Last week, value shoe brand Payless staged an “experiment” that succeeded beyond expectations.
The concept was simple: Payless opened a luxury store for shoe brand “Palessi” and stocked the shelves with Payless shoes. They invited fashionistas and influencers to attend a store event, where they swooned over the high-priced “designer” shoes and complimented their style and craftsmanship for cameras. Many attendees walked out the door after paying $600 for shoes that anyone can pick up for $20-$40.
The stunt went viral and has everyone talking about what it actually means for consumers, brands, and marketers.
Payless Experiment Emphasizes Brand Value
Reading through comments and opinions on the stunt, you’ll notice a knee-jerk reaction from the sometimes unfriendly social media landscape, which isn’t a surprise. However, all of those “people are stupid and will buy anything if they think it is designer” commenters are missing the point.
As a brand, Payless tends to focus on value — it’s right there in the name. But, Payless Chief Marketing Officer Sara Couch noticed that when she steps out in her Payless shoes, she often gets compliments and amazed exclamations when she tells people that they’re a “value” brand. By elevating the brand through the stunt, Payless showed that their shoes are not only value-priced, but stylish enough for the influencers and fashion-forward, image conscious consumers. As a bonus, they managed it with a single viral stunt, rather than a major campaign or complete branding overhaul.
What Does It Mean For Marketers?
From a marketing perspective, the Payless stunt reveals several things about branding and how it affects the perception of your product or service. Because Payless generally only focuses on the low price point rather than style, they are viewed as a discount brand and therefore are less desirable among certain consumers. The stunt showed a different side of the brand that was already there, but current marketing had failed to address.
While it’s important to be clear with your brand’s goals, identity, and audience and craft your marketing plan around them, that doesn’t mean you should stop there. Payless reminds us that it’s also necessary to take a step back and look at each brand from a new perspective, taking into account strengths and aspects that may have been overlooked in your current marketing plan. What audiences are you missing? What could you promote that you aren’t? Is perception of your brand too narrow?
Payless also showed us that when you identify a missing piece, that doesn’t mean you need to shift your entire branding, marketing, and direction. A mini-campaign, a clever social tactic, or even a viral stunt can shift brand perception and have maximum impact, without alienating your established customer base. It can draw traffic and conversation that elevates your brand while simultaneously diversifying and solidifying your current audience, by achieving results while maintaining a consistent brand identity. The reality is that marketing, especially digital marketing, is moving faster than ever, and we all need to keep up by constantly re-evaluating our branding and marketing tactics.