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If you don’t already know, Fyre Festival was the ill-fated event that promised over 1,000 customers the festival experience of a lifetime on a beautiful, private Jamaican island. Instead of a luxury festival experience, event-goers were met with a barren island with soaked tents, mattresses on the floor, and no performing acts.
The abysmal failure of Fyre Festival was recently profiled in two documentaries: one from Netflix, called “Fyre: The Greatest Party That Never Happened,” and the other from Hulu, “Fyre Fraud.” Both chronicled the story of event founder and organizer Billy McFarland, and his relationship with rapper Ja Rule, with whom he was throwing the festival. If you’re organizing a business event any time soon, here are three important business tips you can learn from Fyre Festival:
Focus on Planning and Preparation
Preparation is key, and it was something Fyre organizers failed at miserably. They consistently underestimated how much time was needed to build the infrastructure necessary to host an event of that caliber. One talent producer, who was tasked with handling event logistics and travel arrangements, warned other Fyre organizers that they were working towards an impossible goal.
“The production team was all new hires and, before we arrived, we were led to believe things had been in motion for a while,” said Chloe Gordon, who eventually quit several weeks later. “But nothing had been done. Festival vendors weren’t in place, no stage had been rented, transportation had not been arranged.”
Although organizers had told executives to postpone the event to the following year, giving them more time to properly plan for an event of this caliber, head honchos continued to give them the go-ahead to try and scrape things together on a hastily assembled timeline.
As you can see, bad planning can completely sink any event. Whenever you’re planning an event, make a timeline to help ensure everything goes according to schedule and that each day is accounted for.
Use Influencer Marketing
On the surface, it might seem like Fyre Festival was a huge influencer marketing success. The Fyre Festival influencer campaign launched on December 12 with 63 prominent influencers all posting a cryptic orange square with the hashtag, #FyreFest. These influencers included everyone from celebrity models like Chanel Iman to reality TV stars like Kendall Jenner. Within 24 hours, they received over 300 million impressions—proving that influencer marketing is alive and well, and more importantly, it works. Each influencer was paid a minimum of $20,000 for the post, and Kendall Jenner topped the list with a $250,000 fee.
However, the truth is, the festival is a classic case of an influencer marketing failure. For starters, event organizers paid high fees for any influencer with a high following, instead of honing in on their strategy and working with influencers who could actually connect on a brand level with the company and event. A great influencer strategy involves working with a highly curated selection of influencers who can build upon a mutually beneficial arrangement. But these influencers had little idea of what the festival was really going to be about. They were simply doing what they were paid to do. They weren’t engaging with their audience or infusing any other value. Aside from their status, they had little to nothing to say or give. And as a result, 63 influencers promoted a disastrous event.
Although the strategy successfully generated plenty of buzz, the campaign failed from a financial standpoint as well. The event was supposed to sell 40,000 tickets, but on the day of event, only 8,000 had been sold, and many at highly discounted rates. Therefore, although more than $1.5 million had been spent on their influencer marketing campaign, those influencers failed to convert at a rate that event organizers believed they could.
Have a Budget In Place
A realistic budget is necessary for any event. Billy McFarland failed to put together a budget that was realistic or sustainable, and by the time the right people had arrived to warn him that they were way beneath the amount of money needed to host the event, it was far too late. And although potential investors warned him the event would cost upwards of $15 million, he didn’t believe them—despite the fact that he had no festival experience at all.
He was nearly able to secure funding from Comcast Ventures for $90 million but failed to prove that his company was valued at the price he initially told them. He further wasted $4 million he did manage to receive from one investor on fancy offices in New York.
“If Fyre Festival seemed last-minute, that’s because it was,” sources told Vice. “McFarland thought of the idea in October 2016 and announced the festival on Instagram a month later, spending millions on models, private jets, and yachts to promote what would be his first-ever large-scale event.”
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