A recent Payless prank left consumers completely shocked when they realized Palessi was not what they were expecting. The Payless prank unfolded by the company holding a grand opening event for fashion influencers at its new Palessi store, including a mini-runway, lined with stiletto heels. It was a “ private launch party of a new luxury brand of shoes, designed by Italian designer Bruno Palessi.” However, these women were not actually purchasing a Palessi, due to the brand being nonexistent.
“I would pay $400, $500,” a woman said as she tried on a pair of bright-gold sneakers with leopard prints.“People are going to be like, ‘Where did you get those? Those are amazing.’”
Payless ShoeSource, a discount shoe retailer, intended to mix things up through an elaborate – not to mention, expensive – advertising prank to attempt to attract new customers. In addition, the company wanted to change the perception that it sells “cheap, unfashionable shoes.”
“We felt like this campaign would be a great way to get a lot of people to consider Payless again, and to realize it’s more than just a shoe store in the mall,” said Sarah Couch, Payless’s chief marketing officer.
The prank also pointed out a major reality regarding the human mind: Consumers are unaware of the quality of the items they purchase, according to Philip Graves, a consumer behavior consultant from Britain.
“The way that we evaluate things is through associations. If you put wine in a nice bottle, people like it more. If you package things up to look more premium, people will like it more,” Graves said. “If advertising has high production qualities, people will think it’s better.”
On the day of the launch, unsuspecting attendees lined up outside, awaiting the event. The DCX and Payless team installed monitors attached to video cameras in the back of the store as a “control room.” As attendees were arriving, paid interviewers and cameramen asked them what they thought of the shoes and how much they would pay for them.
“Palessi is just such high quality, high fashion, taking your shoe game up to the next level,” said one man wearing spiked necklaces, holding a knee-high boot. “It looks really well made.”
“For me to experience this as an Italian designer is amazing,” said another man with an accent.
“It’s just stunning. Elegant, sophisticated and versatile,” said a woman, as she held a pair of floral stiletto heels.
After the attendees bought these overprices shoes – some ranging from $200 to $600 – they were then taken towards the backroom, where Payless’ ultimate prank was revealed.
“You’ve got to be kidding me,” said the woman who had been gushing over her floral stiletto heels, now staring shocked down at the overpriced shoes in her hand.
“We wouldn’t have ever known. We were really convinced,” said Chang, who said she was paid to attend the event. “They had us fooled, like completely.”
According to the team, those attendees who purchased the shoes were able to keep them for free.