Did you see the story about the prank that Payless Shoes pulled in Santa Monica?

By Steve Moran

Did you see the story about the prank that Payless Shoes pulled in Santa Monica? It is a really remarkable story.  

They took a closed super high-end shoe store in Santa Monica and reopened it with a fake name that was very similar to Payless (Palessi). Then they re-labled a bunch of regular old Payless shoes with the Palessi brand, and put them on display in a high-class way, with high-class prices. Their final step was to invite a bunch of LA fashion influencers to an exclusive “launch party”.

And . . .

It was a total success. Here are some quotes from the attendees:

  • “It’s just stunning. sophisticated,” one shopper said of a stiletto heel at the fake store launch party.

  • “I can tell it was made with high-quality material,” said a man pursuing a pair of leather sneakers.

Ultimately the duped got to keep the shoes and got their money back.

A fantastic publicity stunt that will pay off in a huge way, at least in the short term. But but the senior living lesson is not “pull off a publicity stunt”. I suspect that could more easily than not result in a serious backfire.

Perception is Everything

What really excites me about this story is that we have so much opportunity to tell our story better than we are. Perhaps the problem is that regardless of what our particular communities price point is in the marketplace we (mostly secretly) are not really excited about what we are offering for sale.   

We kind of see what we offer as being . . . well . . . payless shoes . . . a cheap imitation of what really great, wonderful senior living would be for ourselves.

We kind of secretly hope we will never have to use the product we are selling. Sure, we know it is good enough to work pretty good, to look pretty good (like Payless shoes); however, we kind of have this idea that if we had enough money . . . if anyone had enough money, they would not really purchase senior living, they would purchase the real deal — staying home and hiring in help. This is the senior living equivalent of designer shoes.

But What if the Perception Problem is 100% Wrong?

What if staying home and having private duty care was really, the cheapo shoes in terms of quality of life? What if we really believed that with our whole heart, our inner being? What if, even for the billionaire, for Bill Gates or Jeff Bezos, when they get to be 84, they would actually be better off in one of our communities and we really really believed it?

I Am Convinced . . .

That if we really believed that we would stage our preferences like they were $800 shoes. I worry that we don’t believe what we are offering is $800 shoes but that we have to pretend that we believe they are $800 shoes and, as a result, it looks like a fake. It looks like we are just pretending that it is the best life for seniors.

And yet, in most cases, or in many cases, what we are pretending to be true actually is true. We just don’t know it . . . believe it.

There are a few operators who do believe it and they are having amazing success.

Your thoughts?