The Deconstructed Brief



Brand: Payless
Agency: DCX Growth Accelerator


Amid the ongoing decline of brick-and-mortar destination shopping, discount shoe retailer Payless is fighting more than just declining foot traffic and closed locations. In recent years, the brand has faced the stigma that it’s outdated, is lacking quality and is short of recognizable brand names.

Likewise, Millennials have migrated to spending at discount shoe retailers, such as Designer Shoe Warehouse (DSW), a company focused on delivering brand-name products. With a knack for delivering chic marketing through channels that Millennials love, DSW has won the hearts, purse strings and attention of a new generation of shoppers. Marketing efforts include heavy use of influencers.

For Payless, the challenge to ultimately keep its doors open rests in challenging these new fashion norms and fashion marketing itself while changing the stigma it has garnered over the years as a shopping mall mainstay.

Key insight

Shoes so chic, no one can tell the difference

The idea:

Through partnership with DCX Growth Accelerator, Payless opened a pop-up shop in Los Angeles, rebranding the location “Palessi.” Along with the designer-esque name, the location was outfitted with a store set rivaling those of Beverly Hills’ Rodeo Drive. The Payless shoe product was repackaged as the luxury “Palessi” brand.

To open the store, “Palessi” invited fashion influencers to purchase and drive interest in the newly created brand and flagship store. To fuel marketing efforts, influencers were filmed touting the brands’ qualities.

Influencers were not let in on the gimmick until after they had shared their perception and interest in the brand. Only then did they learn that they were duped into promoting Payless shoes — the same shoes available across the country at affordable retail prices.

The campaign makes consumers — especially Millennials used to influencer marketing — question why they are spending so much on shoes that fashion influencers can’t even identify as Payless products. Likewise, the campaign calls into questions influencer marketing as a tactical approach to connecting with consumers.

Payless and DCX Growth Accelerator utilized captured footage to create ads that will air on cable TV networks throughout the holiday season. The stunt has also secured PR hits from nearly every major news outlet and has been featured on social media by Payless.

What they said:

“The campaign plays off of the enormous discrepancy and aims to remind consumers that we are still a relevant place to shop for affordable fashion,” said Sara Couch, Payless chief marketing officer.

Lessons to be learned:

  • Challenge more. — It’s one thing to challenge other brands through marketing efforts; it's another to challenge the mechanisms those brands use to sell their product. Bringing influencers into this campaign proved that even the most discriminating consumers value Payless shoes.

  • Pop up more. — Pop-up stores are reaching a fever pitch among marketers, especially during the holiday season. In fact, PopUp Republic, a retail marketing database, shared that pop-up shopping has blossomed into a $50 million industry among retailers. Flipping this trend on its head, and using it for marketing content, capitalizes on consumer interest in new shopping options.

  • Pay less. — No brand should limit itself based on perceived product or brand value. Brand value is driven by consumer interest, marketing efforts and star power — not always true product value.