Fire Festival Disaster: Social Media Influencers & Branding.

I think every brand can learn something from Fyre Festivals misbranding and marketing nightmare. Here is a brief summary of what happened.

Set to take place on a private island in the Exumas for two consecutive weekends, Fyre  Festival was said to be one of the most upscale and trendiest events to date. Their lineup for performances included Blink-182, Major Lazer, Lil Yachty and many more. The event organizers included self-made entrepreneur, Billy McFarland and rapper JaRule who promised an unforgettable weekend. Indeed, the weekend would be very unforgettable. Before we move on, it is important to watch Fyre Festivals promotional video.

Promoting your brand and the content you display can be considered a promise to consumers. The video above promises festival goers a luxurious vacation in the Bahamas with top music performers and private planes. The festival was the complete opposite, there were disaster relief tents for sleeping instead of promised cabanas, and bread with a slice of cheese rather than the 5-star food as promised. This festival was a branding disaster.

As we learned in class, social media influencers have the opportunity to generate brand awareness and drive traffic to new events. Fyre Festival utilized this marketing technique by bringing on more than 400 “influencers” with large social media followings.   These influencers were referred to as the “Fyre Squad” and the “Fyre Starters.” They each were asked to post promotional videos and photos in exchange for free flights, accommodation and tickets. The festivals strategy did work, the “Fyre Starters” posted promotions that reached over 300 million people in 24 hours. This campaign generated general brand awareness and made the festival look even more desirable since it appeared that many high class models, such as Bella Hadid and Kendall Jenner, were going to be attending this event as well. Since they promoted this “high class” festival, and everything went wrong, these celebrities damaged their own brand. They offered their names to this startup brand with no prior history, trusting that festival was going to be everything that was promised. Since they promoted this on their social media pages and had their names tied to the brand, now many of their followers may not trust their future content. They damaged their personal brand and their followers loyalty. While they have since released apologies about what happened, it doesn’t make it disappear.

When influencers offer their name to a brand they should first make sure that it is legitimate and trustworthy by doing their own research. This festival was overall a branding and marketing disaster, one in which I think other brands and social media influencers can learn a lot from.  What does this mean for other music festivals and event brands? Let’s just say they better keep their promises and differentiate themselves from Fyre Festivals brand.

Written by Justin Mullins (Group 3).

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