The Marketing Lessons to be learnt from the Fyre Festival

marketing lessons fyre festival

If you haven’t seen the Netflix documentary Fyre Festival, we strongly recommend you add this to your viewing list before you read on, as there’s not only a few spoiler alerts in this feature, but it will highlight to you some of the most basic marketing failings any organisation can make.

The brutal and stark reality of what became the nightmare of Fyre Festival was a product built from pure marketing. Here’s where you could argue it was genius or stupidity. But either way, with just a vision and a big budget for marketing Billy Mcfarland and his team, managed to sell 5,000 tickets to a brand new Bahamian festival that was set to outdo the iconic Coachella.

Of course, as we now know, what was meant to be the millennial festival of the decade was nothing more than fraud, it begs us to ask how so many people were influenced to buy into a festival that didn’t exist?

There wasn’t a product, but using marketing and well-known influencers it quickly became a sellout.

The strategies they used were not new, and if anyone on the team had any marketing sense they may have realised that they might need a product to provide when their customers arrived on the island.

With this real-life marketing disaster in mind, we thought it would be the perfect opportunity to reveal their biggest marketing failures so that your campaigns won’t crash and burn as controversially as Fyre Festival.


fyre-festival-2017 The luxury accommodation turned out to be disaster recovery tents

Blindly Continuing

Right from the word go, it was apparent that the sizeable festival that Billy Mcfarland had dreamed of, could not be created on the notorious ‘Pablo Escobar’ Island. Not only could it not support attendees due to no plumbing or fresh water supply, but it would not even be able to house the number of tents and other accommodation that was being publicised.


This should have been a pause in the event, but instead, Billy simply switched Island’s and began trying to source accommodation for the guests on Exuma Island. Not only were there no luxury cabana’s but the VIP houses were residents of the island. If this wasn’t bad enough, there was also not enough VIP houses for the people that had actually purchased them!

With little time to build a festival, it was quickly becoming apparent that no festival was going to exist when attendees arrived.

Despite numerous occasions when it was clear Fyre Festival was not going to be the ‘luxury festival’ they had sold, Billy and his team continued blindly. Maybe they were expecting a miracle or perhaps laidback guests?

But nothing could prepare people for the reality of Fyre Festival –  hurricane tents and cheese sandwiches.

While this is an extreme example, it just goes to show what can happen when you ignore all the warning signals.

Any marketing campaign can end up the same way, admittedly not as newsworthy. But if you’re not being realistic about what’s achievable and checking in with how much of the budget is being spent, you’ll quickly have created a marketing trench rather than a boost in profits.


Fyre Festival Promo Video


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Know Your Delivery Dates

When Fyre Festival was announced there was not enough realistic time to physically build and create it, let alone for it to become the ‘luxury’ festival it was promoted to be. Even after they drafted in an extra 200 local labourers.

The vision was grand and for obvious reasons had people excited, but the execution had no strategy or plan. That’s clear enough if you’ve seen the documentary – one of the organisers was even meant to be doing the yoga!

Like watching a disaster unfold in slow motion, Fyre Festival was doomed from the word go, and it’s for basic reasons.

As well as knowing your delivery dates, you need a plan of action on how to get there.

Unfortunately a solid plan doesn’t include boozing on a beach and playing on a jet ski, otherwise Fyre Festival may have been a different story.

By having goals, plans and dates, you have a clear vision of what you need to achieve and when by. That way, if things are not going to plan you can take action and avoid costly mistakes, and serious brand damage.


Revise Your Strategy

Just because things aren’t going well doesn’t mean you have to give up completely, changing your strategy can also help you to maintain your reputation and gain something from the effort.While chaos was imminent at Fyre Festival, there were so many opportunities for the organisers to review their strategy and consider alternatives. The fact they didn’t reflect on where they were portrays pure recklessness.
[fyre festival documentary netflix tweets 1547562032 - SEO Fyre Festival luxury catering

Yes, their marketing worked at getting people to the island, but when the product you’ve been marketing doesn’t exist there’s nothing that can save you from an angry mob!

Marketing isn’t just about the influence of getting people there in the first place, it’s fostering a loyal relationship that continues well beyond the event. Even when a product is purchased, you want to continue educating them and nurturing that relationship so that they recommend you and come back.

This wasn’t the case with Fyre Festival, there was no strategy in place to begin with, let alone a strategy to create the event into something long term.

Ensure You Don’t Just Have ‘Yes’ Men

There’s a ‘fall guy’ in every situation, but agree or disagree there were many people to blame for the dire outcome of Fyre Festival. Billy Mcfarland wasn’t doing this alone, and anyone could have said ‘no’ or ‘stop’ at any point. In fact, one person did and soon found themselves off the team.

fyre-festival-influencers  Model influencers

It’s disastrous to surround yourself with ‘yes’ men in any organisation, let alone when you’re marketing a product. You need to have honest, realistic feedback that’s going to support the end vision – not ego masseurs who are only out to please the leader.

In any marketing, it’s about the customer, not the brand, and this is what was quickly forgotten when it came to Fyre Festival. Did they really think they were going to recover from this.

Be Authentic

Billy Mcfarland and his team were spending too much time enjoying their ‘luxury’ life in the Bahamas, that they forgot to create the experience for all the people that had purchased tickets in the first place.

From the models who published Instagram pictures advertising a false Fyre Festival, to the team who continued to share their Bahamian dream on Instagram. They were selling a false reality in order to separate people from their hard earned money.

The yachts, the pristine beaches, a la carte food, cabanas – none of it existed.

There was no authenticity from any party behind the marketing and promotion of the festival. Instead, it showed the ugly side of what can happen when you believe everything you see on social media.

Social media is an incredible tool for marketing, but you have to take some responsibility about what your message is, and how it comes across.

Being authentic is the only direction an organisation and brand should be heading. Otherwise, it’s seen as manipulation.

Ultimately Fyre Festival is one of the most extreme examples of where marketing can promise the world, but deliver a grain of sand. Every brand and organisation should take a lesson from this disaster because it shows the remarkable influence marketing can have on any product or service, but how essential it must deliver on what it’s promoting.

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