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Brilliant! Payless cheered for ‘social experiment,’ dupes ‘influencers’ into buying affordable shoes for big bucks

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The budget-friendly Payless shoe company ran a successful social media experiment that had social media influencers duped.

Taking over a former Armani store, Payless opened a fake pop-up store called “Palessi” in Los Angeles, complete with a grand-opening party, champagne and red carpet, AdWeek reported.

 

The posh store was stocked with affordably priced shoes offered by Payless, but party-goers had no idea as was seen in an advertising campaign video the company revealed Wednesday.

“They’re elegant, sophisticated,” one person said.

“I would pay $400 or $500,” a woman holding a pair of $19.99 sneakers said.

With a website and an Instagram account to add to the authenticity, Palessi experienced a successful launch with about $3,000 worth of products being sold in the first few hours. Shoes normally priced in Payless stores at $20 to $40 were sold at the artificial designer prices of $200 to $600.

Eventually shoppers were told about the shoe company’s hoax and were stunned.

“You’ve got to be kidding me,” a shopper exclaimed.

“Are you serious?! … Wait, did I just pay too much?” a shocked party goer said.

The luxury influencers were thanked with a refund and got to keep the products.

“The campaign plays off of the enormous discrepancy and aims to remind consumers we are still a relevant place to shop for affordable fashion,” Sarah Couch, Payless chief marketing officer, told AdWeek.

Payless “wanted to push the social experiment genre to new extremes while simultaneously using it to make a cultural statement,” Doug Cameron, chief creative officer of New York ad company DCX Growth Accelerator, told AdWeek. “Payless customers share a pragmatist point of view, and we thought it would be provocative to use this ideology to challenge today’s image-conscious fashion influencer culture.”

The company, which has an online store as well as about 2,750 stores in North America and more than 3,500 worldwide, emerged from Chapter 11 bankruptcy in August 2017 after more than 670 stores were closed, USA Today reported.

Online response to the “experiment” was mixed though many seemed to appreciate the shoe company’s effort to take on the perception of its brand.

Frieda Powers

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