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The answer to Die Antwoord’s marketing success

Posted by
5 February 2010

Die Antwoord (The Answer) is an assault on your senses and sensibilities. Die Antwoord is all over Twitter now and I wouldn’t be surprised at all if they become a trending topic this weekend. Die Antwoord is an Afrikaans zef rap-rave band from South Africa.

You heard that right. Afrikaans Zef Rap Rave. That is not the best known musical genre. As Vice magazine queried in October when they interviewed Ninja, the lead singer of Die Antwoord:

“…nobody from South Africa ever really makes it overseas. You do realise that?”

Die Antwoord would have none of that. Ninja spurns those assertions in their track ‘Enter The Ninja’:

Fuck you all who said I wouldn’t make it
Who said I was a loser
Who said I was a no-one
But look at me now
All up on the interweb
World-wide, 2009 Futuriste

Die Antwoord have come from what is often (wrongly) seen as a cultural backwater to be the music sensation of 2010. They have overcome the stereotypes about Afrikaans (the baddies in ‘Lethal Weapon 2′ anyone?).

But theirs is a marketing storm that money can’t buy. How did they do it?

They have been bubbling under the radar for a while, before this week’s explosion. I know, because I am one of the lucky ones to have been following them since their inception. I’m Afrikaans myself and one my guilty pleasures is reading Watkykjy, the legendary Zef Afrikaans blog that became Die Antwoord’s home.

Die Antwoord on Google trends

Watkykjy has been going since 2000 and regularly attracts about 100,000 unique users per month. But it’s much more than that. Watkykjy is home to an identity. The home of Zef. As such they have been organising events and parties as well.

Die Antwoord got their own little buitekammerttjie (little outside room) on the Watkykjy site about 10 months ago, where they had a number of tracks available for free download. Watkykjy also regularly plugged the band to their fanatical audience. Die Antwoord became headline acts at Watkykjy jols (parties). Die Antwoord even made a song Wat kyk jy! Still, these were parties inside a small subculture. How did it break out?

Die Antwoord aren’t loaded (not yet anyway). But around them gathered a bunch of talented individuals who loved them and saw their potential. People like Rodger Ballen, an American Photographer who lives in South Africa and who has shot the cover for their $O$ album. Leon Botha, an artist, Hip Hop DJ Solarize and the world’s longest surviving Progeria, opened their sets. People like The Wedding DJ’s.

As someone who knows them intimately said:

They don’t have huge budgets. Just friends with a passion for what they do. Sean (photographer and the guy that shot the Zef Side video) is a case in point.


He’s a young guy who’s friends with Ninja and Yo-landi and just understands what they are trying to do.

Still, the video had Die Antwoord‘s signature all over it.

If you look at the work he’s done for Die Antwoord you’ll notice how it’s completely different to some of the other shots he’s done for other South African bands. That’s Ninja’s next-level influence.

The video made a difference. For impact (awareness), little packs a punch as a good video. It is very well produced and high quality (just like the Enter the Ninja video above – the artwork of which was made drawn & painted Ninja himself), and importantly full of Die Antwoord’s quirkiness. Still, this was done on a low budget.

The video by Sean and Die Antwoord

This is what Forrester spoke about in their Groundswell book when they talk of Energizing your crowd. Die Antwoord has support and a platform for take off.

Die Antwoord simply released their videos online, on YouTube and Vimeo. They started a Facebook Fan page. Next they built a good looking website (that nobody on an iPad will see), but through which you could listen to all their tracks for free. (Note to all you SEO heads, it’s Flash so technically not good for SEO – still the content is so good – it doesn’t matter – this reeks of Linkbait.)

Screengrab from Die Antwoord's website

The most important thing

And that brings me to my last point. Yes, Die Antwoord had the backing of Watkykjy and a few other fans with blogs like me. But what really matters is their talent on several fronts. The music is tight, the hooks catchy, the look disturbingly cool. And they have a narrative (brand if you like).

Besides their sound, their Zef look, their accents, where they’re from, all of this is loaded with meaning. They disturb, they delight, they smash stereo types, they’re sexy. It’s remarkable.

This is the first lesson of social media. If your product is a dud, forget it. Buy advertising, that’s your tax for being boring as they say.

If it’s good, you’ll have an army of crazed advertisers to support you at a very low cost.

Leon Botha - DJ Solarise - Die Antwoord

History of Die Antwoord on the Interwebs

April 2009 – Die Antwoord gets a Buitekammertjie on the Watkykjy site featuring 4 free tracks to download.

May – December – A number of South African blogs write about Die Antwoord, more free tracks appear on Watkykjy.

October 5 – Vice magazine writes about Die Antwoord saying that No band from South Africa ever makes it

November – the notorious video in the Taxi appears on Vimeo.

December – Zef side Video appears on Watkykjy and YouTube

January – 13 th, 14th Enter the Ninja appears on Watkykjy and YouTube, and new Website launches with entire album free to stream

January 29ths feature on the Vivalavinyl message board and theB9.com message board. Possibly also the 4schan message board.

January 31st – discussion begins on the Hipopinion message board
Feb 1st – The Antwoord reaches tipping point. Web searches increase dramatically, Twitter as well. 15:00 The UK Guardian music blog writes about Die Antwoord. Boing Boing writes a first article on Die Antwoord at 10pm US Eastern time.

Feb 5 – Griffin – who runs Watkykjy – reports that he already had over 2 terabytes of data served on the 3rd of Feb alone for the Die Antwoord website.

1-5 Feb – 106k visits 80k unique users.

Die Antwoord is simply poescool.

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  • Posted by Mike
    February 8, 2010 at 9:17 am | Permalink

    The Sunday Times (national English Sunday spreadsheet) featured Die Antwoord on their front page yesterday (below the fold).


  • Posted by dude
    October 8, 2012 at 3:27 am | Permalink

    DUDE, do you realize how INSANELY hard it is to read this article with the damn twitter feed updating and bouncing the article around?? Please stop that auto update or put it off to the side in a different frame!!! I love your subject matter but I had to copy/paste the article into MS Word to read it without having a seizure. Love, Chris

  • October 25, 2012 at 3:40 pm | Permalink

    Thanks DUDe for that suggestion. We removed the Twitter widget.

3 Trackbacks

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    [...] le truc depuis des mois, mais je n’ai fait qu’attraper le phénomène alors qu’il explosait en ligne. Que sait-on de plus sur Die Antwoord après enquête ? Pas grand chose en fait. Le pote atteint de [...]

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  • By Die Antwoord is maaifoedies! on October 26, 2010 at 10:45 am

    [...] told her. As far as I know he worked with them on the Wat pomp julle video and much besides. I had wrote so myself long before – just when they were blowing up – I had it from a source close to them [...]

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