One of the main goals during any event planning process is customer satisfaction. Although profit, brand awareness, and more can be a main goal, you always want your customer leaving with the feeling that the event was worth both their time and their money. Unfortunately, not all events can meet these expectations. Imagine walking into a Michelin-starred restaurant, paying $12,000 before the food arrives, and being served a non-toasted cheese sandwich on a Glad paper plate. This actually happened at Fyre Festival…but more on that in a bit.
From a business point of view, there is always a risk factor involved when planning an event. No matter how many countless hours you spend coordinating every single detail, you are never fully confident of the outcome until the event ends. The scary part is the factors that you plan for but, at the end of the day, have no control over—weather conditions, ticket sales, vendors arriving on time, people actually attending, altercations not occurring, production having no issues, traffic, customer satisfaction, etc.
There are many factors that can deem an event “successful.” Unfortunately, that word will never be associated with the Fyre Festival. Sure, not every event can be a home run, but this one sounds like it was over before guests even purchased their tickets. In fact, there are reports of the organizers borrowing as much as $7 million just weeks before the event as an act of desperation to ensure the event actually happened.
As an events manager here at Firewood, I and my team spend every day making sure our events run smoothly from ideation to execution. There are countless reasons why the Fyre Festival failed, but here are the main two in my opinion:
If you want people to buy into your event, you have to sell them on what you’re offering. The festival promoters used these quotes frequently during their marketing campaigns on TV and social media:
• “Come, seek, for searching is the foundation of fortune.”
• “The next Coachella, but in paradise.”
• “The actual experience exceeds all expectations and is something that’s hard to put to words.”
If you are currently scratching your head don’t worry…you are not alone. Seriously though, how can guests even decide if they want to purchase a ticket if they have absolutely no idea what the event is? These type of quotes are a reflection of how the creators must have felt—lost and scrambling for answers (or it may have just been an epic fail at creative taglines).
The Fyre Festival was created by Billy McFarland and Ja Rule, both multi-millionaires who admitted to investing in the festival but not really getting too involved with the event planning process. Money may help fund festivals, but it’s the passion behind the project itself that makes it successful and worthwhile. Pasquale Rotella, for example, created EDC over 20 years ago to spread his love for electronic dance music. Bill Arhos created Austin City Limits to help promote the musicians of Austin, Texas. The Fyre Festival, on the other hand, sounds like two rich dudes wanting to throw a rich party for other rich people. No true message or reasoning.
“It took me 17 years and 114 days to become an overnight success.” One of my favorite quotes of all time by Lionel Messi. Nothing great is created overnight and the Fyre Festival tried to go way above and beyond in their first year. They promoted themselves as a once-in-a-lifetime music and art festival experience in the Bahamas, where guests could enjoy yachts, gourmet cuisine, private beach bungalows, and a chance to interact with celebrities throughout the weekend. Basically a weekend to live like the “rich and famous.” However, once guests arrived they were treated to chaos, with organizers not knowing where to send them, flights being canceled, disaster relief tents as their “beach bungalows,” headliners dropping out days before the event, and ham and cheese sandwiches as their gourmet meals. When guests tried to leave the island they were held up at immigration for hours, and some were not allowed to leave the island for another day or two. My recommendation would have been to start small and build the event yearly. Perhaps a one-day concert on a remote beach—but make it unforgettable (in a positive way). Some of the largest festivals in the world, such as EDC, Coachella, and Austin City Limits, all have one thing in common: they all started small and simply focused on providing a quality product. One of their main successes was not rushing the process and providing a great customer experience.
Here at Firewood Marketing, we aim to accomplish these same goals when planning events for various Fortune 500 companies. Although event planning is a lot of fun (at least for us), there has to be a reason why we create these events: to build long-term relationships, help our clients help their customers, etc. Lastly, the backbone of any event is a solid team! In my opinion, the most successful events are created by a small team of enthusiastic and dedicated people working toward the same goal. And we certainly aren’t looking to bring on Ja Rule anytime soon.