Just the other night, I was browsing through Netflix, looking for something to watch (as one does) and came across the recommended Fyre Festival documentary ‘The greatest party that never happened’. I had seen some buzz about it online already so, on a rather eventless evening, I decided to put it on.

Just to be clear from the get go, I loved it. The documentary tells the story of two entrepreneurs (Billy McFarland and Rapper Ja Rule) who came across a beautiful deserted island on the Bahamian island of Great Exuma and decided to put together the best music festival the world has ever seen.

The two go on to promote the festival as the place to be, with all the biggest bands, celebrities and influencers in attendance. Together with an agency, they make a single stunning promotional video showcasing just that, and; as a distribution tactic, go on to work with a few of the biggest celebrities and influencers on Instagram (Kendall Jenner, Bella Hadid and Hailey Baldwin just to name a few).

The plan was simple: At a given day, these influencers would all post the same cryptic orange square photo to their instagram accounts with the hashtag #FyreFestival.

Sometimes we get caught up on integrated marketing campaigns, omni-channel and overly complicated tactics before we even know where and to whom we’re selling.

In this case, we’re looking at one single channel, Instagram, one single post and because the reach of these influencers combined was so massive and highly relevant (ICP, ideal customer profile, target audience, personas, whatever you want it to call it), it was enough. Almost immediately, they were able to generate so much buzz and curiosity around the event that tickets were quickly sold out. Even then, the demand continued to grow and at one point got so out of hand that the organisers decided to offer additional VIP packages. These were going for as much as $100,000 a pop! It was the most talked about festival experience of 2017 (note the word ‘experience’. Today, people buy experiences).

Meanwhile, they didn’t really know what they were doing. Literally zero experience putting together a festival of that magnitude (at a deserted island!) and unfortunately for all ticket buyers, the event turned out to be a chaotic and disappointing experience. There were no bands, no celebrities, no suitable accommodation and barely enough food to keep the crowd at some level of peace. Even nature was not down with it. It rained. A LOT.

The point here is that because they had the perfect distribution channel, they were able to create extreme demand almost instantly, while in reality, there was no real substance behind it. No product. No content. And while this is clearly an extreme B2C example (and it does not mean that creating great valuable content is not important), it showcases really well how we live in a world where content distribution is extremely powerful and, in my opinion, actually trumps content creation every single time.

I feel bad for the agencies and experts behind the promotional plan because in many ways, they were blind to what they were actually promoting. But then again, maybe there’s a lesson to be learned there: Know your customers; taste the cherries before you package it because ultimately, it’s your reputation on the line.

Now, as marketers, our success is often measured on our ability to get enough qualified people in front of our product or service. That’s no easy task in a market that’s so overcrowded with content. Add to it all the different channels and MarTech available (have you seen the marketing technology landscape 2019?) and it can feel quite overwhelming even to the best of marketers.

There’s a study from Forrester research that states ’50% of all content goes unread… and that figure increases to 60-70% in B2B marketing’. As a B2B marketer, it takes a second for it to sink in. To think all the effort we put into creating blog posts, eBooks, etc might go to waste is discouraging, to say the least. As marketers, we spend countless hours, money and resources creating valuable content and to think that these might end up having zero monetary value is no joke. It’s a jungle out there and the reality is that simply creating content is not enough, it needs to be seen, read and shared by enough of the right people. Yeah, I said it. Simply creating content is worth ZERO.

Let’s take an eBook as an example. You might have your content marketer writing long form content for weeks to months, perfecting the message. Maybe you’re investing in an outside contractor to help get more of these done faster. Next, there’s design. There’s a big and valid trend around bringing more and more elements of B2C into B2B. This means eBook designs are becoming a lot better, as well as more expensive and time consuming. Then, there’s your marketing automation and CRM. Building a landing page, thank you page, eBook delivery email, scoring, attribution plus whatever else you need done in the background to make sure you can report on performance. Read: Data-driven.

Finally, you’re ready to launch. Marketing has been through quite a journey and of course, you expect this content to pick up some traction. First, you post it to all your direct channels (website, email, corporate social media) just to find out it’s not enough. At that point, it often becomes a paid game. Adwords, LinkedIn ads, Facebook ads, Twitter ads, retargeting, native ads, content syndication…That’s when your cost-per-lead goes up, you still don’t have content marketing ROI and believe me, it’s often still not enough relevant traction. You haven’t gotten the eBook in front of enough of the right people.

To make matters worse, competition is tougher every day and more and more companies are doing exactly the same as you. Everyone knows the same tips and tricks, it’s all out there. In other words, all these paid tactics are only getting more expensive. Look at Facebook, in 2018 it was reported the average price per ad has increased 30% while ad impressions served only increased by 8%. And don’t even get me started on ‘finding a growth hack’. Yeah, it works, until it doesn’t anymore and then you need a new one. Are you going to bet on hack after hack? We, as marketers, tend to ruin every new hack, every new channel because as soon as something works, we all jump on it. And then it doesn’t.

But it’s not all bad. It’s just different. Is inbound marketing dead? No, but it has hit a wall. Are paid ads a waste? No, most likely you still need them. Should we all do account-based marketing? Definitely not. But knowing your customers and where they are is more important than ever. Spray and pray is dead and while Fyre Festival turned out to be ‘The Greatest Fiasco That Ever Happened’, they got one thing right: marketing today.

I’ve been trying to think of a similar example from B2B marketing and I’m not ashamed to admit I can’t. But maybe that’s an opportunity. As long as we recognize that while without a doubt content distribution is what us marketers need to prioritize, creating real value is still where real success lies.

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