Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Teachings from "KISS"

Well don't get surprised by the title.. "KISS" is an American rock band formed in New York City in December 1972. Easily identified by its members' trademark face paint and stage outfits, the group rose to prominence in the mid and late-1970s on the basis of their elaborate live performances, which featured fire breathing, blood spitting, smoking guitars, and pyrotechnics. Kiss has been awarded 24 gold albums to date.[1] The band has sold over 19 million records in the United States[2] and their worldwide sales exceed 80 million albums.[3]

The original line up of Paul Stanley (vocals and rhythm guitar), Gene Simmons (vocals and bass guitar), Ace Frehley (lead guitar and vocals), and Peter Criss (drumspercussion and vocals) is the most successful and identifiable. With their makeup and costumes, they took on the personae of comic book-style characters: The Demon (Simmons), Starchild (Stanley), Spaceman (Frehley), and Catman (Criss).

I personally loved this article - it really teaches a lot from what the band has been able to do in 35 years and continues to do so.. 


Love 'em or not, the rock band KISS has been able to stay in the game for over 35 years. FULL DISCLOSURE: I was a huge KISS fan when I was about 10 years old. Had the posters on my bedroom walls, the records on my floor and even the makeup on my face. I got to see them in action recently as part of the KISS ALIVE 35 tour. And they rocked the house.

It's the staying power of KISS that most interests me these days. In the world of commerce right now, these are pretty wild times. Markets shift without any notice. Competition is fierce and comes at you from every front. And customers are more sophisticated, demanding and savvy than ever before. So how does an organization like KISS (yes, they are an organization), stay relevant and on the radar screen of consumers minds this long? Here are the 4 things that KISS did/does to drive their staying power in the marketplace (apply them to your business and you'll be around 35 years from now too):

1. THEY STAND OUT. Yes, KISS has been modeled/copied and imitated by other bands over the years. But they had first mover advantage because they were the first to do what they did. Being first to go to market with something new generally gives you a lifetime advantage over the competition (think Coke v. Pepsi/Heinz ketchup v. Hunts). When KISS first hit the scene, there was no one like them. They just stunned everyone. With their painted faces. With their oversized platform shoes. With their pyrotechnics (well ahead of any other rock band). And with Gene Simmons' fire breathing and blood spitting. They just stood out. So everyone HAD to take notice.

2. THEY BUILT COMMUNITY. One of the most intelligent moves KISS made was to launch the KISS Army early on in. I still remember buying KISS ALIVE 2 and receiving a KISS Army badge, the temporary tattoos and a document confirming my membership. Every one of us has a deep psychological need to belong. It's a trait that has allowed us to survive with a tribe. KISS tapped into that and made each one of their fans feel special. And part of something bigger than themselves.

Though Peter Criss and Ace Frehley, two of the original members left due to alleged substance abuse issues and money challenges, Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons have kept the original mystique of KISS going for all these years. Much of what has made KISS so enduring is the way these two (Simmons in particular) have managed and protected the brand. They did media, they attended KISS fan conferences, they worked the Net and they did whatever it took to keep KISS alive in the hearts and minds of their constituents.

4. THEY OVER DELIVERED. One of the simplest and most powerful ways to increase the staying power of your business is to deliver more value than you promise to. Just wow your customers by how much you give. And if the product/service itself is good, they'll come back for more. 35 years later.

In Leadership,

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