Wake Up Call For Shoppers
Payless ShoeSource created an experiment to test the perception of their shoes. The goal was to reclaim their place in the world of affordable fashion. But the event’s wild success is a wakeup call for shoppers everywhere. See what happened and how you can protect your wallet.
For the test, marketing firm DCX rented a former Armani store and dressed it up to look like a designer-brand boutique. They named it “Palessi” which is a blend of the word “Payless” and “Alessi”, an Italian name, hoping the association would evoke feelings of a high-end designer brand.
They filled the luxury store with cheap Payless shoes. Swapped the tags for Palessi labels and marked the prices up to 1,800 percent. Then reached out to 60 fashion leaders, people to whom shoppers look to for fashion cues. They offered compensation for attending their designer brand’s launch party, held in an upscale mall.
The trendsetters went wild over the cheap Payless shoes, paying up to $645 for shoes which generally retail between $19.99 and $39.99.
At the end of the event, the company came clean—and shoppers were stunned. However, the shoppers did get their money back and were allowed to keep the shoes.
This experiment succeeded in shifting consumers’ perception of the brand. It serves as a sobering reminder of how easily designers can trick us.
What we pay for
Shoppers pay for the packaging of products as much as they pay for the actual goods.
Consumer behavior consultant Philip Graves says consumers are not capable of determining the actual quality or value of goods. He explains: “The way that we evaluate things is through associations. If you put wine in a nice bottle, people like it more. If you package things up to look more premium, people will like it more.”
In brief, branding is everything.
Michael R. Solomon, a marketing professor at Saint Joseph’s University, writes that consumers automatically link the following factors with excellent quality:
- High prices
- Lavish venues
- Products from certain countries
It’s the snob appeal and the packaging that makes us believe a product is a premium—not the product itself.
How to beat the system
If you are willing to pay for labels, you may not be any better than the trendsetters who were tricked by Payless.
Are you paying for the shopping experience? For the designer or foreign label? For the high prices?
This experiment proves that you can buy clothing, shoes, and accessories for 1,800 percent less than top brands. Many products are virtually identical in style, quality and look. Of course, you won’t get the designer tag or trappings. Is it worth paying hundreds of dollars extra just for a name and packaging?