Bloggers are nothing new in the world of fashion. For the past few seasons, fashion week front rows have been filled with the blogger elite, including industry pro-turned-blogger Scott Schulman of The Sartorialist, and 13-year-old fashion wunderkind Tavi Gevinson, a Style Rookie who has even styled a photo shoot for Teen Vogue. But just like their fashion pals who support them, their popularity only extends as far as the fashion inner circle. For young fashionistas outside of New York and L.A., there’s a new kind of “It” girl in town, carrying not only an armful of Forever 21 shopping bags, but real market power, too.
Enter the “haul” video blogger. Haul videos are posted by shoppers, mostly young teen girls, who come home from a “shopping haul”, better known as a “shopping spree”, and find themselves overcome with giddy desire to show off their new purchases to not one, but thousands of their closest girl friends on the web. With an abundance of brand name-dropping and perky squeals while modeling their new clothing, shoes, accessories, and makeup, it’s not hard to see why these videos have become a marketer’s dream come true. Haul videos have been an emerging trend in YouTube video posts for the past year, but they’ve recently hit their apex. According to ABC News, if you take a browse on YouTube today, you’ll find more than 110,000 haul videos currently posted. That’s a lot of free advertising.
Two of the most popular YouTube haul vloggers are sisters Elle Fowler, 21, and Blair Fowler, 16, who started off making simple haul videos, but have now turned themselves into multi-dimensional marketing machines. Both girls have YouTube-sponsored channels and allow YouTube to run ads alongside their videos, splitting the revenue. They’ve also formed a handful of other deals with fashion and beauty companies that are trying their best to get the girls to hawk their products. Of course, the usual disclaimers are found indicating whether or not the girls bought the items themselves, or if they were promotional items sent to them. Either way, do these disclaimers really make these girls any more trustworthy than your average magazine editor?
Well, their fans happen to think so. These girls are adored by their followers. The products they’ve vlogged about have been known to sell out within hours of a video being posted. We’re talking more than just their local high school buddies here. Currently Blair has more than 300,000 subscribers and more than 16 million views for her videos. Elle has more than 200,000 subscribers and more than 10 million views. Sure, they’re not “Surprise Kitty” numbers, but still pretty impressive. These tech-savvy teens have certainly found a way to connect to their peers using the medium that they love and know best: video. They come off as sweet and friendly, and truly excited to share their lives and hobbies with their audience, who, according to loads of comments left on their videos, undoubtedly view the girls as a pair of pretty, cool friends they can look up to. One can certainly admire Anna Wintour, but no girl on Earth would ever consider her a friend.
There’s a few things we can learn from these two tech mavens about viral video stardom. 1) A pretty smile and a little transparency will build you a loyal fan base, and 2) consistency is key. The Fowler sisters constantly try to create a sense of modesty in their videos. During their introductions, Blair is often heard saying things like “I’m not trying to brag,” or “this isn’t about what my family can afford to buy me” as a segue into her haul videos. To many this act might seem a little ironic, but to their loyal young fans it’s a sincere act of honesty–two things they don’t always find in the Photoshopped pages of their monthly teen magazines. The girls also post videos pretty regularly, lest their fans start nagging them for more. Both sisters do note that most of their vlog ideas come directly from fan requests. Each sister has two separate YouTube video channels, one for mostly hauls and makeup tutorials, and another for more personal vlogs about their everyday lives. Between their two channels, you can catch new videos of Blair or Elle as often as one or two times a week.
So will these girls eventually drown out as YouTube fads usually do, or will they become the hottest new industry experts? Either way, it looks like they’ve already joined the traditional media crowd, recently appearing in a young beauty piece for Seventeen magazine. (The older sister Elle is also rumored to be interning at the magazine.) You can say what you want about the declining influence of fashion and beauty editors in the digital age, but at the end of the day there’s still only one thing that every budding fashionista wants: to be in Vogue.
Image by Gabriella Fabbri from Stock.Xchng