Event Marketing Lessons to Learn from Fyre Festival

The marketing industry is still scrambling over the highly-publicized failing of the anticipated Fyre Festival, a luxurious 2 weekend musical event set on an island in the Bahamas marketed to ultra-wealthy millennials and socialites. Promotional videos for the festival were frequented by popular models and social media influencers with hefty followings, such as Bella Hadid, Kendall Jenner, and Emily Ratajkowski, were enlisted to boost the festival’s social media presence. We have some excellent advice for ensuring your New Orleans event marketing does not turn into a Fyre Festival.

New Orleans Event Marketing

Despite extraordinary marketing and promotional efforts portraying the event as “nothing but the best for the best”, festival goers who arrived this past weekend were instantly struck with the realization that the Fyre Festival failed to resemble anything even remotely similar to the promo videos of models, beautiful beaches, and luxurious accommodations. Instead, attendees who spent anywhere from $2k to $12k were greeted by disaster relief tents, droves of biting sand flies, food shortages, and no musical artists. Since this weekend, the event has been canceled and is rescheduled for 2018. Fyre Festival has stated it will refund all festival goers and also promised VIP access to next year’s festival for those who attended this year’s flop. Read more about the failings of Fyre Festival here.

While most businesses in New Orleans are not anticipating throwing an event like Fyre Festival, marketing/public relations agencies and regular businesses can learn a lot from the nightmare that unfolded in the Bahamas this past weekend. The Frye Festival disaster demonstrates two necessities for every event we produce as marketers, public relations practitioners, and business owners: a clear crisis communications plan and promotional efforts that do not inaccurately portray the event.

Public Relations and Crisis Management

Many overlook the need for a crisis management strategy for events and daily operations and 99% of the time, it goes unused. However, let’s think of the potential fallout for when that 1% decides to rear its ugly head and your event falls apart. As for Fyre Festival, they claim the event will be postponed until next year. This is most likely a diversion tactic abruptly created to take some pressure off of themselves from angry customers, but the damage is already done and people who shelled out tens of thousands of dollars no longer have trust in the company’s ability to fulfill their promises after their horrendous execution this past weekend and over the last several months. If Fyre Festival survives this fallout and actually produces another event, it will be extremely lucky.

Businesses in New Orleans need not fear the extravagance that was required of Fyre Festival to succeed. However, it is unwise to host any medium to large-scale event without a proper plan of action for dealing with emergencies, weather, infrastructural/logistical issues. Taking the time to brainstorm ways the event can go wrong may seem pessimistic, but it can prevent your organization from taking the blame even if something uncontrollable occurs. Event attendees will associate any failings with your company, so it is best to mitigate the affects of these failings or prevent them as best as your organization can. In addition to crisis management, events should have a designated spokesperson or public relations contact that can speak directly with the media about any issues and what the organization is doing to correct the situation. If we look to the Fyre Festival incident, it was difficult to tell who was the official spokesperson and it was nearly impossible to find direct information about what was being done to help stranded festival goers. This further exasperated the situations many were facing not just on the island, but among those back home waiting to hear from loved ones.

Accurate Marketing and Promotions

When it comes to event planning, we all want our attendees to have the best time. There is a common phenomenon event planners, marketers, and public relations practitioners must avoid or they risk producing an over-hyped, underwhelming event that damages your business or client’s brand perceptions. The phenomenon I am speaking to is when event planners’ eyes are bigger than their stomachs, or more precisely, the event expectations are unrealistic.

The Fyre Festival is a textbook example of a company overextending its ability to execute an event that it had promoted to a point that it could not possibly succeed. Promotional messages were dispersed and distributed far before any real work was even put into deciding whether or not the massive festival would be achievable. After recruiting numerous celebrities to promote the event, the buzz around the festival had reached a point of no return. The leadership of Fyre Festival had two choices: abandon the festival, offer a refund, and risk losing the future patronage of the thousands of wealthy millennials who had paid hefty ticket prices, or attempt to have the event despite the knowledge of the mess countless paying customers were headed into. In the aftermath, it’s clear what choice they should have pursued.

As event planners, we must strike a delicate balance between the way we promote our events and how they will actually be. Planning an event as early as possible allows for valuable time that can be used to secure vendors, equipment, staffing, and other event necessities. It is only when these vital event components are confirmed that you should begin to implement your marketing and promotional efforts. Careful consideration must also be given to the type of messaging, influencers, and promotional channels that are used to spread word about the event. Messaging should encourage participation, but not at the expense of portraying the event as something it isn’t. Setting the expectations of your event too high can result in severe backlash from paying participants and leave a bad impression of your brand among the public.

In summation, learn from Fyre Festival’s failures to create and execute an adequate crisis management plan, their prioritization of marketing over execution, and the cowardly move to not cancel an event that was guaranteed to fail far before it welcomed its first festival goer. If you need assistance with New Orleans event marketing, contact us today to learn more about our marketing and public relations services.