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We Didn’t Start the Fyre: In Defense of Influencer Marketing

We Didn’t Start the Fyre: In Defense of Influencer Marketing

The roof, the roof, the roof is on fyre. The roof of the house of influencer marketing that is, courtesy of the original American f**k boy, Billy McFarland. But we’re not about to sit around and watch our baby burn. We’ve got fire hoses at the ready and we’re taking our house back.

Fyre Festival, just one of McFarland’s many mass-manipulation projects, began as a shiny tropical dream distributed semi-mysteriously via social media. The initial posts of a handful of (generously compensated) celebrity influencers were simple, yet conspicuous: an orange tile. As the festival date got closer and closer, the posts lured thousands of wealthy millennials to a remote island in the Bahamas with the promise of luxury accommodations, high-profile music acts, and…boats? Maybe some boats? We’re not really sure, because it never happened — McFarland couldn’t deliver on the dream.


Bella Hadid - Fyre Fest Instagram post


By now you’ve probably seen one or more of the documentaries about this veritable clusterf**k, so you know how quickly things spiraled out of control following those initial posts. McFarland made countless terrible and selfish decisions — and we hope he’s having a lovely time in jail — but he did have one worthwhile insight: he saw the potential for the combination of social media and celebrities to mobilize his idea.

That’s where the similarities between Fyre Festival’s celebrity-fueled catapultion into the spotlight and true influencer marketing end, though. So will the real influencer marketing please stand up? Sit down, Bella Hadid. It’s us. You see, the thing about influencer marketing is that it’s power rests squarely on a foundation of empathy and authenticity. Not fame. Not huge financial incentives. Not keeping up with the Kardashians. It’s impactful because it reintroduces real human connection back into everyday advertising — and in this modern digital landscape, we’re completely starving for that connection.

As an agency dedicated entirely to influencer marketing, we respect its singular ability to lead brands back to what’s real and true: the people who love and want what they’re selling. As users have become habituated to a cluttered online landscape of interruptive marketing, they’ve gotten better at tuning it all out. Now, a whopping 92% of consumers believe recommendations from friends and family over all other forms of advertising. More and more, consumers are seeking out the humanity that was lost somewhere along the way, and influencer marketing is the path.


Influencer eating Fage yogurt


Celebrities simply don’t fit into that equation. They may seem ‘influential’, but real people know their intentions are more financially motivated and less focused on providing people with the services and products they need. That’s evidenced by the shocking price tags that buy celebrity collaboration and the fact that 70% of millennials prefer product endorsements by non-celebrity bloggers.

Furthermore, giant percentages of their followers are fakes and bots, and their engagement rates are proof of that pudding. Trends show a clear downward correlation between follower counts and authentic interaction. However, micro-influencers with around 10K – 100K followers are seeing almost 7 times more efficient engagement than influencers with followings in the millions. Ultimately, an ‘influence’ that’s not punctuated by real engagement is smoke and mirrors. It’s the fyre without the festival.

Real influencer marketing — our influencer marketing — is the careful and strategic cultivation of relationships to build lasting advocates for beloved brands. In that spirit, our clients’ campaigns are fueled by our diverse, hand-curated network of influencers representing myriad genres and demographics called Everywhere Society. It’s a community of real people we know and nurture, and we balance their success alongside that of our client’s to reach a unique marketing harmony missing from most areas of the industry.


Influencer Marketing Campaign Infographic


And like any great marketing strategy, influencer campaigns let the data lead. From the known to the niche, we’re focused on results, and it’s an influencer’s suitability to speak to an experience that really provides the legs for game-changing engagement, profit, and awareness. Respectable brands are getting hip to it, too. Glossier’s founder attributes 90 percent of the company’s revenue to word of mouth driven by true fans.

McFarland mindlessly funneled hundreds of thousands of dollars into an impulsive awareness strategy, and the masses labeled it “influencer marketing”. But that’s like saying buckets are also spoons — it might be a matter of degree, but it’s really a matter of quality and intent.

And the truth shall always prevail, especially where influencers are concerned. As Fyre Festival devolved into something more reminiscent of Lord of the Flies, we watched everyday people begin to out-influence the celebrities that started it all. Perhaps the most delightful irony is that it was one itty bitty, sad cheese sandwich tweet that instantly pulled back the curtain and brought a juggernaut to its knees. Authentic, genuine emotions — anger, dismay, and shock — swiftly overrode any initial, celebrity-inspired sentiment. The enduring memory of this debacle will forever be shaped by the real people who suffered at the hands of a con artist.


Fyre Festival Cheese Sandwich


Therein lies the elegant and unassuming power of influencer marketing. It’s a delicate duality of being confident enough in your product that you’ll invite real people to either give it wings or squash it out completely. Proceed with caution. Or with an agency that knows what’s up.

Thank you, next.

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