Five Digital Marketing Lessons We Learned from the Fyre Festival Fiasco


  • Digital marketers can learn as much from Fyre Festival’s planning failures as from its marketing.
  • Successful influencer marketing means careful strategies – and budgets.
  • Don’t count your eggs before they hatch, no matter how big or small your project is.
  • Increasingly cynical audiences want authenticity in marketing.
  • Social media can make AND break your campaign, so always have a plan.

Last month’s Fyre Festival documentaries from Netflix and Hulu have raised (or resurrected) questions about the nature of influencer marketing and the power of FOMO in today’s digital climate. And beneath the – um – debatable motives of the event’s creators, there are discussions to be had about what constitutes good project management and marketing.

As marketing nerds, we couldn’t help coming away from the docs with our gears turning. If every failure is an opportunity to learn, Fyre fest offers enough lessons for a doctoral thesis on how not to run an event.

So where does that leave marketing professionals?

Putting out the Fyre

Digital marketers don’t have control over the production of a service or event, and conclusions about who “started the Fyre” fall outside the purview of this blog. We’ll leave that job to the fascinating, finger-pointing, schadenfreude-fueled documentaries. (If you haven’t already, stop everything and watch them. We’ll wait.)

But as digital marketers, it is our job to translate our clients’ visions – however big or small – into precise, well-coordinated campaigns that speak to a particular audience. We may not have a hand in production, but we can make sure our own marketing campaigns are planned with accountability and forethought.

We think the Fyre-inspired lessons below – ranging from project management to content marketing – will help digital marketers do just that.

Lesson 1: Listen to your team.

The number of times a talking head in either documentary describes the event’s producers blatantly ignoring the advice of their employees – or straight up firing anyone not sufficiently “solutions”-oriented – is enough to explain why the event failed. Digital marketing teams can learn from this, too.

Everyone on your team, from top management to entry-level staff to contractors, should be there for a reason: because you trust their integrity and expertise in their field. SEO and social strategies, paid and content marketing campaigns, and everything in between depend on collaboration more often than not.

Do your team a favor by respecting their integrity and listening to their concerns. The whole project will be better off for it.

Lesson 2: Carefully plan your influencer marketing strategy – and budget.

There’s plenty to be said about the implications of an influencer promoting a brand new, untested event with posts not tagged as advertisements – and other blogs have said it better than we could.

What digital marketers can immediately take away from Fyre, however, is the importance of a clear influencer marketing strategy. Considering that ticket sales reportedly barely crested 25% over four months after the influencer campaign launched, it’s worth investigating the value influencer marketing can really provide.

Carefully consider how you’re going to use influencer posts, where exactly you’re trying to drive traffic, and how you’re going to track impact. If you don’t have a fully thought-out funnel for driving traffic back to where you want it, you risk gaining tons of exposure but no value.

Not only is strategy important, but budgeting, too. The docs revealed how Fyre’s producers were forever scrambling to pay back huge upfront investments their nonexistent event was hemorrhaging. It probably didn’t help that they allegedly paid $250,000 for at least one influencer Instagram post. (Not to mention the cost of flying influencers to the Bahamas.)

To get maximum value out of your influencer marketing campaign, consider micro-influencers over macro-influencers. You may actually achieve higher engagement at a fraction of the cost (and at lower risk). Some micro-influencers may also take affiliation in lieu of payment, creating increased value for you both.

Lesson 3: Have a Plan B… and a Plan C.

There’s no doubt that Fyre’s producers counted their eggs before they hatched. But even projects not managed by potential con artists risk falling into the trap of promising things they can’t deliver because of poor planning and budgeting.

A laughably short timeline, bloated influencer marketing budgets, and negligent logistics planning just scratch the surface of the festival’s planning failures. Digital marketers can apply these same lessons to their own campaigns.

Beyond listening to your team members, all of your projects should come with a plan B (and C, in some cases). The last thing you want is to leave contractors or employees unpaid – one of the gravest consequences of the Fyre fiasco, particularly for the Bahamian locals employed to help with the event.

Even within marketing, planning helps you stay accountable to your stakeholders, no matter the scale of your project.

Lesson 4: Strive for authenticity with your content/brand/social presence.

Whether you consider the event’s explosive marketing a success or a failure, there’s no question that those orange tiles (plus that beyond-slick promotional video) accomplished a goal. Fyre’s marketers found a way to cut through the noise and get people excited.

At the same time, backlash like the #FuckFuckJerry handle reflects a savvier, more cynical consumer base whose guard is up after being burned by Fyre. (Pun intended.) In acknowledging the power of experience marketing, digital marketers shouldn’t ignore the value millennial consumers place on trustworthiness.

In your visual marketing, social media posts, and even blog posts, balance aesthetic appeal with authenticity and substance. Consider your brand and make sure its integrity is preserved. Vet your influencers. Link to authoritative content.

…Unless you’re okay with #Fuck[YourCompany] trending on Twitter.

Lesson 5: Social media can make AND break your brand.

If the rise of user-generated content tells us anything, it’s that increasingly, consumers trust each other more than advertisers.

Those infamous orange tiles on Instagram blew up the event almost instantly. In the same amount of time, a picture of a cheese sandwich on Instagram completely deflated it.

Customer reviews, questions, and social media posts hold marketing sway. Professional marketing can only do so much to cover real holes in a product, service, or event’s foundation.

Got questions?

The marketing experts at Redefine Marketing Group can help you achieve – and translate – your dreams. But because we value our clients’ trust, we’ll also tell you if you may be flying a little too close to the sun. Contact us today – we’ll be happy to answer your digital marketing, paid, or SEO questions.

Author avatar
Stephanie Fehrmann
Stephanie was an SEO content writer before transitioning to a management role. As the co-founder and Head of Content at RMG, she oversees everything from the development of content strategies and content creation to day-to-day office operations. She graduated from Cal Poly Pomona with a degree in Journalism, and enjoys showing clients the power and versatility of content.
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