Lessons Learned from Fyre Festival on Being Authentic

If the Fyre Festival only came onto your radar recently, you are not alone. Many of us were probably (happily) unaware of Fyre Festival back in 2017, until the latest onslaught of social media posts mocking attendees, and the popularity of the new documentaries which were recently released on Netflix and Hulu. Fyre highlights the fast and furious rise and epic crash and burn that occurs when business plans are motivated by greed.

While greed has always been a strong motivational force in the marketplace and comes in many shapes and sizes, perhaps the most recent incarnation of greed is the way in which social media has recently been able to morph the FOMO (Fear of missing out) or as you get older JOMO (Joy of missing out) into something that can be marketed and monetized. Fyre is a perfect example of that phenomenon. Organizers were able to put  together an idea for what was to be the most visionary and over the top party for a specific demographic: millennials with lots of disposable income with a high degree of FOMO. They capitalized on human nature and took advantage of the desire to be PART of something. As it turned out, that something was really nothing. With the use of super models, sleek web design, and one hell of a social media “grassroots” campaign they created the scam of the decade – all based on greed and FOMO .

Fyre sums of the notion that no matter how perfect the packaging is, what really matters when it comes down to it, is the contents of the box. Fyre was a very shiny, but very empty box. This is not a novel idea when it comes to creating a lasting impact, but it has been overlooked in the face paced world where clicks equate to success and influencers are able to sell an idea for millions. It can be easy to think that bigger is better and that bells and whistles are what will drive people to your brand.

The Fyre Festival makes us all wonder how smaller entities even show up on consumers’ radar screens? How does a scrappy startup succeed?

They do it by making products that serve a real need. But how do they connect to their customers with no mega budget to pay models and influencers? How do they draw attention to their products? They do it by being authentic and attracting an audience that stays around. They don’t intend to take from a certain demographic, they work instead to give that demographic something they need and that can impact their lives over a number of years. In the end, they have to ignore greed and build an authentic and loyal audience that believes in what they do – this can only happen when the brand is based on authenticity and a genuine belief that the product is going to make an impact in more than just the bank account.

So, if you are working hard on your business plan, don’t get mesmerized by the next Fyre Festival or some other brand that seems too good to be true. Go back to the basics – develop a great product and/or service and get the message out by leveraging those who share your belief in your band. Spend a lot of time engaging and listening to your audience; trust me, they will feel it. In the end you will have a sustainable business that will grow.  If you stick with the plan and focus on building a great product, the dollars will come. When you lead with the money your plans end up on ‘Fyre’, so set aside greed and build your tribe.