19 February 2019

Fyre Festival: epic fail or marketing genius?

Netflix's hit documentary 'Fyre' has recently had us all talking at Synergy HQ, especially our team of strategists who couldn't help but put a behavioural science spin on things.

Some believe it to be fraud, pure and simple. Others, whilst they don’t agree with its motivations or its ultimate outcome, are in quiet awe of Fyre as an example of 21st century marketing at its prime.

With our own team dedicated to behavioural science fuelled strategy, we looked at Fyre objectively – how did it become a sold-out festival with nothing more than a few orange tiles on Instagram?

We have our own behavioural science checklist that we use with clients to inform our strategies and influence our campaigns to increase behavioural change. Read on for the principles at play throughout the Fyre marketing process, and what you can learn, and practically implement, as an internal communicator.


H – Heart

What Fyre did

Connected with their target audience by showing images of pleasure, paradise, friendship and fun – perfect for invoking feelings of joy, excitement and curiosity.

What we can learn

Think carefully about the “Hand”, “Heart”, “Head” of your campaign. What will colleagues really FEEL about it? How does this need to change? Push your team to think of this from the Average Joe’s perspective, someone without your background and context. Always ask yourself “but will they care about that?”


U – U go with the flow

What Fyre did

Created an app and RFID band that made it really easy to load (and spend) money and very difficult to talk to customer services.

What we can learn

If you want someone to do something, make it easy. If you don’t, make it hard. Challenge yourself – is this the easiest way? Are there barriers to entry? Take a leaf out of the government’s highly successful pension auto-enrolment campaign – if you’re asking for a change in behaviour or a new system, try automatically opting people in (or out) instead of giving them choice.


M – Messenger

What Fyre did

Recruited the best and brightest influencers.

What we can learn

Think carefully about your ambassadors, champions and advocates. Whatever you call them, they’re the people responsible for delivering your key messages to the masses in an authentic way. But have you really thought about them from an ‘influencer’ perspective? Do people listen, trust, respect, admire them? If you don’t have them, consider an advocacy programme – colleagues are much more likely to trust and listen to someone “like them” rather than a senior leader.


A – Accountability

What Fyre did

An easy hashtag for people to follow and use themselves.

What we can learn

We’re more likely to do something if we publicly commit to it. How often do you use your ESN to encourage pledges, promises or ongoing actions? If you’re recording actions (like in 90 day plans), remember to actually check in with them regularly to see how they’re getting on.


N – Norms

What Fyre did

Encouraged customers to add more money to their online accounts, by saying most people have added “$xxxx”.

What we can learn

Ever notice the signs in your hotel room that say “Most guests reuse their towels”? Or on an income tax reminder, “most people have paid their tax by now”? Those are subtle ways of influencing our behaviour, encouraging us to follow the crowd. So for your campaigns, think about how you can encourage behaviour through comparing it to others – run team competitions and use assumptive language – people won’t want to feel left out.


I – Incentives

What Fyre did

Promises (albeit unkept ones!) to encourage interest, purchase and engagement.

What we can learn

As an employer, you make promises all the time. To develop your people, to invest in their learning, to help them climb the career ladder, to give them a nice working environment and so on. The most meaningful promise you make? Your purpose. Who you are, what you stand for, why you exist. This is what people will intrinsically be motivated by – read our recent series on Starting With Why here.


S – Surroundings

What Fyre did

Showed glorious images of beaches, villas and amazing food, sealing the deal in punters’ minds – “that’s a place I want to visit.”

What we can learn

Environmental psychology is part of our strategy offering at Synergy – we know that the physical space of your workplace has a huge impact (up to 20%) on your productivity and sense of wellbeing. So before you redecorate, move buildings or refit a space, think about the science behind the space.


T – Timing

What Fyre did

Drip-fed information, keeping up the mystery (though we know now it’s because they didn’t have any information to provide).

What we can learn

It’s never just about launch! The tease phase is really key to building engagement with your project or campaign. Slow release of information can help colleagues change behaviour over time, rather than expecting an overnight overhaul. Also consider the timing of your comms – have you analysed your data to know your peak flow/open rates/engagement levels?


S – Salience

What Fyre did

The infamous ‘orange tile’ on Instagram, cutting through the noise and creating intrigue online.

What we can learn

Science proves that we have a salience bias: we’re more likely to focus on things when they stand out to us – either by sight or sound – it’s a survival feature after all. So listen to your creative teams when they push your brand guidelines or encourage you to do something brave or risky – it’s much more likely to grab colleagues’ attention.


Behavioural science and your employee strategy

We’re running taster sessions on behavioural science and a 2 hour session with our Behavioural Strategist, Chloe Foy, providing an opportunity to learn the key principles and how to turn our checklist into key business challenges.

We recently ran one with the Institute of Internal Communications. Here’s what Colin Archer, Director of IoIC South West, had to say:

“Synergy’s behavioural science taster session really helped me to think about the science behind what drives our behaviour for the long term and how to apply it to the workplace. Behavioural science is growing in use across all communication disciplines and is something that can help to make a real difference to achieving your objectives.”


Interested in coming along to a session? Just post our logo on your Instagram and tag three friends.

Just kidding, send Chloe an email: chloe@mccannsynergy.com.

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