The Dark Side of Social Media Marketing: Why Are the Fyre Festival Documentaries Such A Cultural Phenomena?


With the documentaries putting it back in the mainstream, people can’t stop talking about the Fyre Festival. Aside from being a spectacle of failure we can’t look away from, Fyre represents a lot of the marketing tactics used and abused in today’s media-saturated world. Find out why the Netflix and Hulu Fyre Fest documentaries resonate so much.

What We Covered:

  • Celebrity worship and influencer marketing
  • Superiority complex and the idea of ‘punching-up’
  • Flex your strengths and differentiate yourself from the competition
  • Charisma does not equal trustworthiness
  • The current zeitgeist and the way we market this generation
  • FOMO and urgency
  • Look into the data

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New details that we’re learning this morning about that epic Fyre music Festival going viral with the #dumpsterFyre, a luxury getaway quickly spiraling into chaos

in case you’ve been living under a rock, Fyre Festival is the infamous 2017 music Festival in The Bahamas that never happened. What made this so crazy was that it was a drama fueled spectacle with attendees posting the disaster on social media, publicizing the event in real time. 

Attendees expected luxury villas, private yachts, gourmet meals, made by world renowned chefs in the experience of a lifetime. Instead, they arrived at a FEMA theme, tent city with bread, slices of cheese, salad dressing, a whole lot of Tequila and complete and total chaos. 

The creator of the Fyre Fest, Billy McFarland is currently serving prison time for fraud. Since then, Netflix and Hulu came out with their old dueling documentaries revisiting the timeline of one of the biggest fails in the social media marketing world. 

These documentaries were able to capture a snapshot of our current FOMO culture that will be relevant for decades to come. 

I’m Christian Martin and today we’ll be examining the impact of the Fyre Festival documentaries on today’s culture, the dark side of social media marketing, and the four lessons that you can take away and use in your own entrepreneurial journey.

Number one is celebrity worship.

I’ve talked about this in my last video, but celebrity and influencer endorsements have always been a part of marketing. Just think Nike’s Air Jordans, but the age of social media using influencers to promote products has become more accessible to everyone then ever before. 

It’s one of the best ways to get your brand quality reach and engagement now that anyone with an Instagram following is an influencer, you don’t have to get Michael Jordan to promote you to take advantage of this tactic. 

Now, coming back to the Fyre Festival, the founders of Fyre Fest took influencer marketing to the extreme. 

If you take some of the most beautiful and in demand supermodels in the entire world like Bella Hadid, Emily Ratajkowski, Kendall Jenner, Elsa Hosk, and Jazelle just to name a few and put them in one video, y ou’re guaranteed to get millions of eyes on that video.

Now, when those millions of eyes find out that they’ve essentially been scammed by household names, you’ve gotten the attention of mainstream culture. This is one of the most fascinating things about the Fyre documentaries, how people we know, like and trust were in on it. 

Anytime a celebrity is involved with a skim or something illegal, unethical, or even downright evil, the public is going to perk up. Just think Oj Simpson committing murder, Lance* Armstrong’s doping scandal. 

Now these models didn’t know that they were involved with a scam, but it still gets us interested. How could somebody that we know, like, and trust– a household name like Kendall Jenner, be involved with something so dubious? 

Now celebrities don’t have to be involved in crimes or influencer marketing to get people interested. If you’re marketing a product or service, you don’t have to hit up Kylie Jenner for your next endorsement, but instead find smaller influencers in your niche and build a business relationship with them.

Most of these smaller influencers are more than happy to promote your product or service in exchange for some free product. The number two reason that we’re so obsessed with these documentaries as a culture is because of the feeling of superiority. 

Watching these documentaries gives us a sense of superiority because you’re witnessing wealthy Festival goers get bamboozled. You think to yourself, thank God that I didn’t fall for that. These people expected massive, fully furnished villas. 

Instead what they got was uninhabitable dome homes or maybe you had FOMO because you would have loved to have gone to the Festival only to feel relief that it ended up being a dumpster Fyre and you didn’t get duped. 

The feeling is a guilty pleasure millions of US enjoy the emotional spikes you get from watching these documentaries are similar to watching reality television or daytime soaps. fun marketing fact, they’re called soap operas because soap used to be the only advertisers on TV.

We get a peek into the lives of the ultra wealthy and we often feel envious of their lavish and overindulgent lifestyle. The exclusive beach parties, private yachts, beautiful women, successful men. 

We love to watch when they’re luxurious life is shattered with cat fights, terrible business ideas that ruined reputations or petty drama between family members. I mean just look at the Kardashians. Sometimes the disconnect from real world problems that the wealthy experience gives us a sense of superiority towards the ultra wealthy, especially when the wealthy get duped. 

It turns out that there are no better than us peasants. Were all the same and that’s part of the feeling that we get from these. Now, the recent bud light ads are a fun example of this concept. The ads make fun of snobby craft beer drinkers and positions Bud Light as the every-man beer

is that. This is a spiced honey mead wine that I have really been into lately.

Another term for this is called punching. It’s a way to feel superior at the expense of making fun of the ultra wealthy or people who are ahead of you. Just consider how apple positioned their product during the Mac versus PC campaign. 

During this time the PC was dominating and it was the Go-to for every businessman and pencil pusher out there. Where as the Mac was the fun artists driven underdog. People love the underdog. Apple poked fun a PC users and they essentially punched up at their competition. 

When society watches is the Fyre documentaries. It makes us all feel a little better about ourselves having not been involved and we get to punch up. The number three reason we’re so obsessed with these is because charisma equals trust most of the time. 

But what do Bernie Madoff, Jordan Belfort and Ted Bundy all have in common? No, they did not throw failed music Festivals.

They also use their charisma as a weapon to seem competent and trustworthy and seduce people in with dubious reasons. In the documentary we hear authentic accounts from the people that were involved with Billy Mcfarland and Fyre Fest about how smart, charismatic and determined Billy was. Now here’s the problem. Charisma does not equal competence as much as we think that it does. 

Convincing a client to take you on is great, but you have to follow through with that commitment and deliver the results. Charisma is important to build connections and network with people and it will take you very far in the business world, but it can only take you so far. 

These documentaries reveal, how incompetent Billy really was. He ignored expert advice,

the number of tickets and so they just couldn’t physically fit that many people on the island, let alone the build out some sort of insane infrastructure that can support them from a bio waste standpoint…

he over promised and under delivered and in the process he risks many people’s livelihoods. He also trick some really smart people. Investors kept pouring in money and people heralded this guy as achieving the entrepreneurial dream. 

We see him mingling with elites, having guests appearances on major news networks like Bloomberg, living in penthouses and driving Maseratis. The media flaunted the success of this guy in his previous ventures, and he even partnered with Ja Rule. 

If he can fool Ja rule, we can all be fooled. So when somebody sounds too good to be true, they probably are. When you’re jumping into any project, venture, or especially working with a business partner, it is always a good idea to look at the actual data. 

Unfortunately, it’s not always enough to take somebody for their word. You have to look at the existing market, checkout testimonials, find third party references, et Cetera.

Fyre Fest was an extreme case because Billy forged in falsified his numbers to appear successful even under due diligence. Not only that, but he receives so much media attention before announcing Fyre Fest. It was hard to believe that he might not pull it off. 

And I think even the people involved didn’t know if he would or not up until the last minute. And that is one of the things that makes it so compelling. 

We all kind of feel like if we were there, if we were in the position of that caterer, or that restaurant owner or anyone else on his team, we might have believed that Billy was going to pull it off too. 

So in summary, watch out for these seductive power of charisma because it is seductive. And remember that sociopath or some of the most charismatic people alive. Just because somebody is charismatic does not mean that they are legit.

The number four reason that we’re so obsessed with these documentaries is because they’re indicative of the Cultural Zeitgeist in a lot of ways. These documentaries capture the times perfectly. 

We have more information in our hands than ever before with technology getting better and cheaper by the day. Soon we’re going to have computer chips implanted in our brain. We’re almost there carrying around our smartphones all the time, but psychologically we’re worse off in many ways. 

The information age is messing with people’s brains. It’s polarizing people to an extent that has never been possible before, and oftentimes a sense of community has been replaced with a handheld device. 

People are alienated from one another more than ever before, and we often turn to the lives of influencers who are more well off than us. We admire their lifestyle and freedom through social media as an escape from our own lives.

This FOMO in comparison creates real anxiety and even depression in people’s lives. In conclusion. While these were fun to watch, these documentaries don’t necessarily leave you feeling better about yourself. 

Instead, they give us a sobering look at the dark side of social media. 

Sure, Billy is going to jail but many hardworking people are left in debt or out of work because of the Fyre Festival. Not to mention, all the attendees who may have had an even traumatizing time being left out there, sometimes with no shelter or food. 

Billy might even have a Wolf of Wall Street style resurrection like Jordan Belfort did and starts selling a sales and charisma techniques to those naive enough to buy into them. Who knows?

So let’s flip the switch: what good can you take away from watching these documentaries? The number one thing is influencer marketing. It can be used for good and evil. The power of word of mouth from the right influencers can position your business in front of the right audience and build trust. 

I recommend starting a relationship with influencers with 5 – 10,000 followers. 

If you’re a smaller brand, as they often don’t mind posting for free products; instead of you having to pay for a post. The number two thing you can do is use punching up in your marketing. So find competitors who are larger than you in your space and identify what makes your business different. 

How will you stand out? How will your customers stand out when they do business with you, Clickfunnels, the software company does a great job of this. They often call Infusionsoft Confusionsoft, but now that they’ve gotten bigger, it’s not quite punching up.

It’s a little bit like bullying, so you have to make sure you do this to people who are bigger than you. The number three takeaway is do your due diligence. Another way of saying this is do your research. If you’re going to work with anybody, make sure they’re actually successful and profitable. 

Check them out. Look at reviews and don’t go into business with people without investigating. Starting a business partnership is more intense than getting married, so be careful out there. And Number four, build a sense of urgency with FOMO. 

We seen how strongly people react to FOMO and see FOMO used an advertising all the time. We call it urgency. So flash sales, early bird specials, limited availability in creating a sense of urgency, which is real, is very powerful when used correctly. 

Now just remember that these are very powerful techniques. They do work and they can be used for good or evil.

Always deliver on your promises. So what did you think about the Fyre Festival documentaries? Did you take some good away from it where you’re just laughing at the people? Let us know in the comments below what you thought and can you believe that Billy was still scamming people even after he was headed to court for fraud? This guy is sick in the head, so be careful of those charismatic characters out there. 

They’re not always healthy and they will take advantage of you if you let them. Thanks for watching. For more breakdowns like this, subscribe to channel. Just do it now. I’m going to bring you awesome videos and you’ll be happy that you did. 

If you want to use the power of marketing to ethically build a life that you don’t need a vacation from, check out my podcast at I’m Christian Martin.

I’ll See you next time.


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