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Rock n’ Roll Marketing: Lessons From KISS

A lot of time has passed since the 70’s; a divisive decade built on fertile ground that led to some of the most celebrated movements and achievements in music, film, art, and popular culture– but also some of the worst.

Somewhere between the worst and the best, certainly including elements of both, is the Gene Simmons supergroup KISS.

KISS managed to embody much of what we love about rock n’ roll, but also everything that makes it unintentionally laughable. They were bigger, bolder, and musically simpler than many of their counterparts.

Whether you support their tunes or not, it can’t be argued that they were among the best musical acts of all time in one specific field: Marketing.

It’s been more than 4 decades since KISS reached “legendary” status, and still their memorabilia is everywhere. Today, their merchandise and marketing materials, decked out with their various logos and characterized faces, seem to have stood the test of time– and have done a better job at helping them remain relevant than their music has; music which many critics have always considered “average” at best. Was it luck, or was Gene Simmons a marketing genius?

Here are 3 of the core marketing principles that helped a standard band become an absolute cultural phenomenon:


Find your story

Identify what your brand stands for and find an enduring, truthful message to attach to it. Kiss did this by crafting mythology and stories around its music.

Craft Your Story NOW!

  1. Speak directly to your target customer.  Who is SO BAD at what you do Best? That is the person you’re talking to. Make a list of types of people who are terrible at what you do and would value it highly.
  2. Specifically, what is the problem they are trying to solve? Are they trying to “look or feel good” or achieve a goal?
  3. How do they think this problem is solved?  In other words, what are they doing, trying, buying that they think will solve this problem?
  4. How does the industry say this problem is solved? What is the conventional thinking about how to solve this problem?
  5. How do you believe this problem is solved?  Do you have a system or process or way of being that will solve this problem?

Stick with your story

Once you find your story, consistency is key. Find fresh and unique ways to share the narrative over time without changing the storyline itself. Kiss went beyond concerts and albums to TV shows, apps and even video games with its story.

Tips and Tricks

Create a list of content types; video, slides, articles, podcasts, social, etc. and outline specific ways that you can re-tell your story through different kinds of content.

Use a content calendar template to organize your ideas. (@CoSchedule has a great content calendar)

Let others tell your story

When a brand’s narrative is continued by relatable, legitimate sources, that narrative gets turbocharged. Kiss did this by creating the Kiss Army, one of the first analog ambassador programs. The band had its fans successfully call and hassle radio stations to play its music.

Tips and Tricks

Build a community of rabid fans (customers) around your product or service.  Start by creating a group on Facebook or LinkedIn, join groups on Facebook and LinkedIn.  If you’re a Twitter fan, join Tweet Chats on your topic area.

Whether Gene Simmons & Co. were aware of the exact principles and techniques they were employing or not is almost irrelevant; these rockers displayed marketing expertise in a way that is totally admirable for any enterprise. For more on this, check out the source article over at AdWeek: 3 Things Kiss Taught Me About Marketing.

About the Author Ivana Taylor

Ivana Taylor is the publisher of She ranked #21 out of 30,000 influential people on the Internet in Fast Company. Ivana is also one of D&B Top SMB Influencers. She is the book editor for Small Business Trends, a contributing author to AMEX Open Forum and has appeared on MSNBC.

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