Before its launch last weekend, Fyre Festival was marketed as an exclusive music festival attended by celebrity influencers and affluent millennials hoping to take part in a “transformative experience” on a private island in the Exumas. The festival promised live music, high-end culinary experiences, luxury camping pods, and cultural exploration. What attendees found out upon arrival to the island, was that Fyre Festival had largely over-sold the experience and was not prepared to deliver all it had promoted.

In a statement on the official Fyre Festival website, organizers Ja Rule and Billy McFarland admitted to not being prepared to handle the number of people who actually bought tickets and flew to the Exumas for the festival, claiming next year’s event will leverage “more seasoned event experts” and will take place at a beach venue in the United States.

What Fyre Festival needs, or the lesson that can be taught about its shortcomings, lies in the importance of branding. For Fyre, branding seemed to have stopped at a trendy logo and colours, a user-friendly website, and a long list of celebrity influencers – many of which were supermodels like Kendall Jenner and Bella Hadid, featured in the festival’s teaser videos.

While the recognizable visual cues that point consumers to a brand are very important, developing a company’s branding goes well beyond its visual design and messaging to include everything that makes up the company; from mission, vision and values out, every aspect of the company and the experience delivered for the end user needs to connect and reinforce the desired brand attributes. Only then, is an authentic and trusted brand created; it must then be fostered at every single touchpoint.

Unfortunately, Fyre’s greatest importance was placed in their marketing and the components of their branding that just scratched the surface. While they did do a great job of inciting interest and attracting attendees, the authenticity of the brand was missing, which is what led to the disaster once it came time to deliver on their brand promise.

With a good branding strategy, Fyre would have started from within – fully understanding its reasons for developing a unique music festival experience, ensuring they were able to accommodate all programming elements of the festival, and then developing a marketing strategy that reflected Fyre at its core. Only then would the festival have been able to deliver on its promise to attendees. Though it is the most important, this aspect of the brand journey is often left as an afterthought. 

The seasoned event experts being leveraged for Fyre Festival 2018 will likely help in the execution of the event, but what Ja Rule and Billy McFarland should really focus on is understanding what lies at their company’s core, and re-developing its brand from there.