Sure I have a love hate relationship with KISS and more specifically Gene Simmons, but that is because I have passion. I came across this post in my RSS feeds today and love him or hate him, it is good business advice. Pay attention to tip number five… put your name on everything. It is Gene Simmons this and Gene Simmons that, but you know it is Gene Simmons. It is your name use it everywhere you can. I have been fortunate enough to work with KISS for many years and the way they treat their band as a brand and a business is pretty unique in the music industry. Personally it may have become too much of a brand and less of a band for me, but there is no debating their success. Every business should be able to find advice in these tips.
I have always joked that I graduated from the KISS School of Marketing.
I love rock music.
I’m talking about the driving beats, power vocals, grungy distortion kind of rock that makes you head-bang and want to play air guitar. Seriously. I’ve been known to blast my rock music so loud you can hear it a block away from my house (the neighbors just LOVE me for that), and the same is true when I’m cruising in my Camaro with the windows down, (note to self: one of these days I’m going to have to challenge Johnny B. Truant to a winner-takes-all Rock Band showdown).
Anyway, no discussion of rock ‘n roll would be complete without including one of the genres most iconic bands, KISS.
Love them or hate them, KISS is one band that’s impossible to ignore. It’s been almost four decades since their first show, and they still have an army (seriously, they’re called the “KISS Army”) of raving fans, and have literally built an empire on their brand rather than their music.
In fact, in an interview published in the Pittsburg Post Gazette, Gene Simmons revealed that they own the licenses for 3,000 different KISS-branded products, including:
- Toilet Seats
- Action figures
- An official comic book series published by Marvel Comics (with blood from the band members mixed into the ink).
- Pool sticks and dart boards
- Flip video cameras
- Mr. Potato heads
- Diaper bags
- And tons more
Most (if not all) of this marketing success comes from the insatiable entrepreneurism of Gene Simmons (for the uniformed, Gene is the bassist and co-founder of the band).
And when you take a closer look at what he’s done to promote KISS over the years, there’s a ton of lessons and tips in there that can help catapult your business from local “nobody” to industry rockstar.
Because this isn’t a video post (Naomi said there wasn’t room in the budget for special effects and I had trouble getting permits for the fireworks), you’ll just have to imagine this list engulfed in confetti, smoke, pyrotechnics, and blinding lights with someone screaming “Are you ready to rock?”
10 Tips from the Gene Simmons School of Marketing
1. Create a Brand
Everything KISS releases is engulfed in a carefully constructed brand image that is designed to position them as something to experience, not just something to listen to. They created an image of partying, rock ‘n roll, rebellion, sex, and carefree living that caters to a specific audience, and attracts them like a magnet.
Create a brand for your business that’s tailored specifically for the type of customer or audience you want to work with. Build it based on their wants, needs, desires, or fears so it will resonate with them at a deep, emotional level. And if you can focus that brand on the experience your audience is seeking, even better.
You’ve probably heard the saying that people don’t buy products, they buy experiences. It’s true. For example, Joe Smith doesn’t go to his local home improvement store to buy fertilizer, he’s going there to buy the satisfaction of making his neighbor jealous of his plush, green lawn. Focus your brand on the experience your product or service provides, and it will draw people in.
2. Market Your Brand, Not What You Do.
KISS has been so successful because they’ve focused their promotional activities on promoting the brand they created for themselves. If they had merely promoted their music (what they do), their success would be a fraction of what it is today. Their music supports and feeds their brand, the brand doesn’t take a backseat to the music.
Build a brand that people can latch onto, get excited about, and want to follow; then promote your brand every chance you get. Sure what you sell is important, but it should support your brand not “trump” it. If you build a brand that appeals to the type of customer you want to work with, you’ll create your own “army” of raving fans that will want to buy what you sell anyway – and with less hesitation than someone who just called you out of the phone book.
3. Be Outrageous
One of the most common marketing questions I hear is “how do I stand out in a crowded niche?” Being over-the-top outrageous is one way to do that. With all the hundreds (or even thousands) of rock bands there are out there, most people can immediately identify KISS because of their outrageous costumes, face paint, and unique style (know any other bands whose members drool blood and spit fire?). Seth Godin calls this being a “purple cow,” and it helps make you stand out and get people’s attention.
4. Go Big, or Go Home
Don’t do anything halfway. If you’ve ever seen KISS in concert, you know their shows and stage sets are always over-the-top. Everything is huge, dramatic, and as flamboyant as they can make it. Do the same with your business. If there’s an opportunity for you to really connect with your customers and draw serious attention to your business, don’t screw around “dabbling” with it. Dive in. Whole hog, both feet, no holds barred. Don’t hold back. If all you do is stick your big toe in to test the waters, your big opportunity will turn into a major flop because no one will even notice you.
5. Put Your Name on Everything
Once you’ve build your brand, shamelessly self-promote it. Put your logo and website address on everything that you send out, even your fax cover sheets and mailing envelopes (you never know, the postman could be getting ready to launch his own business and might need your services). Don’t be bashful about this either. Assume no one else will “toot your horn” but you, and get your name in front of as many people as possible.
6. Seek Out Opportunities
If you do any reading about Gene Simmons or see any of his interviews, you’ll soon realize the guy is an insatiable entrepreneur. He never sits back and waits for opportunities to come to him, he goes out and hunts them down.
Develop that same proactive attitude toward your business and your marketing.
If you actively seek opportunities, you’ll be able to grow your sales, your audience and/or your business with relative ease. It’s when you sit back and wait for opportunities to come to you that things seem to not happen fast enough. Remember, no one is responsible for your success but you, so “go get ‘em tiger!”
7. Don’t Let Fear Stand in Your Way
Fear alone should never be a reason not to do something, especially in business. Could you imagine where KISS would be if they were too afraid of what people thought of their outrageous costumes to create the brand that they did? I also happen to know that Gene Simmons has a fear of heights, yet during concerts he flies (ok, ok, is hoisted by cables) up to the rafters of the stadium where he sings an entire song. The effect is dramatic and delights the crowd, but would never happen if he just gave in to his fears.
What are you too afraid to do in your business? Public speaking? Interviews? Write a book? Would any of those things help grow your business? If so, maybe it’s time to stop giving into fear and work up to doing them.
8. Be a Trendsetter, Not a Follower
Back when KISS started doing their over-the-top concert performances, that concept was relatively new to the rock music genre. They almost single-handedly pioneered the art of the over-the-top, total immersion, blow your socks off concert experience. Since then, many bands have tried to incorporate some of those things into their own concerts.
What is your industry lacking that you could pioneer? Is there something your competitors have overlooked that you could capitalize on? Is there a cool way you’ve thought of to present your services that no one is doing yet? Go for it! Be the trendsetter in your industry, and you’ll make your competition irrelevant in the process.
9. Failure is Nothing to Fear
During a BusinessWeek interview, Gene tells about something his mother (who survived the Holocaust) taught him, and it’s one of my favorite quotes.
“If you are alive you’ve won, no matter what.”
He goes on to say he fails all the time, and failure itself means nothing. In fact (as you may know) many very successful entrepreneurs have failed prior to their success. It’s just a part of the learning process. But if you hold back and don’t give your business your all, or are afraid to take risks because you’re afraid to fail, it will become a self-fulfilling prophecy and you’ll fail anyway. Don’t let the fear of failure cause you to fail.
10. Build an Empire
In that same interview in the Pittsburg Post Gazette, Gene says that eventually there will be new band members in KISS, and it will still be KISS – not a tribute band – the official KISS. He says it’s like handing over an empire to the next generation, and that’s how you should look at your business too. Don’t just settle for building enough business to pay your bills every month. Plan, strategize, and act as though you’re trying to build a business empire.
Now you may not actually want a huge business empire, and that’s OK. But if you treat your business with the same diligence, and the same planning that you would use if your were trying to build an empire, it will help you build a strong, sustainable business (regardless of size).
Besides, you never know, your kid may want to take over your business one day.
So there you have it. 10 things you can learn from Gene Simmons and KISS about how to be the breakout “rockstar” in your industry.
Now if you’ll excuse me, it’s time for me to rock out with my tongue out. “They call me Dr. Love…”