I, like many other millennials, spent the better part of a recent weekend watching not one, but two documentaries on the catastrophic failure that was Fyre Festival.
It wasn’t for the schadenfreude of watching rich millennials get stranded on an island – most of the attendees weren’t actually rich, they just took advantage of early bird discounts (like a 50% off admission price posted by Kendall Jenner herself), yielding an all-inclusive luxury vacation for around $500, which is actually a steal. It was more to satiate a perverse fascination with something that went so wrong when so many powerful people seemed to back it (cue Tyra’s “I was rooting for you!”)
Upon just a little digging (aka watching), however, it was astoundingly clear: there really weren’t any powerful people backing the festival. People with money, sure, but that doesn’t mean anything. What gave me that perception of power was the incredibly successful marketing campaign, and specifically their use of influencer marketing.
Names like Kendall Jenner, Gigi & Bella Hadid, Hailey Baldwin, and Chanel Iman might not resonate with everyone, but they are huge (perhaps even the hugest) names in the twentysomething festival-going demographic, and therefore, very powerful. Kendall, after posting the aforementioned discount on her Instagram, (allegedly) sold the festival out.
Instagram is this place that was created as a shareable photo album, where people could post updates about their life in real time. I think that, since Instagram is still so new, we as a society are still holding onto this idea that the images we see on it are not fabricated. Even when a microinfluencer is pushing fit tea, which we know is an ad, we still succumb to the carefully curated “realities” put forth by these beautiful people whom we desire to emulate. And that was what was so genius about Fyre Festival’s marketing – tapping into our deepest insecurity and stupidity to show us who we could be, if only we attended their event.
An ex-exmployee of Jerry Media paints the picture of their genius marketing strategy launch. On the same date, at the same time, a slew of the world’s largest influencers would all post a bright, Fyre orange square as a post, and link to their promotional video. This would cause their target demographic, who no doubt followed most if not all of the influencers, to scroll through a nonstop bright orange Instagram feed, practically begging them to click.
I was really intrigued by the commentary, particularly in the Hulu doc, on the state of influencer marketing. One of the commentators, a social media expert, defined an influencer as anyone with a social media following. She then ceded that definition to the idea that an influencer is anyone able to monetize their existence. Kendall Jenner certainly did that, as her post for Fyre only cost the festival $250,000.
The Fyre Festival debacle, while agreeably a clusterfuck, drove home this important shift in the way people react to advertising today. However, I’m not telling you to denounce Instagram or other similar platforms. Social media can still bring you joy and connections with others, if you are aware about the way businesses can use it. I love my Instagram, and I continually find it to be a source of inspiration and creativity. But I’ll be sure to do my research before booking a vacation that Gigi Hadid is hawking.