It’s no secret that Fyre Festival’s use of influencers has been under intense scrutiny following disastrous results. From FEMA tents to feral dogs, the event has been likened to a particularly grueling episode of "Survivor," but influencers like Bella Hadid and Kendall Jenner sold fans and followers on a luxury music getaway in a pristine tropical setting.
Now, the festival's parent company Fyre Media is mired in several lawsuits and is reported to be under investigation by the FBI for potential mail, wire and securities fraud. PR crisis aside, the Fyre Festival exposed some major influencer marketing mistakes, opening up an opportunity for brands, marketers and advertisers alike to learn some important lessons.
Here are the four biggest missteps and how they could've been avoided:
1.) Violating FTC regulations
The most obvious takeaway for brands from the Fyre Festival is to simply avoid promoting a product that will not at all meet expectations. Not only is it bad practice, it's arguably illegal, per the Federal Trade Commission’s truth-in-advertising laws.
What’s more, nearly all influencers involved did not disclose they were being paid to post about the event — another direct FTC violation.
At this point, it is unclear whether Fyre’s promotional efforts were done in a duplicitous "get rich quick" scheme or if the shocking results were an honest mistake resulting from terribly poor planning. The general rule of thumb, however, should be to always ensure the product being promoted holds up to every standard before promoting it, and especially before bringing other individuals on to promote it through their own channels.
2.) Improper vetting by brand and influencers alike
In the effort to put forth a product that is true to the promised results, the onus is on both brands and influencers to ensure authenticity. Brands are obviously expected to deliver a product that meets expectations but influencers must, in turn, vet what they are promoting.
To that end, influencers must also take care to ensure that the product they are asked to promote is true to their personal brand. It's a common misconception that brands always choose an influencer they see as a fit for a campaign and the influencer must do their bidding. In reality, it's a much more collaborative, nuanced partnership. Because influencers have a carefully curated follower base, they must be careful to ensure everything they promote is a fit.
There is always a certain level of risk when marketers and influencers enter into a brand collaboration, but those that were involved in promoting Fyre Festival found themselves in a tough spot after the smoke had cleared, further validating the need for a strict vetting process from both brand and influencer.
3.) Relying too heavily on celebrity influence
Kendall Jenner was reportedly paid $250,000 for a single Instagram post on top of flights and luxury accommodations in the Bahamas for her Fyre Festival promotion. Celebrity endorsements can certainly be valuable, but they're not the only option for influencer marketing.
Oftentimes, celebrity influence is only skin-deep, reaching an audience that follows and likes because their friends — and millions of others — do, rather than following because they truly want to engage with the content.
Plenty of people may appreciate a celebrity's lifestyle, but is it really one that a brand's core audience can identify with? That lack of authentic connection points to another one of the Fyre Festival's influencer marketing sins:
4.) Ignoring micro-influencers
Thanks to the rise in popularity of the micro-influencer — or, influencers with smaller but often more dedicated followings — there is greater opportunity for brands to earn ROI without expending an exorbitant amount of budget as they might for a mega celebrity.
New technologies allow for a more efficient process to work with a large set of micro-influencers, so brands can achieve scale without paying the celebrity premium. Recent Bloglovin’ research confirmed that brands and marketers are spending less per influencer marketing campaign, while still reaping favorable results.
Many marketers (36%) reported spending under $5,000 per campaign. There is no telling what could have happened if the Fyre Festival coordinators had built an influencer marketing campaign based on micro-influencers, but perhaps they would have had some funds left over for better living accommodations.