In this column, we’re gonna talk about how wearing wearing 22″ heel boots and clown-white cream-based make-up can boost your small business marketing.
Just kidding. (Maybe.)
No, we’re gonna talk about 4 things every marketer and small business owner can rip off from the kings of rock merchandising, KISS. (Blood-red tongue lipstick optional.)
#1 Thing Every Small Business Can Learn From KISS: Sell a Product That’s NOT for Everybody
KISS may now SEEM like they were destined for success. But this bar band from New Jersey did not immediately take the world by storm.
As evidenced by this Seattle Daily Times in 1974:
“I hope the four guys how make up the group, whose named don’t matter, are putting away money for the future, because KISS won’t be around long.”
In fact, in an era awash in Bowie-inspired glamrock and southern blues, people were confused by the seeming disconnect between on-show theatrics of KISS and a quite derivative, straight-ahead blues rock-and-roll style. (Close your eyes next time you hear a KISS song and picture a Friday-night bar blues cover band at your local tavern. Won’t sound that different.)
But the band, quite early on, crafted a deliberate strategy…appeal to a narrow audience. (Mostly kids like themselves who liked Bowie theatrics, but with more “bottom end.”
And screw everybody else.
As Gene Simmons has admitted:
“A long time ago we decided not to try to be everything to everybody. What we are is what we are. A showy band that plays non-showy music.”
And non-showy music that has brought in hundreds of millions of dollars.
Action Step: Figure out who your product or service is really for. (“Everybody” doesn’t count.) Then F— the rest.
#2 Thing Every Small Business Can Learn From the Band “KISS”: Embrace Delusional Self Confidence
KISS, and more specifically its de facto CEO Gene Simmons, has been nothing if not confident. Abundantly so.
Having released 20 albums, licensed over 3000 products, and surviving the ups and downs of a music business that has changed dramatically over the band’s 40 years, KISS has come to represent an unabashed attidue “F*## it. We’re the best!”)
As Simmons himself said in his book “Me, Inc”:
“Self confidence is your greatest business partner. The prime building block for popularity can be boiled down to one trait: an enormous, almost delusional sense of self-confidence. If you wait for when you are ready. you will wait forever.”
This doesn’t mean everything KISS or Simmons has touched has turned to gold. The “Gene Simmons Tongue” magazine was a HUGE failure. The band invested in many things – horses, property, the recording career of Liza Minelli in the 70s- that were miserable failures.
But it does mean, KISS and Simmons are willing to try almost anything – even take off the makeup – to spread their musical message. (And make a crapload of money.)
Action Step: Practice delusional self confidence. Pretend like you’re the most unstoppable force of business awesomeness. (Fee free to paint your face and leather, if it helps.)
#3 Thing Every Small Business Can Learn KISS: Sell Your Stuff 3,000 Different Ways
As any working musician will tell you – and I was one so I can attest – the money AIN’T in the music.
It’s in the merch. Or merchandise. (Everything else but the CDs and the gate revenue.)
And NOBODY caught on to this “iron law of music wages” quicker than KISS. From the very beginning KISS hawked its likeness on pinball machines. Lip balm. Even garden gnomes.
And that’s because they figured out long before U2 were playing pubs in Dublin, people aren’t buying the tangible asset. They are buying the feeling that tangible asset gives them. And the status that buying that product confers upon them.
And when a guy in his 40s puts a KISS bumper sticker on his car or drinks a fine bottle of KISS merlot, he’s saying:
“Yes, I may appear to be a mild-mannered, minivan-driving accountant, but underneath this timid exterior is a frothing beast of rock n roll intensity.”
Action Step: Ask yourself what 3 areas of additional revenue are just sitting out there for you and you business. Could it be merchandising? Coaching/consulting? Or maybe that book inside ya that’s been dying to get out?
Who knows: for an extra $300 million a year, 22″ heels don’t sound so bad.