Many artists achieve commercial success alongside critical praise.
Fortunately for Kiss — the makeup-smeared foursome whose anthem, “Rock and Roll All Nite,” is likely on every karaoke playlist in the galaxy — widespread critical panning seemed almost irrelevant. “Few can accomplish the impossible: Acquire a legion of faithful fans with mediocre rock music,” sniffed the New York Daily News in a 2009 feature.
Still, if you want your business “to party every day,” so to speak, you could do worse than examine the business smarts of Kiss frontman Gene Simmons, who’s been the driving force behind Kiss’ business maneuverings. He recognized that the band’s success was centered as much on merchandise as it was on music.
“He made Kiss into a brand before most bands were brands, realizing early on that profits lay in associated merchandising rather than simply album sales,” says Catherine Tucker, an associate professor of marketing at MIT’s Sloan School of Management. “He created the ‘Kiss Army’ of fans, and that army went out and bought Kiss-branded products. Eventually, Kiss licensed its brand name to over 3,000 products.”
Nearly 40 years later, the merchandising beat goes on. Just in time for Mother’s Day, the much-anticipated Kiss “retro figures” were released this April. They are available both in 8- and 12-inch versions, fully posable and, naturally, feature Simmons striking his classic tongue-stuck-out-to-his-Adam’s-apple pose.