How Did the Fire Festival Impact Influencer Marketing?

If you haven’t yet watched the ominous documentary detailing the downward spiral of events that took place as part of the ‘the greatest party that never happened’ – AKA Fyre Festival – it’s time to Netflix and chill. Chances are, even if you haven’t seen it, you’ve more than likely heard about the disastrous event.

In 2017, Fyre Festival was founded by young entrepreneur Billy McFarland, and noughties rapper, Ja Rule. Advertised as a luxury music festival, Fyre was taking the digital world by storm through influencers and celebrities with huge followings promoting the massive event that was set to take place on an island previously owned by Pablo Escobar called Exuma.

The Power of Influencers

Models, celebrities and well-known influencers promised their Millennial and Gen Z followers the luxury festival of a lifetime that was set to take place over two weekends on a sun-drenched island in the Bahamas.

Mostly through the power of Instagram, their marketing and messaging boasted that attendees would be staying on an idyllic Bahamian private island. Of course, if you know the story, you’ll be entirely aware that it didn’t end well. And what’s been particularly challenging for marketers in the aftermath of Fyre Festival is that they have been left pondering the effects of the power of influencer marketing.

Are Influencers to Blame?

In a nutshell, influencers aren’t to blame. What’s important to note here is that the influencers did their job as requested and as expected – they influenced a demographic of people to follow through with an action – and they did this very well. In this case, the objective of the influencers was to purchase tickets to Fyre Festival. Of course, the beautiful images and videos of bronzed models, sparkling blue water and high-end speed boats helped create an alluring image that followers couldn’t resist. But what’s particularly notable is that because of the societal stance of many of these influencers, at one point, a plain orange square was enough to sway Instagrammers to whip out the credit card and splash out on tickets costing thousands of dollars.

Fyre Festival stands as a case study to marketers that demonstrates the power of influencer marketing. The influencers did their job; the issues lay with the organisers. The influencers persuaded people to buy the tickets and brought them to the island for what was promised to be the best party of their life, but it was ultimately the festival organisers that caused the mess and series of very turbulent events. Yes, the event itself was a fail, but the hype, engagement and ticket sales that were inspired by the influencers proves the enormity and success of influencer marketing.

Working Alongside Reputable Brands

This specific incident shouldn’t put brands off using influencers. Instead, it should encourage influencers to work with reputable and trustworthy brands and agencies that will deliver their promise. Billy McFarland promised influencers that they would be paid in luxury accommodation, private boats and exclusive tickets, but none of that transpired. So, what we take away from this situation is the importance of mutual agreement and understanding when signing up to represent a brand whether that is directly or through an agency like One Cirqle.

What’s interesting with Fyre Festival is that the speed in which the festival sold out is a testament to the power of influencer marketing. But now it’s time for the influencer to be more aware when choosing who to work with. While this flop created a global media storm, that saw many young people stranded, angry and very upset, it’s most certainly not an isolated incident, and no doubt happens on a smaller scale very regularly. Don’t be caught out and use a reputable and trustworthy agency.