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Kai Ryssdal: So here's something kind of random. Have you seen what're called "haul videos"? It's when shoppers, mostly young girls, post videos of what they've bought on YouTube. Some of those videos gotten hundreds of thousands of hits. Which, from a retailers perspective fairly screams marketing. JCPenney is handing out gift cards to teenagers who will, yes, buy stuff at Penney's and make videos about their hauls.
North Carolina Public Radio's Janet Babin reports.
Janet Babin: Here's a haul video from 16-year-old Blair, better known on YouTube as JuicyStar07. Blair just scored a $7 pair of jeans from retailer Forever 21.
YouTube video Somehow it makes your butt look smaller, so way to go for these jeans. That is why I bought them...
This video has close to 800,000 views.
Jonah Berger: We treat these videos that we see, as well as the word of mouth that we receive from our friends, as the truth, as authentic.
That's Jonah Berger at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School. He says that authenticity is what makes these videos so enticing to retailers, like JCPenney. Penney's is giving six girls gift cards to make a haul trip and post it online. And other retailers are considering similar moves. They're trying to boost back to school shopping.
Retail analyst Edward Weller with ThinkEquity says haul videos let retailers be where their customers are.
Edward Weller: I think what they're trying to say is "we love to do what you want to do, especially if you're going to buy stuff from us."
But paying to get in on a haul can get companies into trouble. The government requires that haulers disclose any compensation they receive.
Jessica Coen is editor in chief of Jezebel, an online site for women. She says companies need to be clear about the relationship up front.
Jessica Coen: If you throw a tiny link at the bottom underneath the video, it seems like you're to sneak the information in. And young women are very savvy when it comes to when they're being sold something.
But they also know the power of the perfect pair of jeans.
I'm Janet Babin for Marketplace.