What We Learned from the Fyre Festival Fiasco

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Picture this: an upbeat EDM tune opens on a perfect wide lens shot of a small island surrounded by a sparkling ocean. Models in bikinis prance around, enjoying drinks and splashing in the surf as shots of epic concerts cut through your screen. “Welcome to the Fyre Festival,” reads a scripted banner that floats into view. Originally concepted to help promote a music booking app, the highly-advertised music festival enticed high-profile social media influencers with the promise of a transformative, immersive weekend on a private island “once owned by Pablo Escobar.”  Sound too good to be true? That’s because it was.

Dubbed “a millennial marketing fiasco waiting to happen” after the fact by Vanity Fair, Fyre Fest turned out to be an epic failure that left attendees stranded without sufficient food, lodging, or running water. Too hyped up to flop quietly, the widely publicized festival was investigated in recently released Netflix and Hulu documentaries. In the end, Fyre’s problems boiled down to a manipulative entrepreneur, some of the world’s top influencers, and a misled marketing agency. While many people enjoyed these documentaries as a chance to joke over the Insta-famous twenty-somethings who got fooled into dropping up to $12,000 on a failed music festival, we think Fyre revealed some major weak points in the millennial and Gen-Z consumer bases. Here’s what we learned.

Don’t Ignore the Power of Influencers

A recent study showed that millennials spend 5 hours a day using their phone on average, and that this same percentage checks their phones at least 100 times a day. Due to high online and virtual activity, this market is highly susceptible to groupthink, meaning individuals are prone to agree with the masses, and the risks of going against the grain can keep outliers from speaking truth into an obviously skewed situation. Influencers with major followings contribute to the groupthink problem, sometimes unintentionally. A train of thought might go something like, “This person has 1 million Instagram followers. If they’re attending this festival and are going so far as to advertise it on their platform, I should go, too!”

Although this power has been recognized by many companies and collaborations and product placement have become commonplace, Fyre showed us a darker side to influencer marketing and reminded all who came across this story of the the phrase, “with great power comes great responsibility.” When marketers use influencers to help boost a product or service, they need to be prepared to adequately convey the stress this may place on the company.

Transparency is Not Optional

If you begin a campaign or project promising _______ (fill in the blank) , and realize part of the way through that you won’t be able to present your deliverables as promised, learn from Fyre’s mistakes, and take these wise steps instead of choosing to hide the problems and forge ahead like all is well:

  • No matter where you are at in the planning or creating process, pause and communicate truthfully with the client about the status of the deliverable. You may be able to negotiate a new due date, or shuffle things around to keep the project on track.
  • Push things back if necessary. Even if you need to move back your delivery date or reexamine your initial plan to make things work, it’s better to make the extra effort to deliver a quality product.
  • Don’t be afraid to admit when you’re in over your head, and ask for help. Even at the risk of losing face, your clients will likely appreciate your transparency and commitment to delivering nothing less than the best work you can produce.

Always Manage Expectations

In addition to being transparent about the realities of the deliverables you’ve promised, it’s imperative to continually check these deliverables against both your expectations, and the expectations of your customers. One of Fyre Festival’s event organizers noted that, once planning was obviously behind schedule, the team agreed to cancel the 2017 festival, with plans to put their efforts into a better festival in 2018. But this didn’t happen Instead, an unnamed marketing exec waved concerns away, saying, “let’s just do it and be legends, man.”

This line of thinking, while optimistic, was simply not realistic. Instead of working with the reality of the situation, the Fyre Fest organizers plowed ahead with the expectation of fulfilling the impossible promises they had made to the festival’s attendees. Learn from Fyre Fest. Don’t try to be a legend if it means delivering less than your clients deserve!

Put Out the Fyre (get it?!) with Snap

At the end of the day, our primary goal as marketers is to produce bold, exciting work that exceeds our clients’ expectations. If you feel like you’re struggling through aspects of your project planning or marketing strategy execution, we would love to help. Reach out to Snap today for more details on mastering every aspect of the next digital project on your plate.


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