HAVE YOU SEEN IT YET?!
Over the weekend we sat down and watched both much-talked-about Fyre Festival documentaries on Netflix and Hulu. -Both documentaries tell the crazy story about the now infamous entrepreneur turn fraudster of this decade, Billy McFarland, and his sidekick, rapper of the early 2000's, Ja Rule. Two years ago, the duo built this perplex plan to throw a luxury themed festival for millennial's on the Bahamian island of Great Exuma. In the end, Billy gets caught for fraud, arrested, charged, released, and then stupidly commits a second fraud, in which he is now serving a six-year prison sentence for.
We found both documentaries to be fascinating, yet painful to watch at times. If you haven’t had a chance to check these out yet, we highly recommend watching at least one of them. The main difference between the two being that the Netflix doc goes into more detail of what went down through the perspective of the Fyre employees, while the Hulu doc is a little lighter and includes an exclusive interview with McFarland.
There are so many marketing lessons to be learned from this story – SO. MANY. But today we’re highlighting a couple of lessons that we feel are important takeaways for you to think about and make sure you avoid as you continue to build awareness for your brand, products, and/or services.
It’s common these days to see brands, whether you are in startup mode or well established, use influencers to promote their products, services, and experiences. Social media platforms such as Instagram and YouTube have pioneered a path for influencer marketing for celebrities or even ordinary enthusiasts.
In general, borrowing equity from influencers can be a great way to connect brands with consumers through paid channels like advertising and earned channels like PR placements. It was all (mostly) transparent and disclosed in the analog world and the FTC requires the same level of transparency in the digital world.
The Fyre Festival organizers paid influencers like Alessandra Ambrosia, Bella Hadid, Kendall Jenner, Hailey Baldwin and others to pose as brand ambassadors to attract gullible consumers to pay top dollar to attend this luxurious event. The influencer marketing power made it look like you would be attending an event, partying with super models, and joining in on experiences on the island that didn’t exist.
In our opinion, influencer marketing is best used when the influencer believes in a brand’s product or service. What we learned in the documentaries is that the super models were all paid but didn’t have a clear understanding of what they were getting involved with.
Key takeaway: Brands should always fully vet the influencers that they are about to affiliate with and the same goes for the influencers. Gotta be on the same page, people - paid or unpaid! That said, we think the failed Fyre Festival is a wake-up call for influencers to be more selective about who they work with and a stark reminder for brands to be far more transparent about who’s being paid to shill their wares.
The Fyre organizers knew very early on that the likelihood of pulling off the festival was a slim, yet they all decided to keep marching on to make it work.
There are some many things they could have done to avoid this from being a catastrophe. They could have canceled the festival or even delayed it. They didn’t. The could have been more open about the issues with investors, employees, vendors and attendees. They weren’t. They should have responded to negative social media posts. They deleted them. -Big no-no!
They assumed their well-crafted (which it was) social media marketing and PR campaign could serve as a proxy for a great event. Never make assumptions.
Key takeaway: Honesty is the best policy. Take responsibility right away. When a brand is in the wrong, they should issue a heartfelt and genuine apology right away. An apology without acknowledging responsibility is not the right tactic. If something goes awry, but you don’t know the cause of the issue, acknowledge there’s a problem and let people know you’re investigating. Don’t pretend you know why it occurred. Don’t tarnish your brand’s image because you weren’t prepared for a worst-case scenario. Unless you work at a huge corporation, you probably won’t have a full-fledged crisis communications team in place, but you should still establish best practices or guidelines to follow.
While there are many more marketing lessons to be learned from Fyre, these are just two of the major marketing blunders that had us cringing while we snacked on our popcorn and gained an understanding of what all went down. If you’d like us dive deeper, let us know in the comments below.
And as always, if you have questions, please reach out to us - we’re here to help you think like a smart marketer, so your business can succeed!