Be Legends, Man: What Brands can learn from the Fyre Festival Fiasco

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Unless you have, for some reason, been stranded on a remote island with no access to the internet for the last few weeks, then you’ve likely come across the now-infamous story of Fyre Festival. For those who have somehow missed this ahem dumpster fire, we’ll sum it up for you.

Basically, what was supposed to be a luxury weekend music festival on a remote island in the Bahamas turned out to be a confused mess of storm-soaked tents, cheese sandwiches and no actual music. Organized by people who had no previous experience with putting together a music festival (including rapper Ja Rule), much less a top-tier weekend of extravagance, it went just about as bad as it could have gone. Now, even in the face of multiple lawsuits (one worth $100 million) and worldwide ridicule, the Fyre folks hope to turn things around and do it right next year.

The huge, obvious, glaring problem with this is, of course, that after this year’s mess, no one wants anything to do with the brand. Not attendees, not promoters, not artists.

Sure, there are allegedly a few unnamed artists who offered to perform at next year’s festival. And of course, there may be a few people out there who would risk being stranded on a beach in the middle of nowhere just to hang out on a tropical island for a few days. But assuming that the festival actually takes place next year (and that, friends is an extremely bold assumption), the likelihood of there being any sort of profitable turnout is exceptionally low.

The brand is damaged beyond repair.

As the lawsuits keep pouring in, and increasingly damning evidence of flagrant negligence on the part of the promoters, Fyre Festival wasn’t just a failure. It was an absolute disaster, and brand equity is probably unsalvageable.

If the organizers were looking to continue to host another music festival in the near future, they certainly wouldn’t be able to use the name Fyre. The brand has been absolutely skewered on social media and is likely burned into the brains of anyone who might be interested in such an event as something to avoid at all costs.

The likelihood of Fyre Media to pick up the pieces and hold another event like this becomes even less likely when one considers the brand position they tried to hold: most exclusive music festival.

An ultra-luxurious music festival could quickly go sour if the experience offered is anything less than exceptional. When your primary selling point is extravagance, excellence is demanded. This was clearly not the case. Had the event not been such a complete mess and the premise much more low key, the brand may have had a chance to survive. Maybe. It’s bad enough to fail, but doing so while touting yourself as the best means the fall will be that much harder, and the exclusive position will certainly be out of reach.

So, what can we learn from this debacle, aside from the basic principles of running an honest and fair operation that doesn’t leave your customers stranded on an island? Well, many things. But for starters, don’t invest huge sums on money in a brand position that you know, far in advance, would be almost impossible to achieve.

Despite the now-infamous quote by a member of the Fyre marketing team, upon learning the news that the festival would not be ready in time, “Let’s just do it and be legends, man,” there are some times when you just shouldn’t man.

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