Who TF is Fred again..? How a UK DJ turned social media clues into sold-out shows in minutes

OPINION: Recently, our group chats have been abuzz with speculation that UK DJ Fred Again… was heading to New Zealand to play surprise shows. For those EDM fans in the know (and we’re talking about fans of Electronic Dance Music, not Electronic Direct Mail), this was a cause for excitement and a flurry of social media detective work to secure answers—and hopefully tickets—to his impromptu performances.

The buzz surrounding Fred Again… swelled rapidly, transitioning from intense social speculation to making headlines and culminating in the selling out of three arena-sized shows in mere minutes—all with less than a week’s notice. The frenzy exceeded every marketer’s dream, as earned, owned, and paid content together achieved complete audience reach across all channels. Talk about a 360-approach done right!

But if you’re among those scratching their heads, wondering how Fred Again… has managed to garner such attention, you’re not alone (not to be confused with his hit single, ‘Leave Me Alone’).

Let’s dive into the marketing genius behind Fred Again… and the lessons we can all take from his approach. Let’s face it – we all wish it were our handiwork, right?

Engage your fans first

Fred Again… has mastered the art of engaging with his fans on social media, and that’s where all of this began. He announced on Facebook towards the end of February that he was boarding a plane to go and play some unannounced gigs. Then, he kept his audience on high alert through clever breadcrumbs, including a post featuring a tub of Vegemite and Gandalf from Lord of the Rings. Soon, his followers were combing through each of his posts for clues. These included posts showcasing Australia/NZ power adapters, a glimpse of an aeroplane with the distinctive ‘Qantas red’, and a crew member watching a Jonah Lomu clip. The subtlety fuelled the frenzy among his followers, demonstrating the power of building a community through social engagement. We’re constantly reminding clients that social media is meant to be social –  and it’s clear that Fred Again… gets it *chef’s kiss*.

Think about how your brand, like Fred Again…, can reward your social audience for their love. How can you make your followers feel like they are in the know and part of a special community? Can you take a social-first approach to your latest brand news? Like a digital treasure hunt, leaving breadcrumbs keeps fans engaged and constantly checking for updates. Consider how your brand can implement a similar strategy, such as hinting at new product launches or exclusive events through scattered but intriguing social media posts. Fundamentally, you need to clearly understand who your audience is and what matters to them in order to do this. So, if you haven’t got that down, it’s time to start figuring that out.

Tell an Authentic Story

Far from vapid selfies or overly sanitised flat lays’ Fred Again…’s social followers feel connected to the man behind the DJ booth. With snippets from the beach, gigs, and even resharing fan content, his stories feel like you are flicking through your friend’s Snapchats from the night before. The little insights into the life of one of the scene’s biggest DJs give rise to the super fandom Fred seems to have amassed. He even posted a recent story instructing a pub quiz team he met in Wellington in 2023 and some new friends from his pop-up show at a Wellington café how to grab their tickets to his stadium-sized show the next night. Honestly, it’s a text on background story your mum could probably rustle up, but I’m sure it has built even more love and respect among Fred Again…’s fans (as well as plenty of envy). 

Hopefully, authenticity is already a focus for you on your channels. But think about how else you can give people a peek behind the scenes into what makes your brand tick. It’s possibly easier for an international DJ than for some businesses. Still, even for service-based businesses, there’s an opportunity to get people as close to working with you without actually working with you. And if you can tie this behind-the-scenes stuff back to your values – this will be even more powerful.

Hold true to your brand

Surprise shows and pop-ups aren’t a one-off marketing campaign. They are part of the Fred Again… brand. From New York to London, Fred Again… is known for his secret raves with just hours of notice and his eagerness to support smaller venues. Before tickets for his Auckland show went on sale, he tantalisingly posted ‘Give me 45 mins’ on his story, igniting a frenzy among fans, many of whom set timers in anticipation.

This fans-first approach solidifies his brand identity and showcases how well-executed marketing can feel authentic and engaging rather than a mere business strategy. As with all the best marketing, Fred’s marketing machine is incognito. You wouldn’t even know that he (presumably) has some smart people working tirelessly behind the scenes. 

Our advice is not to replicate this because it looks shiny and exciting. Build your brand’s point of view and then think about clever ways to bring your brand values to the fore. An unexpected pop-up shop or flash sale can excite audiences if it reflects your brand’s commitment to delighting customers. Avoid tactics that feel disjointed from your brand identity to maintain trust and consistency.

Scarcity Feeds the Hype

Part of Fred Again…’s appeal is that it’s not that easy to see him live. So, fans who get tickets feel like they’ve clocked it. Fred announced his Wellington show just 30 minutes before tickets went on sale, and it sold out in minutes. This only drove interest for his Auckland show, which saw thousands in the digital queue vying for their bit of floorspace inside Spark arena (we know of one disappointed fan who was 72,389th in the queue and, unsurprisingly, missed out on tickets). We expect another wave of Fred Again… hysteria next week when those lucky enough have scored tickets post content from the gig. Spark Arena has a capacity of around 12,000 – but I guarantee those with tickets will feel as fortunate to be there as they would have an intimate 50-person gig.

What can your brand do to create scarcity or exclusivity? Can you release a limited-edition product or service? A word of warning, though – use this sparingly, or your audience will see right through it.

Mystery Creates Talkability

The unconventional announcement of shows by Fred Again… generated immense buzz. Had he used standard promotional channels, the response might have been positive but not nearly as frenetic. The mystery and the social media detective work it inspired led to extensive coverage across news outlets, social media, and radio, demonstrating the power of mystery in creating excitement and conversation. The mystery was played out well across channels and with different parties involved. Drug-checking organisation Know Your Stuff fed the frenzy by posting that they were attending a “big” gig at Waitangi Park before quickly deleting the post and reuploading it with a different caption. Ticketek created a Fred Again waitlist ahead of time, and a ‘leaked tour schedule’ from an unknown origin also did the rounds, feeding the Fred Again…fire.

One of our favourite on-the-bandwagon executions of the Fred Again… hysteria was by radio station George FM, who have swapped out their George FM Beats working logo for Fred, Beats Working Again.

What new developments or announcements can you tease on social media? The key here is again to understand your audience. You need to come at this from a ‘what’s in it for my followers’ perspective. In this case, what was in it for Fred Again… followers was a chance to score show tickets. Teasing that you are getting new office furniture, however, probably isn’t quite as interesting.

So, will we try to score tickets to Fred Again… again? Absolutely. In the meantime, we will watch his marketing tactics from the sidelines and look for ways to bring that magic into our client strategies. Of course, measuring the success of these will be crucial, too. For Fred Again… the instant results around social engagement, following and news coverage would have been a clue along the way. But the actual proof was in ticket sales AKA the business objective.

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About Angela March

Angela is the director of Brainchild - a Waikato-based PR and content agency offering a range of services, including media relations, copywriting, content creation, influencer engagement, experiential, strategy, thought leadership and social media management.Angela was recently recognised as one of 26 rising stars in the industry globally (and the only Kiwi) with the 2024 Global Women in PR Empower programme.

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