Playing with Fyre: Has Big-influencer Marketing Gone Up In Flames?

There’s a fair bit of schadenfreude in the air since the Fyre Festival debacle. Amid the references to Lord of the Flies and dystopian nightmares, much snickering and sneering has been directed at the gullible.

Spending in excess of $1,000, in some cases tens of thousands, eager attendees believed in the dream – to mingle with big-name celebrities (photographed during the Instagram build-up in bikinis, draped across yachts with sparkling blue sea as the backdrop) at the ‘immersive music festival’ over two separate weekends on a private island in the Bahamas.

To get there, private planes were chartered to fly ticket holders from Miami for music, art, food, snorkelling, yachting, yoga… the list goes on. Packages started at $1,500. The event ended up being cancelled due to poor planning and myriad other issues.

Whether you’re sniggering at the ridiculousness of it all or simply marvelling that this is – or was – a thing, there are important points to think about for the future of influencer marketing.

Prior to this fiasco, everyday consumers were buying into the idea (literally) that these celebrities and influencers actually believed in the brands they were promoting. Fyre Festival, however, has shown us that perhaps all they believe in is money.

Big-name celebrities and models, such as Kendall Jenner and Bella Hadid, received up to $250,000 to simply post about the event and appear in promotional videos. Will they receive any damage to their own brand for endorsing such a spectacularly failed event? Or will they continue to be paid crazy money for endorsing products and events, as long as their own brand stays relevant?

Brands seeking endorsement or the golden touch of approval from influencers need to be cautious, as savvy consumers may now think twice before parting ways with their cash. Paying for posting needs to be reconsidered as a promotional tactic, or be at the most a nice by-product of a successful brand and influencer relationship.

The increasing importance of micro influencers is worth exploring in the context of the Fyre Fail. Micro-influencers have fewer followers but have more genuine engagement with them. As is proven time and time again, achieving more genuine belief in brands happens when there is a two-way relationship. Even if things go wrong, having achieved a more realistic, attainable, deeper relationship will at least go some way towards avoiding brand burn.

Paying for posting has to go away, or at least be only a nice by-product of a successful brand and influencer relationship.

As angry ticket holders line up to sue the Fyre Festival organisers, it’s worth remembering that any brand worth its salt offers more than puffery.

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