Is this the most audacious experiential
marketing stunt ever?

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Now, this is how to use experiential marketing for your brand.

21st January 2019
By Ricky Knight / Managing Director

This was the challenge: how does an established discount-level retailer with a well-known but care-worn brand revive its image and get shoppers to ditch their preconceptions about its products? 

By pretending to be a high-end store. Really. 

This was the premise behind perhaps the most audacious experiential marketing event ever. And the results were spectacular.

The story of a fake shoe shop and a PR coup (and a brand rebirth?)

So, how do you turn a discount product into a luxury lifestyle choice? 

Like this:

Payless ShoeSource is discount shoe retailer in the US. Once a mass market favourite, it has struggled to maintain its popularity among new generations of shoppers. To address this issue, and with some help from an advertising agency, it devised a very smart experiential marketing campaign.

The shoe company set up a luxury pop-up store, calling it Palessi (get it?) after a fictional designer whose shoes it was supposedly stocking. They invited fashion influencers to a party to celebrate the opening of the store. However, they put Payless ShoeSource shoes on the shelves, adding a zero to the price tags. 

What happened?

The influencers lapped up the shoes, lavishing them with praise for their quality and paying hundreds of dollars for footwear that cost a fraction of the price. 

Next, with some influencer interviews in the bag, Payless showed its hand and ‘fessed up to the stunt. It recorded the reactions from the influencers and gave them their money back (and let them keep the shoes). 

The story went viral on social media and was picked up by traditional print and television media far and wide. 

What has Payless achieved with its experiential marketing campaign?

This campaign was clearly a new strategy for Payless ShoeSource and you could understand if the company saw some risk in the move. But the expert way in which this experiential-marketing-event-cum-social-experiment was handled ensured that it was a success. 

The event was safe, in good taste and proved a point in a way that casts Payless footwear in a positive light. By showing that Payless shoes are good quality and good value, the campaign directly challenged the idea that its footwear is boring and not good value, which was a viewpoint that had been negatively affecting the brand. Also, it raised the profile of Payless, at a critical time, presenting the company as innovative, forward-thinking and, perhaps, even cool.

To find out more about PickledEgg experiential services,

get in touch with the team on 0870 350 3450 or