A luxury store called Palessi opened in Los Angeles in late 2018 to promote its high-end shoes. A bevy of fashion influencers and “it” girls, eager to try and buy what they thought to be genuinely upscale footwear—at $200 to $640 a pair—flocked to the store’s launch party. But the joke, courtesy of Brooklyn-based agency DCX Growth Accelerator, was on them—the shop was a marketing stunt from bargain-basement shoe brand Payless, which, amid financial struggles and a recent bankruptcy, was desperate for retail relevance.
DCX’s campaign worked—for a little while. A video clip that included interviews with stunned fashionistas went viral, helping to augment the push and earn 8.8 billion global media impressions. Palessi appeared on more than 1,640 broadcast shows including“Good Morning America” and “The Ellen DeGeneres Show.” The Washington Post called the campaign the “prank of the century,” while Maxim dubbed it, “Don-Draper-level brilliant marketing.”
But while it was enough to turn around perceptions, it was too late to boost sales. Payless announced in February that it would be shutting down operations in the U.S., Canada and Puerto Rico. Stores here were liquidated in June.