Competing Documentaries Offer 3 Fyre Festival Marketing Lessons

Feb 9, 2019

The Fyre Festival was supposed to be known as the ultimate escape — a private island getaway of luxury and indulgence. It’s now known as a prime example of over-the-top marketing gone awry and impossible promises.

Though the festival “happened” in April 2017, the failed festival continues to make headlines every week well into 2019. Netflix and Hulu recently released documentaries that chronicle just how the Fyre Festival failed, each with a slightly different perspective.

Dueling documentaries offer different perspectives

Hulu’s “Fyre Fraud” does a deep dive into the financial woes committed by festival mastermind and fraudster Billy McFarland, rapper Ja Rule and the Fyre team. It focuses more on the behind the scenes marketing fraud committed leading up to the festival rather than on the festival itself. It attempts to explain why McFarland did what he did — and why so many festival goers blindly trusted an obscure company with their money and lives.

The documentary has faced criticism for paying McFarland for his account of what unfolded.

The Netflix documentary “Fyre” hones in on the day-to-day planning and timeline leading up to the failed festival. It focuses on Fyre employees’ accounts of how the festival went wrong and the absurdity of the whole operation. “Fyre” focuses on the human impact of the trickery committed by McFarland and his team. Like Hulu, Netflix has faced backlash. It co-produced the doc with Jerry Media, the social media firm in charge of promoting the Fyre Festival which has since faced additional controversy.

Each documentary has pros and cons. If you have the time to commit 4 hours of your day to watch both docs, the combined viewing offers a comprehensive look at how Fyre faltered and why so many people wanted to badly to believe in the festival’s promise.

The docs uncover key lessons for any team’s marketing strategy — even if they’re not producing a once-in-a-lifetime music festival. Here are three of them.

1. Style must support substance.

McFarland and his team understood the power of marketing and Instagram influencers posting an orange tile. They made their top priority creating an over-the-top marketing plan and sales deck with no thought to whether or not it could actually be executed.

Style matters. Sales decks and supporting materials have to look good. But marketing materials have to be the best representation of the service or product your provide — not a false advertisement on what you can really deliver. Often, the resources that go into epic marketing materials are better spent understanding your audience and strengthening your brand’s story.

Case in point: Fyre spent an incredible amount of time and money on a promotional video for the festival. Shutterstock created basically the same video in a day and for a fraction of the cost.

2. Project management matters

Preparation for an event or campaign is equally as important as the event itself. It’s vital to have a solid plan of action in place before doing anything or promising anything. The time spent putting that plan in place is the difference between a successful outcome and a disaster in the making.

3. Pushback should be part of the process

Teams made up of individuals with similar philosophies can achieve a lot. But every group decision making process should include constructive criticism. Marketing leaders have a role to play in creating a culture where feedback drives better ideas and team members engage in productive back and forth. Above all, creative team members should be able to speak up if a marketing idea isn’t doable.

This article was written by Caitlyn Koch.

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