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What Fyre Fest Can Teach Christians About Marketing And Branding

How can Christ-followers promote their businesses and reach new customers?


By Matt Cilderman

The Fyre Festival disaster is a recent example of the darker side of marketing. In case you haven’t heard about it or seen the Netflix documentary, let me give you a very brief synopsis.

Entrepreneur Billy McFarland and rap mogul Ja Rule teamed up to try and create a new, exclusive music festival set to launch in April of 2017

While they did a great job creating viral buzz using videos of models playing on a Caribbean island beach and powerful influencers to promote the festival, they were never actually able to deliver what the advertising promised.

As the organization and execution of Fyre quickly spiraled out of control, the promoters then clearly engaged in fraud by selling premium packages and upgrades that never existed just to collect enough money to further fund their operations, authorities said.

What’s worse is that hundreds of people arrived at the music festival only to then find out the truth: That the festival was not happening, that the infrastructure was not in place to provide them housing, food, bathrooms, or even a safe and orderly way to return back home.

While there are many lessons to be learned from this sad story, some of the lessons relate to branding, marketing, and the correct order of completing important business tasks. It’s clear that the Fyre Festival focused on marketing first and then tried to work backward to make reality live up to the sky-high expectations they had set in their marketing. One of the best ways to avoid this issue is to tap into the burgeoning field of brand strategy.

What is Brand Strategy?

In short, brand strategy starts by helping you define your company’s core values. As a Christian, scripture defines our core values and can guide you in this task. Some good passage to start your search are John 5, James 2, and 1 John 2. While these passages are not necessarily about business, they provide general principles to guide us. They remind us to act and serve others in such a way that we bring glory to God.

After your core values have been defined, brand strategy seeks to uncover how they intersect with the needs and desires of your ideal customers and the unique value in the services you offer. Then, create messaging (a consistent written style, tone, etc.) and imagery (visual style, logo, etc.). These serve to explain who you are as a company, what you offer, and present it in a memorable way.

Similarly, the result of a great brand strategy is an understanding of who you are as a company, who you want to serve, and the unique value that you can offer customers. Once this has been established, you can begin working on strategies to reach your ideal customer, also known as marketing.

Are All Marketers Liars?

In his 2012 book entitled “All Marketers are Liars,” Seth Godin addresses the old saying from the title and reframes it as, “all marketers are storytellers.” He further states that every brand touch point (every time your customers interacts with your company) tells a story. His conclusion is that the story you tell through your services has to align with the story presented by all your marketing.

If people really do feel that marketers are liars, then some would probably argue that all marketing is lying, as well. In light of this perception and the dangers demonstrated by the Fyre Festival, how can Christ-followers promote their businesses and reach new customers?

Content Marketing: Putting Customers First

People are tired of being lied to and tired of advertising. This is where content marketing comes in. It is one of the newer trends in marketing, but there’s more to understand than the simple name implies.

Content marketing focuses on meeting the needs of your customers (which you have identified in brand strategy) by educating them. The focus is on creating content that solves their problems.

For instance:

  • If you are an electrician and are constantly getting calls about replacing a single light switch, you create a well-designed, downloadable guide that helps your customers complete the task themselves.
  • If you are a Physical Therapist, you can create a blog post helping people understand an injury, explaining symptoms and possible treatment options.

Example: Knee Sprain Symptoms: Swelling, Bruising, Popping, or Buckling.

Here’s an example of a blog I wrote to give people advice on finding an SEO expert. It can be really challenging to hire someone to complete tasks that you, yourself, may not fully understand. So, I share the questions I would ask and provide three main areas of focus to make the process a little easier.

Sure, I know your head is filling with objections: “If I give the information away for free, customers won’t need me.” The fact is that there is plenty of information available on the internet already.

However, content marketing allows your customers to get to know you without you selling to them all the time. It allows you to establish authority, affinity, and “top of mind” awareness (when they think of your services, your company name is the first to pop into their heads).

So, after someone has had a positive experience changing their own light switch because of you, they are more likely to think of you and buy from you when it is time for a bigger project like rewiring the house.

So, content marketing puts the needs of your customers first; it solves their problems by educating them; and it introduces them to your company at the same time.

Truth in Marketing: Transparency Wins

The Fyre Festival creators did not want people to know what was  really going on behind the scenes because they had plenty to hide. However, if you are following your brand strategy and putting the needs of the customer first, then transparency is a powerful tool.

Customer Reviews
If you truly are delivering a great experience for your customers, they will want to let people know. Why not make it easy for them to do so? Develop a framework for cultivating and responding to reviews (Be careful, though, each platform has different rules regarding reviews).

I can hear a concerned reader say, “What about negative reviews?” Customers make allowance for bad reviews but how the company responds to them is very important. Turn the negative into a positive. Remember, transparency is key. Always respond to negative reviews in a caring manner and if your company has made a mistake, acknowledge it and offer to try and help resolve the issue personally.


Customer Review: “I had an awful experience because of X,Y, and Z…”

Business Response: “Dear ____, We’re really sorry to hear that. Our goal is to genuinely value and serve each customer. If you are willing, please contact me at ________ and I will personally try and resolve the issue.

Video Content

Video is the best medium for expressing genuine care and concern for your customer’s needs. After watching a few of your company’s employees on video, potential customers will feel like they have gotten to know the employees personally. This creates a relationship that makes customers more comfortable to buy from you.

You can use video to:

  • Create guides to solve customer problems or answer their frequently asked questions (supercharge your content marketing).
    • Example: This is a great demonstration of using video to show your personality and help solve customer problems at the same time.
  • Demonstrate your process for onboarding clients or project management to give customers an idea of what it will be like to work with you and increase their comfort level.
  • Go behind the scenes, showing the fun or quirky side of your employees.

Often times people can get bogged down with a too heavy focus on high production value or the cost that might come with it. Remember, everyone with a smartphone is a potential camera operator. So, create your own videos and focus on being genuine, solving customer problems by providing valuable information, and yes, quality video production as well.

Love With “Actions and in Truth”

John 3:18 reminds us, “Let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.” This verse is not necessarily about business but the base principles are relevant: Words are much easier (your marketing) than genuine actions.

If you have properly defined your brand and are executing a strategy to serve your customers through transparency and meeting their needs…Then, you will be loving in “actions and in truth.”

The Fyre Festival will always be associated with disaster and fraud; however, following the principles mentioned above not only honors God but is one of the fastest ways to explosive growth for your business. Your genuine care for the customers will turn them into your very own sales team as they share how much they love you over social media and in person.

Matt Cilderman is the owner of Cilderman Solutions, a digital marketing agency in Bergen County, New Jersey. He is the author of “Blogging for Creative Entrepreneurs: A Guide to User Experience, Search Engine Optimization, and Content Creation,” which was published last May.

Matt is also blessed with a wonderful wife who inspires and enables him to be successful and two children who teach him to enjoy life more fully.