Payless Shoes Pranks Influencers Into Paying Hundreds of Dollars for Shoes

Payless ShoeSource, a discount shoe retailer, recently conducted a social experiment to see what would happen if they rebranded their products in a "luxury" shoe store. The prank was done in an attempt to see how people perceive company offerings if the items being sold were deemed designer. The intricate scheme acted as a catalyst to change the opinion that the company sells cheap and unfashionable shoes.


Payless marketed their prank as a private launch party for an Italian designer named Bruno Palessi. They claimed that he was releasing a new luxury brand of shoes called Palessi. The event had a mini-runway and walls filled with numerous types of shoes. The company had a statue of an angel carrying several shopping bags constructed for the event. Fashion influencers from the Los Angeles area were invited to the event and served champagne as they tried on shoes, as if they were at some high end shoe store.


“I would pay $400, $500. People are going to be like, ‘Where did you get those? Those are amazing,’ ” a woman said while trying on a pair of gold sneakers that were adorned with a leopard print.


The prank shows that people base their perceptions of objects on associations. If something is considered premium or luxury, people are more likely to purchase the item. There are stigmas around certain companies and products if they are considered name brand or commercial. This epic marketing stunt also shows that people are not able to distinguish the difference between affordable shoes and expensive shoes; people only care about the illusion of the items being expensive and the possible social status it could bring them.


Sarah Couch, Payless’ Chief Marketing Officer commented, “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.”