In the previous blog, we looked at what influencer marketing is and how it has evolved with the rise of “Instagram celebrities.” In this blog, we’ll take a deeper look into what went wrong with Frye’s marketing strategy, and see what lessons we can take from the greatest party that never happened.
The Fyre Strategy
The main organizer, Billy McFarland, utilized a combination of old and new influencer strategies to promote the festival. McFarland coordinated an influencer marketing strategy in which profiles with huge followings were flooding Instagram with posts containing images of orange squares that linked to highly edited videos and incredibly vague captions about the upcoming festival. By not revealing much in details about the festival, the organizers heavily relied on the feeling of FOMO (fear of missing out) to create intrigue.
The marketing team also turned to big name celebrities with large Instagram followings ranging from 47,000 to 21,000,000 (Corbin Kelly and Kendall Jenner, respectively). Each were paid handsomely, but the campaign failed.
As the festival grew closer, the envious lifestyle images from the promotional videos were quickly replaced with critical memes that mocked the festival. The same audience that Fyre relied on to generate buzz about the event began sharing memes, which were then replaced with real-time videos and images of the disastrous event.
Even before things started going sour, McFarland and other organizers were lying to investors; which is where the fraud charges came about. The organizers originally claimed that all 40,000 tickets would be sold by March 31, only to have sold a mere 8,000 by April 27. What happened?
The lesson: finding your niche
Outside of the fraud, the Frye Festival failed because of it’s marketing campaign leaning on the celebrity status of the influencer and not their connection to their followers. Kendall Jenner was the most notable of influencers, but many of her followers stay up-to-date on her life through her tv show, Keeping Up With the Kardashians, and her cosmetic makeup line. How many of Jenner’s Instagram followers fall into the niche of a music festival in the Bahamas?
Fyre’s marketing strategy was to simply cast the widest net possible, not to make the most powerful connections. Jenner alone has 80 million followers, but only 8,000 tickets were sold? That’s rough.
In comparison, Bang energy played the influencer card perfectly. Being a hybrid between workout supplement and energy drink, Bang’s marketing team rolled out an influencer campaign that largely leaned on an industry built for Instagram. The influencers that Bang sought out engage with their followers on a daily basis—bodybuilders, CrossFitters, and other exercise gurus.
The health industry’s social media mantra is to help others achieve their fitness goals, and the best way to do so is through engagement. Bang tapped into the marketing goldmine Instagram athletes. A few years ago it was almost impossible to find Bang energy drinks in gyms and gas stations. Now it’s almost impossible to miss them.
Recent articles scrutinizing influencer marketing flooded the internet in wake of the Fyre Festival documentaries. But the Fyre failure is only one example of influencer marketing gone bad. Industries such as healthcare, travel and lifestyle, fashion and beauty, and many more have experienced tremendous benefits from new-age influencer marketing. The Fyre Festival was just a black eye that will likely heal. Like many things, influencer marketing has existed for decades, just in different forms, and will continue to evolve with the internet.