Why Fyre Festival Proves How Dangerously Effective Influencers Are

As everyone already knows, Fyre Festival was one of the biggest flubs in festival history (this hilarious documentation of the disaster will catch you up if you weren’t aware). They used flashy models and influencers to promote to a bunch of millennials who wanted to “live the dream”, meet their idols, and party for a weekend on an exclusive island once owned by the infamous drug lord, Pablo Escobar. Music, parties, babes, and sun? Sign me up!


Their marketing strategy (see the video below) has been ridiculed, called deceptive, and even hailed as the “death of influencer marketing.” As someone who has been involved in influencer marketing for years, I couldn’t disagree more.

While it was shameful and fraudulent to promise so much and deliver nothing, I think the underlying principal remains that the overwhelming ‘success’ (by that I mean getting tens of thousands of people to spend insane amounts of money to fly to a brand-new festival to the point where it’s overbooked and embarrassingly under-delivered) of the festival came from an amazing marketing strategy fueled by influencers.


Let’s take a step back for a second and think about how many 1st year festivals would love to charge $13,000 VIP Packages and sell so many that they can’t even handle the demand. The timing of Fyre coming right off the heels of Coachella is also amazing. I mean, maybe their target audience could afford to do both, but let’s face it; as a music junkie myself, the lineup for Fyre wasn’t exactly polarizing.


Let’s not forget this lineup includes Blink-182 who dropped out early.


Influencer marketing has been around for over 100 years even though it went by a different name, celebrity endorsements. The hype behind it now comes from the way consumers can feel more closely connected on a day-to-day basis with their idols in a more humanizing way. Influencers now are getting paid for their followings and sure, they can seem like walking billboards, but they have an audience. As a marketer, the only reason you would hate on them for having a large audience is because you can’t generate that buzz on your own or because you don’t think the cost is worth it. Industry “professionals” and marketers want to use excuses like “fake” and “disingenuous” because the real focus only goes towards the few influencer ads that are losing.


“Wow they took money or product to post on their feed?! That’s so shameful. How could they promote such a scam?” “I told you influencer marketing was ridiculous!” Influencers have bills. Influencers can choose what goes on their feed and in most cases companies are coming to them with the copy and pitch. Companies who use them are still getting massive ROI, audience engagement, and exposure in front of millions of people. Let’s remember, it’s ultimately up to the influencer. In the case of Fyre, they had no idea it was going to flop, but they were certainly sold the dream, paid a lot, and promised all these things by the company, but how is it their fault?


If I came to you (yes, you reading this) and said, “I want to give you a free vacation in Ibiza, at this nice hotel (drinks and food included) and even pay you to go there and relax! The only thing you need to do is post a few tweets and Instagram posts about my brand.” Would you say no? Either you’re lying to yourself or you’re thinking, “Great, when’s my trip?”


Now let’s imagine you’re getting 1000 of those requests a day because you’re a top-tier influencer. How do you decide which brands to work with? You’re probably going to do one of a few things: either work with brands you like already, brands you’ve wanted to work with, or you’re going to determine what content seems most beneficial for you and your audience. Think Kylie Jenner’s audience would have loved to see her rocking out on a yacht at a music festival? I’m sure she did too.


Just some Instagram influencers posing for Fyre… Hold on, I think I’m gonna go get my ticket for next year

Heidi Cohen published a post about Seth Godin’s 7 truths at the heart of marketing. Let’s see how they relate to this debacle and what you can stand to learn.

  1. People rarely buy what they need. They buy what they want
  2. Choose your customers, choose your future.
  3. Marketing is no longer about the stuff that you make, but about the stories you tell.
  4. Why waste a sentence saying nothing?
  5. Social Networking that matters is helping people archive their goals. Doing it reliably and repeatability so that over time people have an interest in helping you achieve your goals.
  6. The best time to do great customer service is when a customer is upset. 
  7. Good marketers measure.


How many of these apply to Fyre?

  1. They wanted the luxury music festival packed with influencers
  2. They got to target the wannabe, high spending, festival millennials.
  3. They told a fun story about an event that’s never happened before.
  4. They made the content easy to digest, you got the picture- be there or miss out
  5. I saw this ad a million times. The attendees got the ads, got the influencers, got the festival hype, they got the content and ate it right up.
  6. They are promising refunds and extending free VIP to next years festival – while they haven’t refunded anyone just yet, I’m sure that’s coming before the lawsuits put them out of business.
  7. They saw the demand and you can bet they’re gonna be prepared for 2018 (they’ve already stated it’ll be in the US. Gee, that’ll make more logistical sense).


Fyre Festival might have been a huge flop, a scam, or just an embarrassment to marketers, but think about this- it’s been about a month since all of this came out and you probably haven’t even thought about it. Attention spans are short and, while they might have a tough time putting a festival together next year with influencers, you can bet it will still be sold out from all the hype of this controversy and promises to do it right.


Say what you want, influencer marketing works.




Til next time.

Rylan Albach