Fyre Festival: How a marketing paradise turned out to be the world’s biggest festive disaster

Business How To’s

28 February 2019

Fyre Festival: How a marketing paradise turned out to be the world’s biggest festive disaster

  • Posted by Awfis Editorial

To give you a quick recap, the Fyre Festival is one of the biggest failed events the world has seen till date. Conceptualised and established by Billy McFarland, CEO of Fyre Media Inc. (and also of the infamous Magnises startup that gave millennials a chance to live beyond their means; why that seemed like such a great idea no one knows) and rapper Ja Rule.

The festival, scheduled for April 28-30, 2017, on the Bahamian island of Great Exuma, promised a ‘transformative weekend’ and was promoted incessantly by influencers and socialites like Kendall Jenner, Bella Hadid and Emily Ratajkowski. Naturally, the promotion got the attention of countless customers who, in their FOMO-driven rush, went ahead and booked tickets that were cheapest at $500 and going up to $1500. VIP packages at $12000 were astonishingly selling like hot cakes too.

So what went wrong really?

In a word, everything.

Fyre Festival goers were expecting a mind-blowing experience when they packed their bags for the weekend to Great Exuma, Bahamas. However, the reality they got was completely different. And the issues started even before they’d left American soil.

Festival goers thought they were signing up for a customised, VIP-configured flight. Instead, they were met with a crowded airport and chaotic, delayed departures.

And the nightmare got worse (as if it could) once they reached the Bahamas.

The party-goers were looking forward to spending two days in luxurious villas and eco-friendly domes. Instead, they were greeted with half-built huts to sleep in.

They were eager to be wined and dined by world-famous gourmet chefs. Instead they had to subsist on cold cheese sandwiches and salads with no dressing, served in makeshift food tents.

The promised line-up never turned up with many artists having cancelled their gig long before the festival, but none of this was conveyed to the customers until they got to the venue.

The crowds were expecting to party with friends for two weekends on pristine white beaches. What they instead did was struggle to just get a flight back home, which ended up becoming another disaster. Guests were stranded at the airport with no food or water, purportedly locked in a room.

Not exactly what the weekend deal was all about, was it?

Why did the Fyre Festival fail?

For starters, the founders really had no experience in organising an event of the scale that they had promised. What made it worse was that they didn’t live up to their commitments long before the festival had even begun.

The event was to have been organized at Norman’s Cay, an island previously owned by Pablo Escobar, a kingpin of the Medellin Cartel, but on the condition of anonymity. This clause was violated in the launch promo itself and the owners pulled out of the agreement. While McFarland was scrambling for alternate locations, the promos continued to mislead fans into believing they were to spend a glorious weekend at this exotic location.

A $4 million loan meant to be utilized for the event was lavished on arranging luxurious offices in Manhattan. And when McFarland approached organisers to help him with an event he had no clue about, he was taken aback to realize how deep his pockets would have to be. The leave-no-survivors internet abounds with rumours that McFarland is said to have Googled ‘how to rent a stage’ when he got desperate.

Comcast Ventures had planned to invest $25 million into the festival, but backed out a few days before, leaving McFarland scrounging for temporary financing, which he needed to payback within 16 days. He managed that by asking customers to transfer funds towards a smartwatch like RFID-equipped digital Fyre Band that would give them unlimited access to the festival. Advisors to the festival warned against this, citing poor Wi-Fi connection at the site, but McFarland in his trademark overpromise-and-underdeliver went ahead with the plans.

The Fyre Festival continued to fail to deliver on every count. There were no medical facilities, accommodation was below par with soaked mattresses, unfinished tents, lack of running water and poor quality food, no cellphone or internet service, and heavy handed security.

Points to ponder

Does the colossal disaster that was the Fyre Festival have any lessons for the rest of the world?

The question that plagues many investors is how McFarland successfully raised millions to fund his program that had massive loopholes in its initial investment deck itself.

How did some of the smartest investors become victims of this fraud? Do influencers play such an influential role that they can sell even the most badly-planned ideas to serious angel investors? Is being part of the ‘next big thing’ so exciting that people don’t bother to run the numbers and refrain from due diligence? Could a massive ‘vision’ have been sold purely on models in bikinis, social media celebrities and beautiful Instagram photos alone?

In hindsight, yes, there were signs, but it was all a smoke-and-mirrors trick that helped McFarland build a massive pile of cash out of nothing. Today he faces 8 lawsuits, with one of them seeking damages of $100 million. Last October McFarland pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 6 years in prison.

And Ja Rule? He was quick to post on Twitter that “it was NOT A SCAM” and “this is NOT MY FAULT”.

While dissecting the fiasco, many news organisations have drawn parallels between the festival and William Golding’s Lord of the Flies. The Fyre Festival will be studied for years as an example of how not to invest in a deal with a beautiful yet superficial vision.

5 Global Trends that are Disrupting Businesses in 2019

Business How To’s

05 September 2019

5 Global Trends that are Disrupting Businesses in 2019

  • Posted by Awfis Editorial

We are living in a dynamic world, all thanks to disruptive trends that are frequently redefining the way we interact with it. It goes without saying that this has a significant impact on businesses; competition is growing manifold every minute in the face of volatile market conditions and fickle consumer demands. Curious to know all that is dictating the way businesses function in 2019? Here are 5 major trends that are here to stay.

Corporate and start-up collaborations

Large corporations are increasingly realising the enormous potential of start-ups in terms of predicting and adapting to disruption. Plus, coworking spaces are also enabling more collaborations between corporates and start-ups by bringing them under one roof. This growing trend is especially true for start-ups with a highly specialized focus as they are more likely to face domain-specific challenges early on in their journey as compared to large organizations.

A case in point is the collaboration between Coca Cola and Wonolo, an on-demand stocking platform, to streamline its supply chain. This reduced Coca Cola’s stocking costs by 75% per outlet and increased its coverage 25-fold, while Wonolo raised $5.7 million in funding.

Mobile-first technologies

Everything digital is going mobile-first, be it products, services, or even communications. In fact, mobile phones have long surpassed desktops as the primary way to access the internet. A recent CIODive report revealed that up to 70% of web traffic happens on mobile devices. And companies have started recognizing the potential of mobile phones in digital transformation. Flipkart’s progressive web app is the company’s second-largest channel in terms of transactions and attracts over 70% of new customers!

Phygital experience

Whether the Internet of Things (IoT) will redefine consumer experience remains to be seen, but it certainly has introduced the world to phygital experience. The opportunities this presents are immense; several industries will no longer be the same as we know them today. The US jewelry retailer, Tiffany & Co., has already integrated the phygital experience in its stores with an Engagement Ring Finder app that allows shoppers to use the camera in their mobile device to preview how different rings will appear on their beau’s finger.

Digital empathy mapping

Empathy mapping is a key tool to analyze and anticipate behavioral shifts among customers. Traditionally, empathy mapping involved a group of marketers brainstorming to map out customer journeys with post-it notes. However, the growing adoption of digital platforms is rapidly optimizing the process, making it cleaner and more efficient. Data is a crucial aspect of empathy mapping, and given the vast amounts of data, businesses deal with nowadays, digitizing the process only makes more sense. A clear example of this can be seen in UI/UX design, where designers are leveraging empathy maps to understand user preferences and enhance their experience.

Social awareness

Consumers today have become more socially aware and prefer to subscribe to products and services that resonate with their world view. In fact, millennials are worth $1 trillion in consumer spending and 73% of them prefer sustainable goods. As such, there has been a growing trend of companies adopting renewable materials and greener practices in an effort to reduce their carbon footprint. The automobile giant, Ford Motors, serves as a great example. The Repreve seat fabric used in the company’s vehicles is made from fibers derived from recycled plastic bottles, helping displace over 5 million plastic bottles from landfills.

Conclusion

Technology is continuously blurring the lines between physical and digital and is ushering an era underpinned by innovation. These are the times when flexibility can make all the difference when small companies can very well break monopolies. Only time will tell how these trends impact the global business landscape. But one thing’s for sure, these trends will continue to drive innovation for the foreseeable future!

How Dropbox Grew from a 2-person Startup to a Billion Dollar Enterprise

Business How To’s

27 August 2019

How Dropbox Grew from a 2-person Startup to a Billion Dollar Enterprise

  • Posted by Awfis Editorial

Who hasn’t heard of Dropbox, right? The cloud storage giant provides services to over 500 million people across the globe and generates billions of dollars as annual revenue. Well, did you know that it began as a two-person startup? Read on to know the incredible success story of Dropbox.

The birth of a million-dollar idea

Dropbox founder Drew Houston was a tech prodigy who started coding when he was just 5 years old. The idea for Dropbox was born in 2007 when Houston was on a bus ride and suddenly realized that he had forgotten his pen drive, which had important files on it. The incident left him so frustrated that he pledged to solve the problem once and for all. And the idea for Dropbox was born!

The evolution into a business

With the help of Y Combinator, a startup accelerator, Dropbox received its initial funding of $1.2 million from Sequoia Capital in 2007. However, there was still a lot of work to be put in to get the product right. Dropbox was launched in 2008, a year after it received its initial funding.

Initial challenges

When Houston had taken his idea to Y Combinator, even though his pitch was well-received, the accelerator promised admission only on one condition – Houston needed to find a partner within two weeks. He turned to his alma mater, MIT, where he found Arash Ferdowski who was more than willing to drop out from college after seeing a demo video that Houston had put together.

Soon after the launch, Apple expressed interest in Dropbox with Steve Jobs even scheduling a meeting with Houston to buy the product. When Houston rejected the offer, Jobs said something on the lines of “Well, we’re just gonna have to crush you guys”! 10 years or so later, Dropbox is still going steady with a net worth of $8 billion despite cutthroat competition from Google Drive and Apple’s iCloud, all thanks to Houston’s unfaltering determination to build and nurture his own company.

Disrupting the market

Dropbox disrupted the market as soon as it launched. While there were several applications that enabled cloud storage, none of them were as stable, seamless, and robust. However, the challenge still lay in attracting as many users as possible to keep the venture profitable in the long run. Initially, Dropbox went for an outbound marketing strategy, investing in pay-per-click and PR campaigns. Unfortunately, this failed miserably, since the keywords they were bidding on were way too expensive.

This is when Dropbox focussed on adopting a consumer-first approach, going where the users were to build its own community and generate word of mouth.

Building a community

Initially, Dropbox had launched a private beta program while it was still in the development stage to generate interest in the product and gain valuable feedback to better the product. This helped Dropbox generate significant word of mouth and they capitalized on it by starting a referral that incentivized both, the recommenders and referrals with extra free space. They also rewarded their social media followers with 125 MB of extra free space. This simple initiative increased the number of new users by a whopping 60%!

Another key game changer was the use of a signup-driven homepage with clear layout and demarcations. It also had a 2-minute tutorial video to guide users through the product. This not only made the intent of the home page pretty clear but also helped anchor interest by showcasing how simple, effective, and beneficial the product is.

Conclusion

The key contributor to Dropbox’s success was that it solved a very basic problem. It thoroughly understood its users and the needs they had. A lot of users around the globe had already grown wary of carrying portable storage devices and wanted something that could solve their storage issues. Dropbox addressed the issue head-on by making cloud storage a simple, secure, and hassle-free experience. In the words of Drew Houston himself, “People do not choose Dropbox because it has this much space or gigabytes. They choose it for the experience.”

5 Startup Branding Trends to Adopt in 2019

Business How To’s

14 August 2019

5 Startup Branding Trends to Adopt in 2019

  • Posted by Awfis Editorial

It goes without saying that a strong branding game can make all the difference to your business, from helping establish a brand identity and differentiation to ensuring customer loyalty. However, in an unpredictable market and amidst cutthroat competition, branding trends keep evolving every minute and you’ve got to keep abreast of them to stay ahead. Read on to know the top five branding trends that can seal the deal for you in 2019.

Illustrate to engage

A key aspect of branding is engagement, and what better way to entice your audience than with immersive illustrations? Art is capable of humanizing and differentiating brands, while strengthening the connect you have with the customers.

As such, brands worldwide, including giants like Google and Facebook, are realizing the power of incorporating art in their communications to become more personable and easier to connect with. Be it using animation in marketing videos or partnering with artists for new product lines, art is emerging as a popular way to engage and delight audiences.

Adopt minimalism

Minimalism is yet another branding trend connected to art that is becoming popular by the day. it’s a combination of subtle design and clear intentions that come together to provide a precise yet accessible format. The USP of minimalism lies in the fact that it is perfect for mobile-first communications and enhances the experience across devices.

Apart from being a popular trend, minimalism just makes sense. There’s literally no point in crowding your design with unnecessary bevels and hues, which do nothing but confuse your audience. Brands like Nike and Starbucks have long realized the power of minimalism, and it is evident in their highly creative communications that drive the point home.

Reflect social responsibility

As buying decisions continue to be influenced by consumers’ moral standards and ideologies, especially in the case of millennials, it only makes sense for businesses to reflect social responsibility in their branding efforts. In fact, a Nielsen survey revealed that over 73% millennials are willing to pay more for sustainable goods.

As such, we are witnessing a continuous shift in branding trends that resonate a responsible world view. A case in point is the recent Gillette ad, which received mixed responses for critiquing toxic masculinity – some balked the ad for being accusatory while others appreciated the brand for its bold, progressive stance. Nevertheless, the ad brought the brand to the forefront, which it direly needed. This only goes on to show the impact you can have by resonating with the millennials.

Give your brand the personal touch

The digital age has ushered robust connectivity, thereby putting personalized communications at the forefront of branding. While personalization used to signify exclusivity in the days of the yore, technology has put more power in the hands of the consumers. In fact, according to a survey by Infosys, 86% consumers say that personalization has quite an impact on their purchasing decisions.

As a result, marketers are continually striving to incorporate that personal touch in branding to leave a lasting impact in the audience’s minds. While it may entail rethinking business operations, personalization can give your brand the opportunity to create a differentiated proposition and improve conversion. The e-commerce giant Amazon comes second to none when it comes to behavioural targeting and personalization. Other companies that have nailed personalized branding are Nike, Cadbury, and Google.

Use creative online domain names

Finding a URL that matches your company’s name can prove to be tough. Did you know that Dropbox went by the URL “GetDropbox.com” in its initial days due to scarcity of exact-match domains?

However, this only opens opportunities to get creative with your domain names. The more creative and appealing your domain name is, the greater the chances of it attracting more audiences to your website. Plus, establishing a strong domain name is an important investment. Tools like Domainr, Nameboy, and Domize can come in handy for finding a creative domain name for your business.

Conclusion

Branding is all about connecting with your audience in a meaningful way for maximum brand recall. Adopt these five trends into your branding strategy to entice your customers and beat the competition. As Jeff Bezos rightly said, “Your brand is what people say about you after you leave the room”.