Fyre Festival – Why You Should Never Oversell and Under-Deliver

"Let’s face it. Marketers have been known to tell a tall tale to get customers interested. A mismatch between what is promised and what is delivered can occur for a number of reasons. For example, in big companies, perhaps the marketing branch is out-of-touch with the design branch and the messaging doesn’t match the product functions."

When it comes to new products, perhaps the bugs haven’t been worked out yet and the company needs to drive some initial revenue before being able to make further improvements. Even still, perhaps the marketers overused subjective and descriptive words (ex. “good to the last drop” for Maxwell House) that might not match up with a customer’s subjective experience (i.e., the last drop of my coffee is often cold and kind of sad).

But when you promise something tangible and don’t deliver, it can have serious consequences for your brand and firm financial outcomes. Take, as an example, Fyre Festival. Promised to be a boutique festival, unrivalled by those festivals that currently dominate on Instagram. Let’s take a look.

Fyre Fstival – What Was Promised

White sand beaches. Rubbing elbows with supermodels. Top-notch musical guests. Luxury accommodation. This promotional video says it all:

With tickets ranging in price from $450-$250,000, people expected it to be good.

Fyre Festival: What They Got

A hot mess. Flight delays with luggage dumped on the beach in the dark. Broken sewer pipes.

Sleeping in disaster relief tents or no accommodation at all. And what was worse, most attendees were stranded on the island for some time before it could be worked out how to get everyone home. Since the event had no media access, all accounts came to light on social media, with attendees even creating a dedicated account with a name that leaves little to the imagination: @FyreFraud.

Event pioneers Ja Rule and Billy McFarland have some serious explaining to do. It wasn’t that the festival was bad, it was that they weren’t able to deliver at all.

Why is It Bad to Oversell?
You Can Lose Credibility

Customers might start to question the quality of your offering and stray to competitors. For most companies this would be bad, but when your customers lose faith that you can credibly protect your safety, this rate of attrition is expected to be extreme.

It Can Get You Into Legal Troubles

Fyre Festival is now offering refunds, depleting revenues and possibly falling into a loss after costs of setting up the disaster relief tents (“luxury accommodation”) and shelling out cheese sandwiches (“gourmet fare”). A festival attendee is also suing Fyre Festival for fraud, breach of contract, breach of covenant of good faith, and negligent misrepresentation, expected to expand to other attendees and other grievances as more information comes to light. This legal action could prevent festival organizers from conducting future business.

It Can Ruin Your Brand

Social media increases the pace and visibility of experiential feedback from customers. Some brands face ruin almost instantly as news about a violation of a brand promise or customer values spreads like wildfire across channels. Almost all of what commenters are posting online will stay there permanently, even a small amount of bad feedback can be detrimental. As your brand is what makes you unique compared to your competitors, tarnishing this can lead to ruin.

What to Do Instead

Show, don’t tell. Use facts, research, and data do the talking about your product or service. Do your research, customer data will help refine the value proposition and align your firm’s output with customer expectations. Always continue to improve your product quality or functionality to avoid satiation. Engage all parts of your business that are contributing to the value proposition. Do extensive testing, make sure the experience is great from start to finish.

Think long-term, it’s about getting and retaining customers and not just getting money from the first-timer falling for the over-promise. Monitor your social media channels to keep your customers happy. Use their feedback to relentlessly push to be better.

Fyre Festival Wants to Try Again

Apparently those given refunds also receive VIP passes to next year’s festival, implying they intend to give it another go. The way I see it, two things can happen. Scenario A) the brand is in ruin, no one buys tickets and they cancel the event because no one really wants to camp in a disaster relief tent eating cheese sandwiches for $12,000/ticket; or, Scenario B) they sign some big named acts, people buy tickets because they don’t want to miss capturing the drama on social media, and there are so many eyes on the event organization team for fear of failure that they manage to pull it off. With their unconscionable and cavalier attitude of this-will- fail-but-lets-do- it-anyway putting festival-goers in real danger, the question becomes: should they even try?

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