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Digital Marketing

Influencer Marketing: Has It Been Burned By Fyre?

Where were you back in April 2017?

Whatever you were doing, if you had internet access and a Twitter account then it’s likely you were watching the implosion of Fyre Festival unfold through a series of Twitter threads and hashtags.

There’s No Smoke Without Fyre

For those that aren’t aware of Fyre Festival, this was an event which had been marketed as a luxury music festival and originally gained viral fame after a social media campaign that starred Instagram’s most trending models.

Tickets for the doomed event sold online for thousands of dollars and were almost immediately snapped up by influencers and rich socialites alike. However, far from the luxurious escape that consumers were promised, what ensued was more akin to a millennial rendition of Lord of the Flies than a private island getaway.

It seems quite fitting that an event which promised to be ‘Instagram come to life’ was ultimately shattered by a single image of a cheese sandwich in a styrofoam container that was Tweeted by one of the guests, creating a glaring contrast between the fiction that was sold and the reality that was experienced.

We Didn’t Start The Fyre

Fyre festival has since become a cautionary tale in the world of influencer marketing and has forced the industry to place itself under an intense microscope.

Operating as a modern form of word-of-mouth advertising, there’s no reason why companies shouldn’t harness the power of influencers to help sell their products. What needs to be established however is the distribution of social responsibility that brands, social media agencies and influencers have when selling a product or lifestyle to a consumer.

Jerry Media, the agency behind the popular meme account @FuckJerry, were responsible for marketing of the festival and the orange tile campaign that initially catapulted Fyre into the public sphere. The question here is how much responsibility should we ascribe to Jerry Media for the scam that Fyre Festival turned out to be?

While they aren’t responsible for the event itself and had no authority regarding logistics or decision making, they did play a significant role in getting consumers to part with their cash and contributed to a false image of an event that turned out to be nothing more than a failed trick of smoke and mirrors.

The ethics surrounding influencer marketing is a topic that requires deeper discussion, for example, where is the line between promoting a product to an engaged audience and outright exploiting them? How much due diligence should an influencer do to ensure that the product they are promoting is what customers will receive? And what are the wider implications that come from selling a product as a result of a swipe up from someone’s story?

Ultimately, what the recent Fyre Festival documentaries expose is the hold that influencers have over their followers and how easily they can turn them into a pool of eager consumers.

Selling A Dream

What initially looks like a documentary that serves to feed our morbid curiosity surrounding a festival gone wrong actually becomes an interesting exploration on engaged audiences and how willing many of us are to buy into the narratives that we are sold on our timeline. One of the event organisers in the Netflix documentary event even says; “We’re selling a pipe dream to your average loser.”

What makes Fyre Festival so interesting for those that work in the digital marketing sphere is that an entirely social media-based marketing campaign was responsible for enticing thousands of rich millennials to part with an extortionate amount of money for what is now known to be a fraudulent scam. The organisers of Fyre Festival exploited the potential of social media to sell an experience which never actually existed.

Despite the now infamous nature of Fyre Festival, influencer marketing is still as strong as ever, with brands routinely paying big-name influencers hundreds of thousands of pounds to post product reviews on their Instagram and mention their products in YouTube hauls. One noticeable consequence that you will see when scrolling through Instagram is that the crackdown on more open transparency in regards to influencers explicitly stating whether their content is a sponsored post or not. Even an item that has been ‘gifted’ by a company must be labeled as a sponsored post.

If working with influencers is something that you want to pursue, it is essential that you work with an agency that understands the role this modern type of marketing will play in your digital strategy and who is responsible for delivering what result. Contact our team today to find out more.

Chris Thomas


Chris Thomas

CEO & Founder

Chris has been at the forefront of eCommerce and a pioneer of online retailing since the early 00s. A 5-time Drapers Award winner, Chris has extensive experience in developing fashion brands online.

Chris founded Cake in 2016. Based in Birmingham, with offices nationwide, Cake specialises in helping fashion brands understand their market online and then helps to develop appropriate strategical direction to achieve their plan, all backed by his 20 years of operating in the retail market.