Fyre Festival: Fest Organizers Sold a Bold Vision Blindly

By Brendan Corcoran, Brand Manager / 05.03.2017

Move over Oscars Best Picture announcement, Fyre Festival just took the lot.

For thrill-seeking, music-loving, fomo-having, socialite concert goers, the Fyre Festival – a luxury musical experience on location in the Bahamas – promised to be the oasis for music, cuisine and culture. A fantastical vision, sold blindly. This past weekend, ticket holders who paid exorbitant price tags for tickets to the tropical music paradise disembarked on the island to find they were more like Tom Hanks in Castaway than esteemed guests.

Beyond the ambitious scope of production and the obvious shortcomings of the festival, there are some really important learnings from the Fyre Failure… and some not all failures.

(Photo Courtesy of Vanity Fair)

1. Influence Marketing Works

It was an unfortunate success in this instance, but it really, really worked. Moving beyond the hilariously bad pitch deck and teaser advertisement for the festival, Fyre Media, the festival organizer promoted the event by hiring over 400 social influencers – a collection of models and entertainers – to post about and promote the festival on their web properties. It worked…devastatingly so. The show sold out before a lineup was released, before there was even a show!

This was a marketing triumph.

Yes, the “Fyre Starters” violated FCC rules and we are up to the sixth lawsuit, from a marketing strategy standpoint, this was the biggest success of the festival. And then we come to a full stop.

(Photo Courtesy of Fyre Media)

2. Eyes Vs. Stomach : Vision vs. Reality

This goes without saying, don’t over promise and don’t bite off more than you can chew. If you promise gourmet chef meals, and you give attendees room temp cheese sandwiches at a premiere price tag, you will have yourself a throng of hangry people stranded on an island. From the pictures, this was purgatory more than paradise.

(Photo Courtesy of Fyre Media)

3. Cut Your Losses

In Field of Dreams the saying was, “if you build it, they will come.” But what happens if they do come, and you don’t build it….

Yes, organizers would’ve faced a huge media backlash if they postponed the event to 2018 as some producers had suggested in the planning stages, but they likely would’ve have saved themselves from irreparable brand damage – not to mention the avoidance of putting paying customers in immediate and present danger. The question that needed be asked – that everyone was likely too naïve and afraid to ask – was, “what if it can’t be done.” Usually, you talk about worst case scenarios and the backup plans A-Z, it doesn’t seem they even considered the worst possible outcome to become the reality.

No one wants to make the tough call, but when you look at the alternative, or should I say, the reality of the situation, that tough call seems like a no brainer.

This was one of the most high-profile production failures of modern times, a failure that planners, producers and marketers will need to learn from to ensure history doesn’t repeat itself.

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