Retail TouchPoints: JC Penney, Forever 21 ‘Haul’ In User-Generated Videos For Back to School Promos

Aug 03, 2010

By Amanda Ferrante

Through a special arrangement, presented here for discussion
is a summary of a current article from the Retail TouchPoints website.

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.

J.C. Penney,
Forever 21 and American Eagle have harnessed the haul videos for viral promotions.
Penney recently announced plans to give gift cards to teens who create haul
videos after shopping at the store. 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.

“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 social media agency focused on 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.”

Haul videos can be a lucrative opportunity. 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 website 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,
Mr., Britton encourages retailers to think about the potential drawbacks, which

  • “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.”

Discussion Questions: What do you think of the “hauling” trend
around user-generated videos? How can the opportunity be further maximized?
What are the potential risks?

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10 Comments on "Retail TouchPoints: JC Penney, Forever 21 ‘Haul’ In User-Generated Videos For Back to School Promos"

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David Biernbaum
11 years 9 months ago

Nearly 160,000 consumers broadcast about products and purchases from one particular retailer on YouTube for the social sphere to see. The videos, known as “hauls,” are a newer and more current phenomenon that retailers need to know about and to take seriously:

1. Appoint a highly skilled in-house “responder” to post replies and other news and information to piggy back the “haul.” This “responder” should identify him or herself openly and clearly as being from the company.

2. The “responder” should reply to “comments” of both positive and negative nature. However the “responder” should not dominate the forum. He or she should post something only here and there. It will get attention.

3. The retailers and manufacturers should work together to be sure that the right stuff is being posted to encourage a good discussion about the retailer and the products shown in the “haul.”

“Hauling” can be used effectively for marketing purposes in a highly efficient way to get the word out about retailers and exciting new products, including for back-to-school!

Paula Rosenblum
11 years 9 months ago

Wait a minute! Are you saying we might not need unscrupulous marketers roaming around neighborhoods scanning the trash for RFID tags? That consumers are actually giving up this information willingly? I’m dumbstruck.

Seriously, there’s a small opportunity here–since smartphones are now coming equipped with video, as are relatively low-end point-and-shoot cameras. And just like negative reviews don’t seem to negatively impact sales (or so the data tells us), I don’t think a bad video will impact a brand’s identity either. I don’t see it as a killer app–it’ll just become another part of the fabric of social networking.

Joel Warady
Joel Warady
11 years 9 months ago

There is no question that Consumer Generated Media (CGM) is all the rage. Retailers and brand owners encourage their consumers to create videos about products, services, and their own experiences with the brand. But like any new “fad,” this will get boring over time, it will be overused, and eventually people will turn off to it.

Additionally, as companies start to pay for these videos, or offer some other type of compensation in the form of gift certificates or products, the videos become less and less genuine, and the messages become less real.

It is great to have people evangelize about your business, but it is only meaningful if it is genuine, and transparent. Otherwise it will serve no purpose, and in fact can ultimately harm the reputation of the company.

Dan Berthiaume
Dan Berthiaume
11 years 9 months ago

Haul videos will exist whether retailers want them to or not. Particularly for consumers younger than 25, who have grown up on social networks and reality TV, documenting your daily life is a normal and expected activity. Retailers should accept the fact consumers will be recording their in-store experience, with or without permission, and use it as motivation to provide maximum customer service at all times.

Nathaniel Fry
Nathaniel Fry
11 years 9 months ago

Consumer-generated content, like YouTube “hauls” will grow faster than either manufacturer or retailer generated content. This is due to its attractiveness to consumers and its cost profile compared to other forms of content generation. Retailers will work to be able to integrate consumer-generated content into their marketing and visual merchandising processes.

Ed Rosenbaum
11 years 9 months ago

Hauling is a fantastic marketing opportunity. I am not from the generation these young sisters are from; but I can sure see the potential as limitless. Gee, is there a place for us older generations to haul? I want to do it and, better yet, I can see my wife being successful in front of the camera.

Yes, there can be a downside. But doesn’t everything have a downside? I can see mis-information being broadcast either in error or on purpose. I don’t think it will take long for it to be corrected.

Traditional marketers beware. You need to get into this generational change quickly. The world as we knew it has passed on. We are in a new, fast moving and changing time. Don’t blink or you will lose.

Carlos Arámbula
11 years 9 months ago

Let’s be clear about “hauling.” It’s not a branding function. It doesn’t replace the brand communications or traditional methods of communications. It’s simply an additional promotion vehicle and if cultivated properly, it will encourage traffic to the retailer. It’s a great opportunity to extend promotions to a near (or perceived) grass roots level.

Kids are savvy, if hauling becomes an obvious sponsored function it will backfire on retailers.

Eric Holmen
Eric Holmen
11 years 9 months ago

User generated content (UGC) is here and the ‘impressions’ that it measures will exceed paid media impressions from the advertising department, quickly if not so already for some brands. Hauling is a great name for retail UGC, but it comes in many forms.

Mobile phones will only make it more true. We built the JCPenney mobile website for back to school ( to include a UGC capability for the many teens who have a smartphone with a camera and web access to upload their hauls and experiences, immediately, and to get ranked right on the website. We’re seeing the same thing for sports teams and their fanatics.

This holiday season will see the tipping point of mobile, UGC, and rich media in retail. The Back to School success is making it so!

Retail marketers should be looking out for what other uses the mobile phone will have that can be both good and bad–price shopping, treasure hunting, trends and new item spotting–right in the store.

Doug Stephens
Doug Stephens
11 years 9 months ago

My belief is that any use of video to convey the brand and product proposition is smart. It’s just a great medium and lends itself to being spread.

The only risk as “haul” videos become more common amongst retailers will be the difficulty to differentiate one brand’s from another’s–the use of video itself will no longer be a differentiator. I’m sure as the trend accelerates, we’ll see companies up the ante by hiring more and more celeb haulers.

The societal inference that retailers should take from this is that shopping is and always will be a social activity.

Ciri Raynor Fenzel
Ciri Raynor Fenzel
11 years 9 months ago

Breathe blogged on this hauling trend back in July. Consumer generated content will always be relevant to the Gen Y consumer. We have seen through research that the Gen Y consumer is skeptical of corporate marketing messages, only responding to brands and messages they perceive as “authentic.” What has changed for this generation is the definition of “authentic.” While Gen X and Boomers sought insight and brand approval from “experts,” including celebrities, third-party endorsements such as Good Housekeeping, or favorable reviews from professional writers, Gen Y needs more than that. Gen Y tends to view “experts” more skeptically and truly respond only to the advice of their peers. So assuming these hauling videos remain authentic and genuine, this marketing trend will become another viable social media marketing tool.


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