How I Would Build Fyre Fest 2 as a Marketing Director

How I Would Build Fyre Fest 2 as a Marketing Director

The day has come, Fyre Festival 2 is happening! The greatest festival that never happened is attempting another shot at success. Festival co-founder Billy McFarland was released from federal prison on March 30, 2022. Since, there has been speculation as to what his next big play would be? This past week McFarland made a bold announcement with the return of Fyre Fest 2. If you are unfamiliar with the story of Fyre Fest, I strongly recommend watching either Fyre Fraud on Netflix or Fyre on Hulu.

While there is a lot of blame to go around as to why the original festival didn’t work, this article is not designed to go in that direction. Instead I want to focus on the marketing aspect of Fyre, the brand power of Fyre, and how could a second attempt of this festival actually work? Does McFarland have a comeback story in him, or will this be a hurdle he can’t overcome following his incarceration? I’m going to pretend to be Fyre Festival’s Marketing Director today and answer these burning questions. But before we start let’s be very clear. I have no association with Fyre Festival, Billy McFarland, or any organization attached to this event. Nor have I ever served as a Marketing Director or pretend to know all of the complexities that exist in this role. Instead I’m applying a broad lens view as to what I’d do across several disciplines of marketing. Let’s begin!

Ride the wave of media buzz

Fyre Festival has a lot of media attention just a few days after announcing ticket sales. In fact, McFarland has said the initial wave of tickets sold out! Much like the first edition of the festival, these tickets were sold without an artist lineup, venue, or fleshed out plan. But there is a key difference here. It was highlighted in the documentaries that the first edition of the festival was very rushed. They should have pivoted the start day back to get logistics into place. This time the festival is planned for the end of 2024, giving more than a year of time to secure the dominoes that need to be in place. This will also give the Fyre marketing team a year of media prior to the event.

When dealing with news media and bloggers the narrative can be controlled or you can let them control you. For the large amount of coverage this event will receive, it’s vital that McFarland keeps an open mind here. I don’t think it’s his place to control the narrative or dismiss what happened during the 2017 music festival. Instead, he needs to let the media ask him hard questions, fall on the sword when necessary, and then refocus conversations onto what Fyre Fest 2 is all about? He can spend a year apologizing, or he can show us why he is a legitimate player in the concert industry with true understanding. I’d prefer the latter. Why is this experience a once-in-a-lifetime event? What are the logistics to ensuring success? Who are our large artists? A year is a long time to slowly build confidence.

Social media Has Changed a lot since 2017

When Fyre’s social media campaign dropped in 2017 it was innovative, imaginary, broke the status quo. No matter how you feel about how this festival turned out, you can’t deny how powerful the marketing was. Fyre was able to establish brand, FOMO, and a unique presence in the world of concerts without spending millions of dollars on ads. Let’s take a look at what they did from a concept lens:

  • Shot one high dollar promo video, combining influencer marketing.
  • Contracted top Instagram influencers to market for them in the Millennial buying space.
  • Utilized the brand power of Kendall Jenner, with a $250K social media post.

All and all these three tactics put the spend level of Fyre Fest in the millions. But let’s think for a second. How many corporations are spending millions of dollars on paid ads, but nowhere else? How many corporations produce a singular commercial dipping into the millions of dollars, but fail to succeed on digital channels? Fyre Fest dropped their commercial, influencer posts, and Kendall Jenner endorsement in one day on organic channels. This caused a major uproar in which we saw the tickets sell like “Fyre” if you will.

As the initial wave of tickets have sold, there will be more to follow. I think it’s important for Fyre Festival 2 to realize that the social media game is different than it was in 2017. Instagram is a lot more crowded with the potential of much lower reach. The emergence of TikTok has entered a crowded market with different rules of engagement. Video consumption is high, but under 15 second clips are in.

I would utilize a similar strategy with influencers. I find it important that Fyre doesn’t lose this component of being relevant here. But instead of a large commercial shoot, I think this play has to be more organic. Allow the influencers to showcase their upcoming experience in 15 second bursts, maybe take pictures at the venue, or highlight the pre-events. The organic play here is to let the influencers slowly build reputation versus a short-form burst strategy. McFarland has discussed a Fyre Musical. I would strongly recommend launching the musical before the festival. This allows influencers to market for you, build trust in a successful business operation, and establish Fyre as a brand.

B2B connections need to be the immediate focus

The story about Fyre is widely known. McFarland told investors he had a ton of funding, he didn’t. He served time in prison and now he’s back. In our last section we talked about the changing social media landscape. This applies to B2B marketing as well. In 2017 LinkedIn was fresh off an acquisition by Microsoft for $26 billion. Today, LinkedIn is an absolute B2B powerhouse with endless of opportunities. While marketing Fyre with Instagram or TikTok feels more fun, I don’t think it’s the most important play right now. What’s important is building important relationships with investors and brands. Let’s for a second think about the magnitude of partnerships McFarland will need to make.

  • Make pivotal connections with Caribbean government officials.
  • Establish connections with investors and executive leaders.
  • Start conversing with brand leaders to build deals. This could range from sponsorships, venue agreements, artist labels, etc.

There are two ways Fyre can look to achieve this. The first is simply leveraging LinkedIn’s tools to connect with leaders and start a conversation. McFarland has shown in the past that he can strike a conversation and strike a deal. This time around he will have to prove himself at a higher level. His name is known by everyone. So just start with that direct message on LinkedIn and see what happens? The Fyre marketing team should be building a list of people and companies right now. Secondly, I think purchasing B2B ads on LinkedIn would be a smart play to begin immediately. I know that Fyre tends to run more organic on the B2C side, but the B2B side needs some oomph. I would use ads to directly target investors, CEOs, people who handle partnerships, all on a platform that is built for this. The reach of these ads would have not been near the same in 2017.

Create a very visible marketing team

As many of us know 2023 has been a very tough year in the world of marketing. It feels like there hasn’t been one tech company that wasn’t greatly impacted by layoffs. As a result thousands of the best marketing professionals are on the market. McFarland should use this to his advantage and hand pick a marketing team that can’t fail. While I know agency is the route that they went last time, I think in-house might be the play this go around. I would establish key positions such as Marketing Director, Director of Growth, B2B Lead, and an Influencer Specialist. Okay so that’s a lot of paper right? As McFarland grows revenue he needs to grow positions and put the money immediately back into the team. Once key positions are established these folks should double as ambassadors for the Fyre brand. Once this is established it positions Fyre as a company that can succeed, that can win, that has a veteran staff that has shown success in other places. Now you’re probably asking would someone want this job? I think you’d be surprised at how many marketers would jump on this as a way to resurface their careers. The ability to be a comeback story, to create, to live a little bit without boundaries… It excites marketers. Especially those who are looking for their next step.

Last but not least… This festival has to mean something

McFarland still finds himself in a financial hole. He owes $26 million in restitution from the previous failed festival. He has stated in the past that he plans to make his next venture a way to pay off these dollars. This means that Fyre Festival 2 has to find purpose. The purpose of redemption for those who weren’t paid fairly (or at all) during the last festival. Redemption for those who traveled and were stranded. Redemption for the staff that poured their heart into this project only to feel conned. Regardless of how you feel about McFarland’s misdoings, he has another chance right now to right this ship. His success will be guided by his personal brand. Is it authentic? Is this effort truly about concert-goers, staff, the country’s economy who hosts it? Or is it about his personal image?

If he makes this festival mean something and can construct it for restitution it could be the most improbable comeback story I’ve witnessed. McFarland’s Fyre brand is more powerful than it was in 2017 with two moving documentaries. I have to imagine Netflix is already contracting a documentary for this. It’s now up to McFarland to create his own path.



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