Over a week later, people still can’t stop talking about the disastrous Fyre Festival, a musical festival created by Ja Rule and serial entrepreneur Billy McFarland and that was a complete and utter failure. Late night hosts have gotten their shots in and everyone around the world has been baffled by how such a massive mistake could be made. It seems the only people not enjoying this ridiculous story are the actual attendees of the “festival.”
One critical aspect about Fyre Festival that has been a huge talking point around the marketing world is the role that influencers played in the organization, implementation, and marketing of the festival. One of the most interesting discussion points about Fyre Festival is the way it used influencers to generate excitement and push ticket sales for the failed festival.
The Fyre Starters: Celebrity Influencers
These days, social imagery is everything – and that’s exactly what Fyre Festival organizers relied on to sell tickets. They picked top social influencers to advertise the fest and encourage people to buy tickets. These influencers, dubbed “Fyre Starters,” were paid substantially to promote the event on their social media accounts.
Earlier this week, Vanity Fair released slides from Fyre’s initial pitch deck. The slide below shows just some of the influencers Fyre was using:
The team ended up spending so much money on celebrity influencers and promotions that they didn’t leave any for actually executing their plans. According to a statement posted on the official Fyre Festival website, “The team was overwhelmed. The airport was jam packed. The buses couldn’t handle the load.”
Although it was a colossal failure, Fyre Festival does prove the kind of power influencers can have for companies looking to create awareness for a brand, product, or service. Unfortunately, the organizers were unaware of a couple of key aspects of influencer marketing that ultimately led to the festival’s demise.
When Paid Influence Goes Wrong
No amount of influencers posting about the festival can change the fact that the festival was completely disorganized and disastrous. Instead of spending money and time paying influencers to endorse the festival, organizers should have put more (any, really) effort into making sure the festival could actually happen. Unsurprisingly, the organizers have been hit with lawsuits from angry would-be attendees.
But in the fallout, influencers are also being hit with lawsuits. In one California case, social media influencers are listed among organizers to be sued “sued for fraud, negligent misrepresentation, and unfair trade practices.”
While dozens of influencers were paid to promote Fyre, barely any disclosed this to their audiences. This is a huge violation of FTC guidelines and could see Fyre Festival facing some serious repercussions for this error. Many influencers promoted the fest by simply posting a blank orange square. In the following post, note that there’s no mention of #ad, #sponsored, or any other kind of disclosure in sight:
Takeaways: How to do Influencer Marketing the Right Way
There are a couple of key influencer marketing takeaways from the Fyre Festival debacle. For starters, influencer marketing works – sometimes even better than expected. There is no way Fyre Festival could have achieved the number of ticket sales they did without the aid of influencers.
But… companies need to heavily research the potential issues that paid influencers can bring to a company (like the FTC guideline problem mentioned above).
Finally, this event could very well strain the trust consumers have for celebrities and paid influencers. How are Kendall Jenner’s followers supposed to trust the next event she endorses, knowing full well that she earned up to $250,000 for Fyre Festival? This may make earned influencer marketing even more attractive to marketers looking to advertise using influencers.