In late 2018, Payless shoes conducted an experiment by rebranding select stores. Opening under the name “Palessi,” these stores invited influencers to check out their luxury line of footwear, and the results were truly fascinating.

Under the impression that the product was designer footwear, some influencers purchased the value-driven Payless brand shoes at a staggering $600, racking up $3,000 in sales before the hoax was revealed. Thankfully, the money spent was returned to the influencers, but Payless’ marketing ploy sparked an interesting conversation about brand, and how it can make or break a company.

I have two thoughts about this experiment. On one hand, I’m a big believer in transparency, and Payless’ ploy did not convey an authentic brand message to their potential customers. On the other hand, I think that it offered some compelling insight as to how branding is such an important aspect of any business.

Here are some of the key takeaways from Payless’ experiment that can positively impact your business’ branding and marketing strategies:

Why branding enhances value

In the fashion industry, luxury is the thing that almost every brand name wants to convey. This is what Payless understood to be the key factor in the success of their experiment: they knew that by branding their products as “designer,” they could get influencers to pay more for a $40 pair of shoes. This words “designer” and “luxury” would be higher draws to the influencer crowd than the ones that Payless would normally use in their own brand messaging, which could in turn help elevate the price point.

When you’re looking at what your brand offers your target audience, you need to be clear in conveying your unique value proposition. This means being able to provide a clear message to your audience as to why your product or service is valuable to your them. Your branding can have a massive impact on how your target audience perceives the value of your company. Demonstrating how your brand can enhance your target audience’s overall experience is a key factor in motivating them to make a purchase.


Payless clearly wouldn’t have pulled this off in one of their regular stores – they needed to create a different brand in order to connect to their new target audience. In order to give the impression of being a designer brand, the location and presentation of the product would have to feel more exclusive. A luxury storefront and display would therefore be more complementary towards their new, targeted clientele.

Marketing and branding give you the opportunity to put your best foot forward (pun intended). Display your product or service in a way that will help your target audience be aware of the quality that you provide with your product or service. An eye-popping website and a unique marketing strategy can let your potential clients know that you have a leg up on your competitors.

Brand perception can create better recognition, enhancing the success of your business. I always like to be on the lookout for anything new and interesting in the branding and marketing world to see what new ideas I can incorporate into my clients’ businesses. This can be a truly powerful tool for any company’s marketing strategy.

If you’re looking for ways of enhancing your brand, contact us today. Our innovative branding audit will help you better understand the performance of your unique brand, and how you can better convey your message to potential customers.