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My son is a professional musician and has wanted to be a performer since he was a little boy.  Once I determined that this was his true life goal, not a “phase,” I figured I had better support him and do everything I could to help him succeed.  I wanted him to think a lot about the business and marketing aspects of the music business and I decided the best classroom for that was a KISS concert.

For any serious marketer, a study of KISS should be a required curriculum.  I just read where the glam-band has a new album coming out and are preparing for a world tour.  So here is the question every savvy marketer should consider:   How can a quartet of 60-year-old men prance about in high heels, sell out a 25,000-seat arena anywhere in the world in 30 minutes, hawk millions in merchandise, and attract a passionate legion of fans known as their “army” nearly FORTY YEARS after they picked up their first guitar and discoverered they had no talent?

Polish your boots, tune your guitar and turn it up loud.  We’re all going to the classroom of KISS:

1) Give your customers EXACTLY what they want.  When you go to a KISS concert, you don’t get breath-taking improvisation and cerebral lyrics. You get pyrotechnics, explosions, costumes and decibles of sound that make your heart pound out of your chest.  You know every note and every word and can sing along in a fun and predictable manner.  This is what KISS fans want and this is what the band delivers — every time. At one point the band abandoned the makeup, tried more serious stuff and spectacularly tanked. That was their equvialent of New Coke. Put the make-up back on, and the fans returned.   Consistent brand image is essential.

2) Then give them MORE of what they want. The new KISS tour promises one of the largest, most extravagant stage productions in history.  Bigger, badder and louder for a band like KISS is their version of “now with lemon scent.”  That’s what keeps the fans interested and coming back year after year — a chance to see what new tricks are in store!  So innovate, but don’t ever abandon your core brand promise or your core customers.

3) Develop adjacencies. An adjacency is a new product related to your core offering that can provide new revenue streams. KISS has relentlessly spun off new ideas in merchandise, video games, toys, television programs and comic books that have attracted their own devotees.  Of course Gene Simmons has a reality show in the U.S. and Jeremy Bramwell told me he has a different hit show in the U.K., too.

4) Develop a brand and ferociously protect it.  One of the most fun KISS stories: When the band was just starting out and broke, they would surround their stage with mountains of empty speaker shells – none of them worked — to give the illusion that they were bigger and more important than they were (I guess that is like Twitter followers today?).  Was this tricking the customer?  No less than getting somebody to believe that Coca-Cola stands for something more than colored sugar water.  To be the biggest band in the world, they had to ACT like the biggest band in the world!

5) Put customers above everything.  I can’t imagine applying that kabuki make-up in a different city every night and playing the same songs over and over and over again … the same way … for decades. I’m sure they get sick of it.  But somehow (money) they find a way to approach their job, and their brand, with fresh passion every show because they HAVE to. They’re well-rewarded, but they also sacrifice a lot for their fans.  Say what you want about them.  KISS knows their customers and ALWAYS delivers.

What do you think?  What other business lessons can we learn from KISS or your favorite band?

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