Maybe I should start out with a spoiler alert… but, by now everyone knows how the story ended. What makes the Fyre Netflix documentary so interesting are the outrageous twists and turns in between, and the fact that there are many things marketers can learn from the Fyre Festival fail. To give you some basic background, musician Ja Rule and former entrepreneur Billy McFarland, got together and came up with an app for booking celebrities at events. To promote it, they concocted this elaborate plan for an upscale music festival – Fyre. It would take place on a private island in the Bahamas, and they promoted it like crazy with promises of luxurious tents, food, beach yoga, yachts, private jets, real-life treasure hunts… you get the idea.
To say that everything fell apart and the festival was an epic disaster is an understatement. Yet, the entire story is relatable. First of all, have you ever come up with a really exciting idea while drinking? Most of us have, but then we sober up and forget about it. It seems like Ja Rule and McFarland came up with this crazy idea while drinking, kept drinking, and kept coming up with more crazy ideas. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out for them. Despite the “combination of confusion and excitement” – as someone described Fyre Festival in the documentary – there are some solid takeaways, especially for marketers. Obviously, the number one lesson is don’t steal from people and commit fraud, because that’s illegal. Aside from that, here are the top 10 things marketers can learn from the Fyre Festival fail.
10 Things Marketers Can Learn from the Fyre Festival Fail
1. Get people pumped up
Despite their epic fails, the one thing the Fyre Festival planners got right was they got people pumped up. Their social media strategy and influencer outreach had people across the globe talking about the festival far in advance. Between hashtags, amazing photography and video, and a really intelligent social media strategy, they were getting retweets. People were talking about them. The press was interviewing them. They were on top of the world. This is one of the things marketers can learn from the Fyre Festival fail – they did have some killer wins.
2. Follow through on your promises
Obviously, their epic failure was in not following through on their promises. First, they were given permission to hold the festival on former drug lord Pablo Escobar’s private island, under the condition that they wouldn’t use his name in their promotion. In the very first promotional video, they did just that. It didn’t take long for them to be banned from the island. Meanwhile, they promised attendees luxury tents, private jets, an exotic private island, and so much more. In reality, guests showed up to a mosquito-infested island that was already overpopulated due to another event happening at the same time. Everything they promised unraveled, and instead of owning up to it ahead of time, they lied until reality betrayed them.
3. Don’t pass out with a beer in your hand
I feel like this goes without saying. However, the footage on the Fyre Netflix documentary literally shows McFarland, in charge of the entire campaign, passed out in the sand with a beer in his hand. Now, while we can pause a moment to envy his rock star lifestyle… we have to ask, really? While this might sound like your freshman year of college, that’s fine. When you’ve graduated and are playing with big-time influencers – not ok.
4. Make sure your talent tags you on social media
At the very beginning of the Fyre fiasco, organizers got all these top talent models to come to the island where the festival would be held. They were doing photos and videography with the models. Simultaneously, the models were posting their own pictures of themselves on the island. However, they weren’t tagging the festival or the festival organizers. Making sure to remind your talent ahead of time to tag you. Give them exact hashtags or locations that they should use, as this is a huge help in promoting your campaign.
5. Don’t spill beer on your plans
And we’re back to the beer. At another point in the documentary, someone accidentally spills their beer on the drawings where they’re planning the layout of the festival. I guess it goes without saying, but one of the things marketers can learn from the Fyre Festival fail is not to drink at their desks… Disappointing, I know.
6. Be able to sell it
Not only did Fyre Festival organizers kill it when it came to social media campaigning, but they also had someone in charge who can literally sell anything. When you see and hear the way people describe McFarland’s selling skills, it’s unbelievable. He continued to convince sponsors to give him money, despite having little concrete examples to show them. As marketers, not only is it important for us to promote and campaign with killer strategy, but our jobs are so much easier when we’re doing that for someone who we are confident can sell the product. Here at TrackFive, it wouldn’t matter how much traffic our marketing team can drive to our websites if we didn’t have a strong sales team backing us up.
7. Think about timing
Something that’s really important to consider when planning a marketing campaign is timing. What else is going on the week of your event, and will your event get overshadowed? Is there anything else going on that could interfere with your plans? It’s important to keep an open mind and think about any outside factors that could impact your strategy. The Fyre Festival, after it was forced to relocate, was scheduled on the same weekend as another huge event in the Bahamas. This created many issues for organizers, like limited transportation and housing available for their guests.
8. Make sure you trust your team
When everything started to unravel, people on the team realized what was happening. They put in so much hard work only to find out that they’d been played. Someone started leaking inside information onto a website, designed to expose the festival founder as a fraud. A key takeaway from this is to make sure you can trust your team. More than that, make sure everyone is on the same page and is comfortable with the plan.
9. Don’t delete negative feedback from your audience
Here is a big one – as tempting as it is to just make that negative feedback disappear, don’t do it. People who are paying attention enough to give you feedback at all are going to notice if you take it down. When the festival was just a few days away and attendees still didn’t know exactly where to fly to, had not seen any pictures of where they were staying or received information on what they needed to pack, they naturally started asking questions. At this point, they were being ignored because the festival organizers had no answers. Naturally, people were pissed and posting negative feedback on social media. As stated in my point above, someone already exposed the festival’s shortcomings, so some people had an idea that perhaps they should back out. However, they’d already spent thousands of dollars to go.
10. Have a team that stands by you no matter what
Despite all of his many mistakes, McFarland picked dedicated people to work with him. He had people on his team who were willing to do almost anything to help the festival succeed. Literally, anything. Even when everything was falling apart, his team players had his back until the very end. What amazed me the most was that even though many of them didn’t get paid, and literally worked their asses off for nothing, they still found positive things to say about their fearless, fraudulent, leader.
What was your greatest takeaway from the Fyre Festival execution? Share your top things marketers can learn from the Fyre Festival fail in the comments below!