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Business lessons from KISS

As a small child I was a big fan of the band KISS. They had it all; make up, special effects, and some great rock and roll music. The thing that always separated KISS from other bands was their marketing, their constant media presence, and out of the mainstream way of adapting their music to the times while still making it sound like KISS.

So, here we are almost 40 years from the release of their first album and they are still a relevant band. Not relevant like Led Zeppelin or the Beatles, but relevant in that they just put out their 20th studio album. With original members Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley at the helm and newer members Eric Singer and Tommy Thayer, they will prove to be one of the fall and winter’s largest tours.

So why in the world do I take the time to bring up the fire breathing, blood spitting, fire works shooting band. I am confident that business owners can learn a few things from this these business leaders.

Think back to the first time you saw KISS; they created a point of difference from all other bands. Their music was not just music; their music was an experience. Lesson one, create a point of difference and allow your customers an experience verses just a purchase of a product. Give them so much more than what they expect that they be blown away. Think Apple stores and the experience that you have when you enter, shop, and then leave the store, simply amazing.

KISS was the first band to understand the value of licensing. Today you can find everything from KISS candles to KISS coffins. Gene Simmons, self-proclaimed Asshole, is responsible for this strategy and it has allowed the band to tap new markets that most bands can’t reach. There is even a Hello Kitty Kiss collection targeting the younger preteen female audience. Lesson two – diversity in your marketing can allow for greater opportunities. Lesson three – seizing a new income stream that your fellow bands or competitors have not recognized.

In the early 80’s KISS began having some issues with a couple of their original members. Ace Frehley and Peter Criss developed some poor “road habits” that were not conducive to Gene and Paul’s business only approach to rock and roll. Thus, these two legends of rock were replaced over time with various “excellent fill in musicians like Bruce Kulick”, but have now been completely replaced by Eric Singer and Tommy Thayer. The band is stronger than ever and the “fill in musicians” allowed the band (company) to continue even in lean times. Lesson four – eliminate the players on your team that are not allowing the band reach their true potential, but understand that sometimes, just surviving is means to greater successes down the road.

I had the opportunity to see KISS live with my son this past summer and I think this might have been the 10th time I’ve seen the band. After 40 years, I must say it might have been the best damn show they have ever put on. The music was great, the sound was amazing, and the show blew everyone away. It didn’t hurt that their opening band was the renewed and sober Motley Crue. Final Lesson – KISS’s perpetuation plan of bringing in new and younger members have allowed them to continue to tour and earn a whopping one million dollars a show.

I’m sure my peers are snickering right now at the fact that this insurance agent is writing about KISS. Truth be told, the front license plate of my Lexus is a KISS plate. I have a lot of admiration for this band, their music, but most importantly their business acumen. KISS didn’t just rock and roll all night…. they rocked and continue to rock for four decades!

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