Hype Versus Substance

/ written by Joe Pizzimenti

I’m referring to the fiasco commonly known as the Fyre Festival. I won’t go into the details—if you haven’t been following the story of the boutique luxury VIP, ‘immersive’ music and lifestyle festival that would have taken place over two ‘transformative’ weekends on a private island in The Bahamas once owned by a drug cartel kingpin—except it totally didn’t come off as promised—hit my links.

But I’m not here to dwell on the Fyre Festival in particular. Rather, the entire episode calls to mind both the power and powerlessness of marketing. In the case of the promoters behind the Fyre Festival, the marketing was decidedly slick.

This video, for instance, features a mash-up of tropical splash clips, live performance clips, private plane and yacht clips, and a pulsing dance track: the content and presentation is bold.

The promoters tapped into the star power of brand name social media influencers as well, in this case rap legend Ja Rule got on board as a ‘founder.’ I believe influencers can play an important role in effective marketing campaigns.

Other promotional materials portrayed artist mock ups of the accommodations—classy.

The video, the influencers (except Ja Rule—he seems to be shouldering some level of responsibility), the artistic renderings: share a surface quality…and a lack of depth. That’s where the powerlessness of marketing comes in. In certain instances, and the Fyre Festival provides a perfect example, the marketing is the event, and the event—a product, a service, a promise—only looks good on paper.

Now, I love what I do and what our team does. One of things we do is help brands develop their identity—something meaningful and relatable for stakeholders to invest in. Yet I’m frustrated when ‘brands’ are all surface and no depth, because creating a package with little inside of it can give ‘slick’ marketers Fyre Festival-type black eyes—and no one wants that.

My point: As an agency, we love helping new brands explore their possibilities. When they come to us stating clearly what they know and don’t know, we start from a realistic baseline. When they arrive making claims, we start wondering. Either way, we try to determine where the value is. Because to Bigfish, marketing isn’t about brand hype—it’s about creative ways to tell people about brand substance.