YouTube and Snapchat Are Key to Millennial-Focused Retailer’s Holiday Plan

Inside Karmaloop's targeting blueprint

Headshot of Christopher Heine

Karmaloop is a streetwear fashion e-retailer that not all marketers know about but should probably start studying if they want to learn how to connect with millennial consumers. Founded 13 years ago in Boston, it pulls in more than $200 million a year in revenue by targeting 18-to-24 year-olds.


During this holiday season, Karmaloop is using a healthy dose of YouTube and Snapchat to reel in sales. Before getting into the specifics, let's look at the foundation that's been laid for the brand's social-video aims.

It launched KarmaloopTV, dubbed KLTV for short, on YouTube a few years ago and built a dedicated staff of 30 who work on the channel in an in-house studio. The unusually big commitment to video has paid off, accruing more than 22 million views as well as 43,000 subscribers. The e-commerce firm has sub-brands, such as PLNDR (daily deals), Guru (music content), Kazbah (casual wear for dudes), Brick Harbor (skateboarder items) and KRP (street-team info), which all get promoted with video as well.

The efforts garner an enviable return-on-investment, per Karmaloop execs, resulting in twice as much revenue as they cost to produce. For its YouTube marketing program called PLNDR Haul, a recent effort, by itself, brought in $250,000 from 700,000 unique visits in less than a week. "Hauls," as the brand calls them, entail bloggers and consumers posting video takes of their recent Karmaloop purchases to YouTube. The aforementioned effort inspired 300 hauls, which got 7.5 million views. And Karmaloop often partners with popular YouTubers like Helen Melonlady to make the virtual cash register ring.

"We are constantly creating video pieces," explained Megan Knisely, the brand's director of marketing. "YouTube is driving traffic that we can convert at"

While YouTube has pitched the Haul videos concept to numerous e-commerce players, Karmaloop appears to be ahead of the curve in exploiting the program—though it appears to be picking up steam with other brands. Since Black Friday, 40,000 Haul videos have been posted to the site, per parent Google.

But let's get back to Karmaloop. KLTV ran a 15-hour, live-streamed, YouTube-based variety show for Cyber Monday called "Freakathon," while giving out exclusive coupons in the video and via Twitter (507,000 followers). Karmaloop said it gave away $30,000 worth of gift codes during the stint.

What's more, in the last two months, the e-commerce company's Snapchat base grew from 2,000 to 5,000 followers, which are nabbing coupons that give new meaning to "limited time only." For the uninitiated, Snapchat lets users send one another a photo or video with a brief written description. The mobile app works similarly to text messaging, but the content—a holiday discount code for 20 or 40 percent off these days in Karmaloop's case—disappears for the recipients within 10 seconds. Screengrabs are encouraged by brands to save offers, and the idea of "capturing" or "saving" them could conceivably give the coupon codes more inherent value to the consumer.

Knisely talked about how social media, video and mobile channels can work in unison. Her brand also hooks up with hip-hop artists such as Pharrel Wlliams, Kendrick Lamar and Juelz Santana via digital mediums to connect with young folks.

"We are taking various pieces of media and pulling them together into a cohesive experience for the customer," she said. "We want to reach young adults in a different way."

And sometimes on Snapchat, particularly, as Knisely shared with Adweek in September, it pays to be naughty and nice.

"Our snaps are not for the faint of heart—you got to be ready for a little bit of boobs and butt," the marketing lead said. "We've toyed around with a little bit of nudity, but nothing hard-core. We have played up the fun, sexy side of things."

@Chris_Heine Christopher Heine is a New York-based editor and writer.
Publish date: December 4, 2013 © 2020 Adweek, LLC. - All Rights Reserved and NOT FOR REPRINT