Lessons for brands from the Fred Again frenzy
By Yasmin Armes
Was last week the first time you’d heard of Fred Again? And did you find yourself at any point wondering how there seemed to be such hysteria around a man you didn’t even realise existed until a moment ago?
Well, you’re not alone. Last week conversations in Sydney were fiercely divided between those desperate to get tickets to the award-winning DJ and producer’s shows, and those who have no clue at all who he is.
Over the past week in Sydney, Fred Again played at Laneway Festival before going on to play two sold-out shows – one at The Enmore and one at the Hordern Pavilion. However, his strategy for announcing the shows and communicating with fans created so much hype that it left many Aussies feeling like he’d blown up overnight.
Whilst it’s admittedly hard for brands to emulate the viral success of a superstar DJ, here are three things which contributed to creating such a frenzy and lessons brands can learn:
The golden tickets: creating scarcity drives hype
Tickets for Fred Again’s show at The Enmore went on sale back in November 2022 and sold out in a matter of minutes. The Enmore only has a capacity of around 1,600 so this left a lot of disappointed fans. In fact, the waitlist clocked up over 6,000 people. Fans were convinced he’d be announcing a second show date but as more time passed, it seemed like it would never come.
The morning after his gig at The Enmore, he finally announced a new gig in Sydney. That night. For over 5,000 people at The Hordern Pavilion and it sold out in minutes.
I was lucky enough to attend the show at the Hordern and particularly enjoyed watching fans visibly celebrate when they got through the gates – like they’d just used a golden ticket.
Fred Again could have committed to a show at the Hordern back in November, or better still, done two nights there – he wouldn’t have struggled to fill it. But, by making fans wait until the last moment to announce a new show, the scarcity of tickets drove absolute hysteria and created FOMO.
Low supply creating high demand is nothing new but what Fred Again does well is deliberately create artificial scarcity by manipulating customers’ expectations to fever pitch before meeting demand.
In the experience economy, this creates a bigger, better experience with unbelievably high fan engagement.
Brands should be asking themselves, how can we create artificial scarcity to drive hype? Like Fred Again, it’s possible to create artificial scarcity in a number of ways. This could come in the form of limited-edition product lines, pre-releasing a certain number of products before the bulk go on sale, or creating a unique experience available to a limited amount of people.
Mystery builds anticipation
In the lead up to announcing the second show, Fred Again dropped clues that something would be happening. First of all, there was the use of whale emojis. Yes, the cute iPhone whale emoji with a shoot of water coming out of its blowhole – featuring no direct reference to Fred Again.
The emoji started cropping up in Fred’s Instagram stories, then as guerilla marketing as stickers and chalk paint stencils, and then finally on screens and light projections around Sydney.
No one knew what it meant, just that something was coming. And it sent fans into overdrive.
Rumours went wild over where the unannounced secret gig would be taking place. Fans started gathering in locations where the whale art was popping up. A Fred Again Discord chat started receiving hundreds of messages a minute, with fans refusing to go to bed in fear of missing out on announcements about what it all meant and how they could get tickets.
At the gig itself, whale emojis appeared on screens around the venue and fans brought posters, t-shirts and hats featuring the image and featured it on all of their social posts too.
Fred Again was able to hijack an existing emoji that everyone could access and turn it into a visual asset that was representative of him and his fandom. Only those ‘in the know’ knew it was a sign of Fred further creating a sense of community amongst his fans.
A consideration for brands should be, how can we use mystery to build anticipation? Brands often want their logo to be front and centre and to tell everyone about everything they are doing. It’s worth considering what information is truly relevant to your audience and what can be teased to drive anticipation.
Friends, not fans
When the Hordern Pavilion gig was announced, only fans that were on the waitlist received the link and a unique PIN code to buy tickets. This served two important purposes – firstly, it protected fans by making it much harder for ticket scalpers to buy up tickets and sell on at extortionate prices and secondly, it rewarded fans. After weeks of worrying that they wouldn’t be able to get tickets, their dedication and loyalty had been rewarded.
Fred Again uses a variety of channels to build direct relationships with his fans from Tik Tok and Instagram to YouTube and Discord and he interacts with them in the same way one might do with friends in order to build a genuine relationship. For example, he invited fans to come on a bike ride with him to celebrate the launch of his new album, he does call outs for ‘things to do’ whilst he’s visiting a new city, reposts stories he has been tagged in by his followers and comments on posts by his fans. He’s also not afraid to show fans the unpolished side – like in his last Instagram post where he takes them behind the scenes to show himself warming up for his next show… and swearing when he messes up.
Inspired by this, brands should be asking themselves how can we treat our customers as friends? Fred Again takes fans on a journey, behind the scenes, across different channels – he’s an example of a genuine digital native organically forging a conversation when and where he choses, not using a comms plan to map out each and every touchpoint. Like a friend, you never know when he will call, or pop up unexpectedly!
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