Four Lessons for Marketers Courtesy of Fyre Fest

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It’s been less than a month since Netflix and Hulu released their respective Fyre Festival documentaries, but the eagerly anticipated insight into this car-crash of a music festival has gone down a storm, trending on social media and hitting the headlines in news outlets across the globe.

If you (somehow) haven’t heard of Fyre Festival, here’s the basics: Fyre Festival was founded by Billy McFarland, a former CEO of Fyre Media Inc. It was advertised as being a “luxury music festival” hosted on the Bahamian island of Great Exuma. A lot of over-promising later, Fyre Festival instead ended up being a collection of tents left-over from Hurricane Matthew and unpaid Bahamian natives.

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Long story short it was, for want of a better word, a complete sh*t show. A true ‘expectations vs. reality’ job.

Fyre Festival did a lot (a lot) of avoidable things wrong, and a few things right (a few), and some of these things can be taken onboard by marketers in-house or in agencies alike.

Lesson One: Don’t Blow Ya Budget

Especially on the first few promotional videos. The truth is: there’s never enough budget, you need you stretch the pounds and pence across the whole campaign to ensure a steady flow of promotion. If you’re launching something new (a product, a service… a music festival), you naturally want to make a big splash at the start - and that’s OK - but it’s important to manage expectations and, in turn, manage budgets responsibly.

Fyre Festival focused all of its budget on a 1:41 promotional video, chocked full of international models, influencers, jet-skis and drone shots of Pablo Escobar's former island.

Whilst this might have whet the appetite of many rich thrill-seekers around the world, it left Fyre Festival with two problems:

*A lack of budget to produce future promotional videos and collateral *Ridiculously high expectation to live up to

It’s all well and good sinking your funds into producing something of epic proportions that’ll gain immediate traction, but in the end, you risk extreme disappointment from your customers and clients when it turns out you can’t deliver on what you advertised. Don’t pay out your nose for 30 feet worth of runway models if they aren’t going to be there on the day, use the money for good catering instead...

Lesson Two: Build A Brand & They Will Come

The ‘Field of Dreams’ quote didn’t really apply here, because Fyre Festival never actually got built, but the premise is the same. Whilst it’s important to be realistic about what you can offer (as per Lesson One), you can easily build a brand that seems cool and desirable for potential customers and clients. The truth is, most people buy into an aesthetic. If something looks good, they’ll want it. If all the popular people have it, they too need to have it. By marketing something that’s pleasing to the eye, you’re more likely to have people invest money into it - which is precisely why branding is so important to the success of something.

When the Fyre Festival promotional video was launched, investors who had money funnelled into Coachella, a reputable music festival that has consistently been delivering stellar acts since 1999, started pulling out to instead invest money into the non-existent Fyre Festival. Why? Because Fyre Festival was shiny and new, and everyone wanted a part of it when it was hot off the press.

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An article published on Grazia following the initial Fyre Festival marketing activities.

Lesson Three: The Word of Influencers is (Apparently) Gospel

Fyre Festival was pre-ASA’s involvement in influencer marketing, so pretty much anything went. A poignant article on PR Week put it that ‘the influencers became the influenced’, referring to when a band of 400 Instagram celebrities posted a simple orange tile to promote Fyre Festival - despite having absolutely no knowledge of the logistics of the festival.

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A post by model Bella Hadid

This image was accompanied by a cryptic caption that sent people to a site with only basic information on what was actually going to happen. However, it was enough to whip the public into a spin and inspire them to fork out thousands to get access. Around 5,000 people purchased tickets for upwards of $4,000, despite the curious lack of information.

Why would people part with such large amounts of money to go to a festival that has previously never existed, didn’t have a confirmed line-up at this stage and only had one promotional video? Because people like Bella Hadid said so, and that’s how powerful influencer marketing really is.

A lot of trust has been lost in influencers post-Fyre Festival, but it’s still an unparalleled method of pushing a product, it’s just a little more humble now. Using micro-influencers is a more noble and well-received way of getting a brand out there - and you don’t need to worry about paying a six-figure price-tag for it.

Lesson Four: Listen to Your Damn Staff

They’re there for a reason. Billy McFarland went through countless members of staff during the erection of Fyre Festival. If someone told him something wasn’t possible, he’d just boot them off the project. It’s easy to become protective and take criticisms personally, especially when it’s your idea people are feeding in on, but it’s crucial to remember that every member of your staff serves a purpose.

If you’re a Marketing Manager with a design idea for a new website, but your Graphic Designer doesn’t think it’s possible to do the job - take their word for it. There needs to be a certain degree of trust between different departments in order for everyone to complete a task to their best abilities.

It’s important to accept, though, that you’ll probably never have a staff member as dedicated to your company as Andy King was for Evian water.

In over your head with a potential project? You don’t need to be a Billy McFarland. Get in contact and see how we can help you do about anything besides put on a music festival.

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