In our humble opinion, Fyre Festival and its inexperienced, imbecilic PR, marketing and production teams have earned the same two-word review that Spinal Tap received for its album Shark Sandwich:
Like the mockumentary film Spinal Tap, Fyre Festival played itself out as a perfect farce— except for the fact that the innocent people involved lost their investments and livelihoods. (And lest you’re unclear, we’re only talking about the Bahamians here, people.)
As we know now, there was a complete and utter lack of integrity involved in producing this festival. How can we learn from the PR & marketing mistakes that were made leading up to this wreck and those that occurred immediately afterward? How can we apply this knowledge to value proposition and influencer management moving forward?
First, we need to understand the fuel that fanned the Fyre.
FOMO Resistance is Futile
The Fyre Festival team and its associated agencies are no morons; they employed a legitimate, albeit conniving strategy that whipped the target—in this case the naive, narcissistic, financially secure festival fan into a frenzied state to BUY NOW or MISS OUT, triggering major FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out).
How did they do this? By presenting the target with the perfect content. This FOMO inducing strategy was (almost) flawlessly executed through the use of beautiful and famous models, social influencers and musicians. These influencers immediately addressed HOW this festival was going to affect YOU. The average social media fan couldn’t resist, no matter the cost. Gorgeous women in bikinis, extravagant yachts, and copious opportunities to imbibe beachside proved that resistance was indeed futile. Many companies have applied similar value propositions—the coming soon, exclusive and future features that companies (think Apple) have applied in the past—to build up usability that WILL be available in the future, but is not currently functional.
Instead of slowly peeling back the layers of the onion to eventually expose all the festival had to offer in the way of amenities, add-on experiences, and musical headliners, Fyre Festival dropped a content series that revealed everything at once—even though none of these things actually existed yet, and never would, as it turned out..
Integrity. You Can’t Do Strategy Without It.
So, how can one ensure integrity along with success when executing an integrated marketing strategy in the age of the influencer?
Well for starters... don’t promote features that haven’t been successfully tested and deployed. (We’re looking at you Elizabeth “One Tiny Drop” Holmes). Teasers are fine, but that baby’s gotta work!
Secondly, the power of influence is real and the use of influencers in your overall marketing strategy is an incredible way to increase your reach, up your impressions and generate more brand awareness. That being said, the influencer campaign must be executed by both the brand and influencer in a credible manner. Furthermore, the agency spearheading the campaign is responsible for how that campaign plays out as much as the brand and influencer (or at least should be).
We’re fully aware of how the model of success has (sometimes) been duplicitously employed in the influencer era. We’ve seen and read the stories of how a vision and nothing more can spur millions of dollars in company funding. But here’s the catch: someone always finds out, bringing down the house with it, whether that’s a festival, a start-up, or an influencer campaign.
While we sincerely hope that none of us will ever have the misfortune to work with Billy McFarland, he’s far from the only person out there who’s ready to take the easy, temporarily lucrative way out. Word to the wise: Before launching a product or campaign, figure out the process, details and truthful execution. Honesty is still the best policy and setting realistic goals and objectives is the historically proven path to success.