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Fyre Festival: The Power of Influencer Marketing

Thursday 14th February

Fyre Festival was one of the most talked about failures of 2017 and with recent documentaries streaming on Netflix and Hulu, criticisms have resurfaced.

Fyre Festival was portrayed as the new, exclusive festival that everyone needed to be at, through their now infamous advert featuring a number of supermodels promoting the planned party in the Bahamas. However, because the event was such a disaster, with attendees being stranded on an island with wet tents and sandwiches instead of in the catered, luxury villas that they were promised, questions have been raised about the power of social influencer marketing.

Image result for fyre festival


The Influence of Instagram

The whole marketing strategy was based on Instagram, with organisers wasting valuable expenditure on paying key influencers to advertise and promote the festival, which could have been better spent on the actual construction and logistics of the event. For example, social media influencers were paid to simultaneously post an orange square on their Instagram accounts so that people’s feeds were taken over by Fyre. Although extremely effective by causing intrigue and helping a first time festival to sell out tickets, what were people buying into? The images that Fyre advertised in their campaign were not reflective of the product because the organisers found it impossible to fulfil the promises they made in the marketing video. However, instead of giving up and showing what the guests were actually going to be arriving to, they kept up the façade and re posted the same idyllic images on their social accounts. This emphasises a wider problem of mistaking Instagram for reality because people bought into the photos of paradise that they saw on the likes of Bella Hadid’s Instagram, completely unrepresentative of the experience they were actually provided.


Power of Influencer Marketing

The power of influencer marketing stems from the trust between the product endorser and their fans as they look to them to keep up with the latest trends. However, Fyre Festival has highlighted the danger of blindly trusting a celebrity’s sponsored post because the product they were endorsing was a lie, which suggests that the influencer does not always know about the product but are paid to give a good review. The influencers involved have also come under ‘fyre’ for not making it clear enough that their social media posts were sponsored ads, which mislead their followers into believing that they wanted to be at this amazing event, instead of being paid to be there, which makes their fans want to be their too.


Social Proof Theory

Robert Cialdini’s Social Proof Theory can help us to understand why influencer marketing is effective in driving sales. He argues that people are influenced by the actions or attitudes of those online by looking at them for proof of what is the correct way to act. Therefore, consumers were looking to their favourite influencers for guidance on whether to trust this unknown event and saw their promotion as a seal of approval to purchase tickets. This not only affected the actions of consumers but sponsors, who reportedly attempted to move their sponsorship from Coachella to Fyre Festival because they wanted their brand to be associated with what was most relevant.

Fear of Missing Out

Lastly, Fyre Festival’s marketing strategy was successful because it used influencers to manipulate people’s fear of missing out. Also known as FOMO, it is the anxiety that people experience when they feel excluded from a fun experience that others are having. The organisers capitalised on this emotion by creating excitement and a sense of exclusivity around the event by suggesting that the influencers and supermodels themselves would be there. Therefore, they drove sales because the consumer wanted to be there too or more importantly wanted to be able to post that they were at this must see festival on their social media.

Overall, Fyre Festival has become a case study for how powerful social influencer marketing can be as they managed to sell out tickets to a new, unknown event based solely on the recommendation of influencers rather than being backed up by past experiences or reviews. However, because an outrageous budget funded this huge, social campaign the actual event suffered because the product did not live up to the over-hyped promises.



Article Written by

Sophie Lurcuck

Graduate, Total Media

Sophie graduated from the University of East Anglia with a degree in English Literature and is currently on the graduate program at Total Media where she is placed in the international client services team.

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