Thursday, January 13, 2011

Critics, Schmitics

"A business wearing only a badge of ownership may get a customer to buy once or twice. But, a business boasting a brand of distinction can inspire a customer to buy for a lifetime"

Rolling Stone music critic and author Dave Marsh once said, “KISS is not a great band, KISS was never a great band, KISS never will be a great band, and I have done my share to keep them off the ballot of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame".

“KISS still lacks that flash of creative madness that could have made their music interesting, or at least listenable,” said John Milward in his 1976 Rolling Stone review of "Destroyer," their first album to go platinum.

The headliner at Friday night's Atlantic Brand Confabulation in Moncton, N.B. has never been a fan of music critics like Milward or Marsh.

KISS bassist Gene Simmons , the tongue-wagging TV reality star and branding/marketing/merchandising guru believes music scribes are "an unnecessary life form". "We own some very big houses that critics have bought us with their bad reviews," Simmons cracks. "There's a large Kiss cemetery at the back of our houses where we bury them."

Lack of critical praise never prevented KISS from becoming the #1 rock brand in the world. Worrying too much about what "critics" have to say, then building a compelling brand of distinction that has sold over $500 million dollars in merchandise alone would never have happened for Simmons and his masked minstrels.

The Atlantic Brand Confabulation is much less about music than it is about the profit-generating and customer loyalty business of branding.

And while some will be quick to criticize the event, the ticket prices, the timing among other things, the fact remains, there will be no shortage of game-changing ideas on business and branding shared by someone who has "been there, done that" and sold 20 million t-shirts to prove it.

Brands of distinction like KISS are polarizing by nature.

Any brand of distinction won't waste a lot of energy trying to convert critics or haters into lovers. Life is too short and besides, there will be millions of others out there who will be head over 7-inch heels in love with your message and why you sell the products and services you do.

Recently, Simmons told a business audience in Montreal, "I’m in a band but there’s no reason I can’t be in a brand. This is a business. It’s up to you. You have an inferred fiduciary duty to your own butt to make sure you maximize every potential and minimize any exposure and what that sorta means is we all have to be smarter today than we were yesterday".

Gene Simmons and KISS are "Purple Cows" of the music business.

Marketing guru Seth Godin coined the phrase "purple cow" as a way to describe a product or service that was remarkable. The "purple cow" stands apart from the many brown and black cows that populate the herd in any category; car dealerships, insurance agencies, dry cleaners, financial planners, or any company that sells everything from gas to groceries and anything in between.

Godin has argued that being a "purple cow" is vital in order to bust through the information clutter created by today's Twitterverse. But, why doesn’t everyone do it?

There are two reasons.

The first is that most people think the opposite of remarkable is “bad” or “poorly done”. Not so. Most companies sell stuff that is "good enough" or in some cases "very good". But, even "very good" is an everyday occurrence, hardly worth mentioning. KISS would never have filled stadiums and arenas all over the world by just being "very good".

KISS was, and still is, remarkable.

And now the second reason why a "purple cow" like a Gene Simmons or KISS is so rare.

Its because people are so afraid.

If you’re truly remarkable like Gene Simmons, Apple Computers, Harley-Davidson, WestJet, Lulu Lemon, or Dave Carroll, then it’s likely some people, especially the critics won’t like you. But, that goes with the turf. Nobody who is truly great gets 110% unanimous praise — ever.

If you are somewhat shy, reserved or timid when it comes to entering the branding arena, the best you can hope for is to be unnoticed.

Criticism comes to those who have the courage to stand out.

"A name means something and it doesn't matter what it is: whether it has music, whether it’s a religious symbol, a political symbol, a company or a politician – everything should be a brand”

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1 comment:

Kyle said...

Excellent post. I agree that many business owners are held back from being "remarkable" by fear and lack of confidence. It's vitally important to have focus, dedication and drive to push through the clutter and make a name for yourself.