Social Media Marketing

3 Big Marketing Takeaways from the Fyre Festival Fiasco

If you are a person who keeps track of larger festivals, watches Netflix/Hulu documentaries, or perhaps even just troll the entertainment sections of online news outlets, there’s a good chance that you have heard of

If you are a person who keeps track of larger festivals, watches Netflix/Hulu documentaries, or perhaps even just troll the entertainment sections of online news outlets, there’s a good chance that you have heard of the fiasco that was the Fyre Festival. Now widely known for its spectacular levels of fraud and failure, you may have heard about Fyre through the festival’s viral marketing campaign, which began in December 2016, and can be exemplified by this tweet by Kendall Jenner:

Kendall Jenner's Tweet promoting Fyre Festival

Or perhaps you might have heard of the Fyre Festival from one of the many other social media influencers who promoted the event by sharing this video:

While I personally think that this promotional video takes a dive into the realm of tackiness with its line, “Once owned by Pablo Escobar”, the video certainly didn’t hurt the event’s ticket sales, and the first weekend of the festival’s two scheduled weekends was a sellout. Even so, the Fyre Festival only survived a single day before the organizers shut the show down. So, what can marketers learn from the advertising of the Fyre Festival? And how did the event go so wrong?   


Influencers are the Present and the Future

Social Media Marketing

Smartphones and social media outlets such as Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube have created a way for people to reach the level of attention previously only attained by movie stars and the titans of the music industry. These people are called influencers, and the amount of views that these influencers can get from a single post is staggering.  

Billy McFarland, the Fyre Festival’s creator, recognized the sway that these influencers carried and used them as the main outlet for his marketing campaign, going so far as to reach out to 400 social media influencers to try to get them to promote the event, and even paying Kendall Jenner $250,000 just to tweet about the event (which she didn’t even attend).

While paying $250,000 for the endorsement of a single person’s Twitter account seems more than somewhat excessive, the Fyre Festival was a sellout event. Obviously, the effectiveness of this approach will vary depending on what is being offered by a company, but marketers should begin thinking about how they can integrate social media marketing services and influencers into their overall marketing approach.

Sell Experiences

What the Fyre Festival was supposed to be can be summed up in two words: music festival – that’s it. Those are the only two words you need to described the Fyre Festival, but Billy McFarland didn’t throw massive wads of cash at the musicians who were supposed to be performing at Fyre. Billy didn’t market using the power of band name recognition in the festival’s announcement video. Instead, Billy paid at least $1.2 million to modelling agencies in order to sell the Fyre Festival as a luxurious getaway and not just a traditional concert for the common folk – and the first weekend completely sold out.

Be True to Your Word

The Fyre Festival was all bark and no bite. None of the talent scheduled to perform showed up, event attendees arrived to find that their lodging was FEMA disaster relief tents instead of whatever accommodations they were supposed to get, and the gourmet food advertised turned out to be this:

A tweet about the food served at the Fyre Festival

The festival itself only ended up surviving one night, and the attendees that didn’t accommodate on properties off the festival grounds were transported off of the island. 

Billy McFarland and the event’s other organizer Jeffrey Bruce Atkins, better known by his rap name Ja Rule, did not invest the amount of time planning or money needed  to make this event realistically happen. A large portion of the event’s budget seemed to be spent on marketing purposes, some went towards the FEMA tents, food, and transportation, but most of the budget seemed to have mysteriously disappeared instead of being paid out to the advertised musicians or Bahaman workers staffing the grounds.

Combine a lack of funding and planning with the fact that the festival’s advertising contained overt lies, such as the festival taking place on the non-existent Fyre Cay, and it’s obvious why this festival failed and won’t be coming back.

Fyre Festival was a failure, but it will not be forgotten. To this day, the scam that got Billy McFarland imprisoned is a great source of entertainment for those who enjoy watching train wrecks unfold, while also providing an educational case study for marketers. Fyre Festival’s advertising went viral, but it backfired hard when the event organizers could not deliver on their promises.

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