The no.1 Fyre Festival lesson: Experiences are hugely powerful within marketing campaigns, but failure to deliver will lead to catastrophe.
In late 2016, social media posts promoted a festival on a remote island once owned by the drug lord, Pablo Escobar.
The posts, published by celebrity influencers, were supported by promotional videos advertising an immersive music festival on the “boundaries of the impossible.”
Ticket packages included private jet transportation to the island, luxury accommodation options, gourmet food and a line-up of famous music acts, along with other unique activities.
All on a private tropical island surrounded with white beaches and turquoise waters, housing sunken planes and boats.
The festival experience of the decade was here.
The three-day festival sold out within 48 hours with over 5,000 tickets purchased.
A well-executed marketing campaign promoted the now infamous Fyre Festival.
Stunning social media imagery, experiential videos and slick brand identity, along with celebrity support was prevalent from the outset.
But when the attendees arrived in the Bahamas, the experience they had paid for wasn’t what they were going to get.
Far from it.
The private jets turned out to be an old Boeing 737.
The remote island was actually a construction site on the inhabited island of Great Exuma, which experienced heavy rainfall on the night before the festival.
The luxury accommodation turned out to be disaster relief tents that were soaking wet throughout.
The gourmet food consisted of pre-packaged cheese sandwiches.
And none of the artists promised would appear.
To make matters worse…
The island also had inadequate water facilities and mobile phone reception, with next to no support (security, medical etc.) staff on hand.
Attendees even had to actively search for their luggage from shipping containers in the middle of the night.
Hell broke out on the campsite as people fought for whatever they could get their hands on.
The festival was cancelled the following day, leaving people stranded with no food or water on the island and in the airport with no air conditioning.
The once-in-a-lifetime experience turned out to be a living nightmare.
Experiential marketing aims to create an experience between brands and their customers.
Bringing a product, service or event to life so customers can sample what is being sold to them.
This sort of marketing tactic comes at a time when customers are cynical about brands and more concerned about life experiences rather than buying physical products.
In a digital age, when competition is high and attention spans are low, experiential marketing – as with the case of the Fyre Festival marketing campaign – can create a significant and long-lasting impression.
It captures the imagination and connects with its audience.
The problem, of course, is when a brand does not deliver on the experience promised.
When a brand focusses on the marketing of the product, rather than the product itself.
Influencer marketing, social media shareability, storytelling, video and scarcity all combined to create one of the most impressive marketing campaigns of the last few years.
But the marketing message could never be fulfilled.
The location, the first element of the product sold, was flawed.
The owners of the original location demanded that no mention of Pablo Escobar be made but the event organisers included it anyway.
The festival’s make-shift location, completely different from the one promised, was already hosting another event on the same weekend that resulted in huge transportation and accommodation failures.
Other elements of the festival suffered the same fate.
The Fyre Festival marketing campaign created a demand like no other music festival.
Attendees were quick to part with their money for fear of missing out.
As the event was cashless, attendees put monetary advances on a digital Fyre smartwatch-style band that was also lost.
The organisers knew they were over-promising and once they realised that they promised the impossible, they should have stopped right there.
The vision was a spectacular one, but the strategic planning necessary to pull off an event of this scale was absent.
A spectacular failure doomed from the beginning, resulting in riots.
The festival, designed to promote the new Fyre app, destroyed the app and brand.
Fyre Media CEO, Billy McFarland, was sentenced to six years in prison for fraud and ordered to pay $26 million.
Experiential marketing is a powerful strategy.
Yes, use partners and the latest technology to tap into audiences’ needs, but always be authentic — never promote something you cannot deliver.
Sometimes the obvious is forgotten.
Thanks for reading. How did I do? If you found this post useful please help share on Twitter!
34 thoughts on “Deliver On Promised Experiences”
Thanks, Vince! Appreciate you reading the post. 🙂
Great share! This man went to prison and paid a good amount, but how many people are promoting what they cannot deliver and they’re free and probably not willing to stop. Experiential marketing is a powerful strategy but many are misusing it
Thank you for such interesting topic 🙂
Absolutely — there are many out there guilty of it.
My pleasure! Thank you for your reply
Thank you for the update, I was wondering what ultimately happened to him.
O, and shared on Twitter
Thank you, Paul. Appreciate you stopping by to read and share 🙂
Excellent piece, I kept thinking how consumerism was one thing, but what a wonderful way to show how many people in the world might experience life.
I never quite knew all the details on the whole ordeal. Seems to me that it could have very well been a scam from the very beginning.
Interesting question, Chiari. Personally I think it wasn’t but organisers got so over their heads for it to end the way it did.
Thanks for reading! 🙂
I see, yes, that too, they got too excited.
Of course! – Ana
A cautionary tale! Over-confident marketing … makes a disaster a bigger disaster …We’re always hearing about the ‘wonderful’ ‘award-winning’ etc writers, musicians, and other people – too much hype everywhere, we are lost for real authentic superlatives (and for appropriate adjectives/adverbs) – and I think this blogpost taps into that too – ‘so excited’, ‘having so much fun!’: but what is real?
Also makes me think of the promises of “Brexit” … some people, a lot of people, seem to have believed those …
Hi Mari. Yes, I think so – one of the biggest problems the internet has created.
I think Brexit is a great example. It’s a pity that the government (and leave campaign) are doing so at the expense of our livelihoods rather than companies doing so for money.
Wow. That’s insane. I’m not sure if I’ve heard about it before. It was an interesting read. Thanks for sharing.
It sounds like WAAAY too many things went wrong. Sounds like a total scam to me.
No problem, Goldie. Thanks for reading 🙂
Gosh I remember reading about that – what a crazy story. A great write-up on this!
Not only in sales and marketing : we should always keep our promises. Good one ☝️
I watched this documentary, and it was so awful. He is very smart and has the skill, too bad he got lost in greed.
Yes, me too. It’s almost unbelievable to think it happened and that someone can be that ignorant in the face of what was going on.
Thanks for reading! 🙂
You remember the money they are loading in the bracelet? Oh God those rich kids are over top!
Yes, I don’t feel so sorry for those kids! 🙂
true, how can they spend that much with their parents money.. it’s lavish.
Great article! I’ve never heard of this festival and its outcome.
It’s a pain we have to be so careful these days, but I guess scammers have always been with us…
Many thanks for stopping by my Travel and Photography blog.
Well writtien post!!
Thanks, Matt 🙂
What an interesting story, I never knew about this! Reminds me of that song… “don’t make promises you can’t keep!”
Thanks, Angela! 🙂