record themselves by webcam, often posed in their bedrooms or closets. With shopping bag(s) in hand for that just-back-from-the-store effect, they gush over one purchased item after another — e--h girl becoming the host of her own personal Style Network, Bravo or QVC show.
Here is one of the most watched haul videos on youtube posted by Blair AKA juicystar07 with more than 500,000 views and counting.
Blair discloses upfront that she pays for everything herself and that these companies don't compensate her for the free advertising. (I suspect though a handful of these girls might.)
Now my own disclosure: I am not a big shopper. I am not a female. I am not a teenager, no matter what my dad thinks. I'm probably predisposed, but my initial reaction to these haul videos was shock and dismay. These girls desperately, desperately need to get a life, not another eye shadow. (Upon seeing a haul video for the first time, one of my NPR colleagues declared she needed to vomit.)
But after spending some hours watching them (they're oddly addictive), the hauls sort of grew on me.
It's easy to judge these girls. They're perky; they're materialistic; they have big closets. But the vloggers who make these videos take fashion seriously. In their best TV stylist voices, they point out the intricate beading on a blouse or the makeup that keeps them from breaking out. Sure, it's not current affairs or politics, but at its best, it's young women genuinely expressing their personal taste.
We're not talking about pricey high-end fashion either. By and large, these girls are purchasing clothes and accessories available at your local mall. Some of these haul vloggers even show you the price tag, reveling in the latest discount or clearance sale. Honestly, this might be girl talk 2.0 at its best and I bet it goes a long way to getting the viewer up from their computer and into the store aisle.
In fact, I'm sure some smart business person has/is creatively capitalizing on these haul videos. If you know of one, I'd love to hear about it. (Really, I do. Post it in the comments section.)
But let me end where I began... the economy. The simple fact is the economy won't truly turnaround until consumers start consuming again. In some bizarre way, these girls are at the retail front lines, chins courageously up at the gloomy check-out counter. Yes, I'm an adult male who doesn't like to shop, but frankly, if we're going to get out of this slump, I (and we) might have to discover our inner teenage girl. So ladies, I salute you. Go forth and haul.