Social media influencers, that is who.
Payless, a brand known for its budget footwear, opened a fake ephemeral store called "Palessi" in a Los Angeles mall and invited influencers to the grand opening. The store was filled with disguised Payless shoes.
"I would pay $ 400 or $ 500," said a woman in a television commercial, holding a pair of sneakers at $ 19.99. Another customer calls Payless shoes "elegant and sophisticated".
A client gasps with disbelief when the secret is revealed. "Shut up, are you serious?" she says.
About 80 influencers attended two evenings, according to Payless. They paid $ 3,000. One customer spent $ 640 on a pair of boots, which represents a profit margin of 1,800%. Payless, however, gave them back their money and let them keep the shoes. Payless said influential people had received a small stipend to participate.
Payless said the social experiment was meant to remind shoppers that affordable Payless shoes are also fashionable.
"The campaign takes advantage of the huge difference and aims to remind consumers that we are still an appropriate place to buy affordable clothing," said Sarah Couch, Payless Marketing Director, Adweek.
A study published in 2008 tested the idea that price affects perceptions of quality. Low-cost wine was given to the subjects, but those who were told that it was more expensive described it as being more tasty and more enjoyable to drink.
This type of marketing, in which real customers are shocked or surprised to create a viral buzz, has been tried many times.
The soap opera Dove soap started the trend in 2013 with its "real beauty" commercials that showed women in their drawing drawn by an FBI artist. Heineken created in 2017 an advertisement called "Worlds Apart" which brings together people with opposite political views.
Burger King created an ad in 2017 that dealt with bullying in high school and Coca-Cola and Procter and Gamble were commended for their "Remove Labels" and "Always Like a Girl" ads.
Payless has been confronted with online competitors such as Zappos, an Amazon-owned company, and startups such as Allbirds. It filed for bankruptcy in 2017 and came out four months later after closing almost 700 stores.