Is ‘Haul’ Culture Damaging Your Blog?

Bonjour, Blogger! Is ‘Haul’ Culture Damaging Your Blog?
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The topic of hauls has been on my mind for a while now. As guilty as I am of using the word occasionally to describe a Topshop-shaped dent in my bank balance, I think it’s time that we retire this word and the videos and blog posts that come with it…

An easy hit

Hauls are like an extension of the unboxing videos that are popular in the tech blogging community, except instead of one product, the point is that a haul features a collection of products. Sometimes this could be a shopping bag full of clothes but it could be beauty products, homeware items or a mix of all three. The word has replaced the notion of a shopping spree in the online community, and vlogs featuring the word ‘haul’ are some of the most frequently uploaded to YouTube.

Humans are a naturally nosey lot, and as a result these videos and blog posts are always very satisfying to engage with – it’s just like your friend excitedly showing you what they bought at the weekend. One of the reasons fashion, beauty and lifestyle blogs are so popular, aside from the tutorials and opinion pieces they can offer, is that they provide a glimpse into a different life – a magazine-worthy outfit post or beauty shoot. Whether or not this life is heavily constructed or not is irrelevant – who among us hasn’t lost an hour to reading ‘what’s in my bag?’ posts or watching make-up storage videos?

Why ‘haul’ is a dirty word

Young readers and bloggers are impressionable, and we have a responsibility to them whether we like it or not. Haul videos are often made by incredibly successful bloggers who can afford the shopping sprees they’re blogging about. While there is nothing wrong with this in principle, it does give the impression that to be successful [in the blogging community] you need to spend a lot of money and continually buy new items to showcase on your blog.

Disclosure is also a big deal, which Bonjour Blogger! has covered before. The waters surrounding product placement and sponsored content are still very murky in the UK, and if a haul includes products that a blogger has been sent to review or even for product review consideration, it isn’t always immediately obvious.

We are a nation that is just coming out the other side of a five-year long rescission. Youth unemployment in the UK is still worryingly high and as the many of the people that read these blogs and watch vlogs are teenagers, are hauls encouraging them to spend money they don’t have?

I regularly see tweets and the occasional blog post lamenting a lack of money or products to blog about, along with the desire to buy what someone else has, and I’m not alone. Michelle of Daisybutter wrote recently about her worry surrounding hauls and the constant need of buying to share.

Life beyond the haul

Haul videos and blog posts are clearly popular but there are plenty of alternatives to spending a small fortune in Boots or Primark every month just so that you have something to blog about.

‘Shop My Stash’ posts, where bloggers revisit items they already own but have forgotten about, are popular and a great way to help generate new blog posts without the need for spending any money.

If you’re a beauty blogger, asking for samples at beauty counters is another way to trial a product you’re interested in without spending a fortune.

What do you think about the trend for haul videos? Do you think they’re putting pressure on other bloggers to spend money they don’t have? Share your thoughts in the comments…

  • Niki

    This is a great post! Like you, this has been on my mind a lot lately too and I’ve been wanting to write something about this for a while. I’ve found myself unfollowing a few bloggers as I just can’t relate to their incessant need to purchase and showcase new clothes in every other post…buying lots of clothes isn’t something I do, or can afford to do. You’re suggestions on how to keep posting when you can’t afford to purchase new items are great; ‘Shop My Stash’ posts are amoung my favourite posts to read, I wish more bloggers would do them.

    December 10, 2014 at 7:26 pm Reply
  • sara

    I totally agree with this. Excessive consumerism is damaging on every level. For bloggers, it just creates a feeling that everyone has to “keep up with the joneses” and it’s only negative.
    I am planning on making de-haul blog posts for a while – I am trying to declutter my wardrobe and will do the exact opposite. I think that it’s more positive and might still be interesting for other people to see what I’m getting rid of, as opposed to stuff I’m adding.

    December 11, 2014 at 8:05 am Reply
  • Suze

    A really interesting point, thank you. The desire to ‘keep up with the joneses’ is definitely rife in blogland and younger bloggers will really feel this pressure when trying to imitate other well-known, established bloggers. I even find the very word, “haul”, annoying, with its negative connotations of excess.

    I wonder if the fact that lots of bloggers feature products several times over might actually even compound this issue of needing to have soooo much stuff – i.e. a product appears in a wishlist post….then a haul post….then a review….then maybe a favourites post….a get ready with me or face/outfit of the day type post….a ‘top 10 items to use on days when there’s a “Y” in the name”….and then for beauty products, perhaps even an empties post..etc etc. Obviously re-using items is great however if not following carefully it could appear that bloggers have way more stuff than they actually do!

    In a similar-ish vein, I’m sure that many of the “Look what I got for Christmas” posts also negatively affect bloggers, making them feel inadequate etc. Even when tempered with “I’m a lucky girl” etc I still find lots of them a bit show-off-y and although they do satisfy curiosity on a basic level they’re usually pretty shallow posts, content-wise, without much creativity or substance – not all, but lots.

    For me, if bloggers present their purchases/acquisitions in a more subtle, creative and imaginative way, without it feeling like a crude Generation Game-esque conveyor belt of items being wheeled out and shown off simply for the sake of showing off and/or fitting in, then I find haul type posts much more palatable but unfortunately the more creative haul posts seem to be a rarity.

    To be honest I genuinely find it hard to find bloggers I can identify with, in terms of lifestyle, and I do wonder how many bloggers buy products just to post about them. I love shopping and having nice things but have a small disposable income and therefore modest spending habits. My ‘average’ life doesn’t seem that well represented in blogland. I guess it’s not exciting or aspirational enough! Obviously I’m aware that all is not always as it seems and many items are supplied by PRs (even if not always flagged as such) but, even so, where are the ‘normal’ people with their ‘normal’ amounts of (non-designer) shopping?!

    December 29, 2014 at 7:51 pm Reply
  • Lizzy Yapp

    As a relatively new blogger, I definitely feel pressure to buy things and spend lots of money so that I have something to post about. I feel like people will only be interested in posts that feature items that they can themselves buy eg not charity shops or second hand items.
    It is something I am working around, and asking companies for items seems like a good route to take right now.
    Thanks for this post x

    February 24, 2015 at 11:52 pm Reply

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