In January 2019, both Netflix and Hulu released documentaries cataloging the disastrous Fyre Festival. Originally intended to be a celebration to promote the talent booking app Fyre, the festival is now infamously known for being an example of “false marketing”.

As businesspeople, we can learn a lot from the Fyre Festival in regards to how to market products.

The power of Social Media and Influencers

The advertisement campaign for the Fyre Festival was incredibly successful as it was considered the primary reason people were enticed into buying tickets. When we look at the original campaign the idea behind it was incredibly simplistic but effective. By hiring models with large social media followings (Instagram) who acted as influencers, they were able to create intrigue and hype for the Fyre Festival by simply posting an orange square on their social media feeds with the hashtag FyreFestival.

The Fyre Festival shows us how powerful social media can be when it comes to advertising. People have a lot of trust in the opinions of others. And through that basic knowledge, companies use Influencers due to their ability to galvanize interest in a product/service by simply posting about it in social media or staring in a commercial.

Honor the interests of your partners

Business is a conversation between various people. While the conversation between consumers and business is the foundation that will generate profits, the conversation between business parties is just as important. In the case of the Fyre Festival, they did not honor the interests of their partners. When making the deal to have the Festival on the island owned by Pablo Escobar, Fyre was asked to not mention the island was owned by Pablo in any of their marketing. Fyre didn’t honor that ask and broadcasted that information in their first advertisement. Because of this, they lost the rights to hold the festival on the island making them have to relocate.

By not maintaining the interests of all parties involved, the Fyre Festival began its downward spiral into the catastrophe it is seen as today.

Honest Marketing

The Fyre Festival is a textbook case of false marketing and making promises that could not be kept. Almost every detail of the festival was a falsity when compared to what was advertised. The biggest problem facing the Fyre Festival was that they did not have the funds to provide what they were promising guests.
The CEO of Fyre Billy McFarland knew that he wasn’t delivering what he had promised, and despite numerous members of the Fyre Team raising their concerns to him he constantly ignored or replaced them.

When marketing, you need to make sure you can deliver on what you are promising. If you can not, you need to let people know before a sale is made that the product is not what was advertised. If you don’t, it can lead to legal trouble and based on the number of people affected the punishment can increase.

The Fyre Festival is a cautionary tale to businesspeople. It is a great case study showing how powerful social media and influencers are when it comes to marketing a product. However, if you can not fulfill the promises you are making, that promotional material can lead to a disaster.