The launch and subsequent implosion of the Fyre Festival have been covered by most major media over the past few weeks, and new stories appear every day as details continue to surface about the massive fail. But when you take a step back, the essence of their go-to-market strategy really wasn’t all that flawed. The tried-and-true “seed-launch-sustain” model for a new product, or in this case an event, has been used countless times by marketers with great success. But this time, monumental misses, plus a host of head-shaking and eye-rolling happenings, aided in the festival’s downfall.
Generating buzz with influencers, especially top-tier celebrities, is a common practice during the seed phase of a program. The first influencer posts teasing the Fyre Festival included a simple orange square, designed to leave their audience questioning its meaning and glued to their channel for more info. And then came the reveal in follow-up content: glam selfies and bathing-suit-clad beauties with a luxe backdrop. Those posts were actually pretty authentic to the influencers and fit seamlessly into the overall stream of content that they typically post.
The Miss: no disclosure whatsoever. The U.S. Federal Trade Commission requires that all influencers who are being compensated in any way, whether it’s with cash or an experience, disclose their partnership with a brand. These influencers did not. And since they’re high-profile celebrity-types with massive reach, their content became ripe for the FTC to notice and enforce their regulations.
Now the launch plan: generate major excitement, interest, engagement — and quickly. By releasing only a small block of tickets, the Fyre Festival became exclusive and created massive demand and a frenzy to score the hottest ticket in town. The desire for something that’s hard to get, whether it’s “Hamilton” tickets or a subscription to Sephora’s new Birchbox-esque monthly beauty box, is real! But, here’s the catch: It has to deliver or exceed expectations to live up to the hype and keep interest alive and strong, and clearly the Fyre Festival did not.
The Miss: It was all smoke and mirrors. None of the glitz that was promised came to be. The influencers were misled, uninformed, and retreated with embarrassment, deleting the social posts that caused the hysteria in the first place. Photos from the site of the festival in the Bahamas begun to surface and completely juxtaposed what was promised and the reality, which was really dismal.
So, the launch killed the sustain plan, since there was really nothing to sustain. In fact, the organizers would likely be pleased if everything just evaporated. Sadly, it’s not looking likely. With their third lawsuit announced yesterday, the burn of the Fyre Festival is far from over.
There’s a right and a wrong way to partner with influencers, and clearly this is a prime example of the latter. The key to influencer marketing is the relationship between the brand and the individual. The brand partners with influencers who will rep their brand well and deliver authentic and interesting content to their engaged audience, and influencers work with brands who align well with their likes, personality and categories of interest. The key here is that the brand must deliver, or else the influencers will look ridiculous and become very skeptical for future partnerships of a similar kind. That’s exactly what happened with the Fyre Festival. To take it a step further, the influencers who were a part of this program (such as Kendall Jenner, who reportedly received $250K for one Instagram post promoting the festival), have been sued for negligent misrepresentation and fraud. The role of the influencers is to develop and distribute content based on the brief. If the brand, event or product doesn’t deliver, it’s hardly the fault of the influencers.
Jenny Heinrich is senior vice president and director, Influencer Marketing.