What would you say if I were to tell you that you can step into a conference about branding and get out in love with a rock band? You might think I am crazy, but hear me out.

Last week I attended a conference called “Rock & Roll Branding”. Strange name, right?

Jordi-Ballera_okThe conference was organized by a renowned digital art school in Madrid – , and had as a host – Director of Edelman, Madrid Office. It sounded challenging, so I said “why not”. I signed up.

Mr. Ballera is a well-known PR expert on the Spanish communications market. You had the chance to read him in several posts, on this blog. What you didn’t know is that he is also a very passionate fan of the famous rock & roll American band – KISS.

For those of you who don´t know, KISS is an American rock band formed in 1973, well known for its members black and white face paint. According to Wikipedia, the original 1973–80 lineup of the band consisted of Paul Stanley (vocals and rhythm guitar), Gene Simmons (vocals and bass guitar), Ace Frehley (lead guitar and vocals) and Peter Criss (drums and vocals).

Screen Shot 2014-01-12 at 10.52.08 PM

Now, back to the conference.

I entered a regular conference room where we were invited to take a seat and given the usual promotional material: a notebook and a pen with Trazos logo and a flyer on the school. But there stopped the regular part of the conference. All of a sudden the room went dark (just like in a rock concert) and, on the stage, Mr. Ballera started charming the audience. Sometimes joking, sometimes being dead-serious, Mr. Ballera made an accurate analysis of the KISS brand.

For two straight hours we were given a lesson on what branding means and how to build  and maintain it for over 40 years and along the way transform it into an empire.

You might ask, what branding lessons can anyone learn from a rock band, really?

Well, let´s take it one by one:

As a brand you have to choose and build an image differentiated from your competition, to draw attention. Ask yourself how do you want to be remembered by your audience?

KISS started as the “bad boys” of the American rock stage in the early 70´s, but quickly understood that that was not the way to gain more public, nor to remain in their memory. They changed the message and became the “good guys”. They started telling their story, how they met, what made them get together, what drove them. They created a message for the public, a story to be told every time someone pronounced their name  – KISS, they became storytellers.

You cannot be a storyteller if you don´t have a mission, a vision and values. So KISS, did exactly that: they created their own mission and started showing the world their vision and values.

Every time they take the stage, they address to the audience with “You wanted the best you got the best”. Every single time, in every single concert. They defined themselves as the best rock band in the world, and they weren´t shy to share it. Branding lesson: “Define yourself before others define you!”

KISS, as so many success stories, dreamt big, but started small, giving the best and becoming the best along the way. Branding lesson:Act as if you were what you want to be and people will believe you. Do not keep your best song for the end. Give the best of you in each and every moment and keep your promises day after day!”

Unlike other rock bands, they worked hard and as a team all along. They had their problems, but they knew how to handle them so that the brand won´t suffer.

So, overnight (over a 40 years night!) KISS became one of the most influential rock & roll band of all times.

In this journey they got involved in the community, they helped the causes they believed in, they created an army of fans all over the world, they invested, becoming one of the biggest brands in US. Branding lesson: “Constantly innovate, tell your own story, because you´re unique, pay attention to the ones around you and get out there!”

“The band holds honors as one of America’s top gold record champions, selling over 100 million albums worldwide in their 40 year career. KISS’ career milestones are staggering, boasting decades of record-breaking tours around the globe. Notable moments include appearances at Super Bowl XXXIII, the 2002 Winter Olympics, the 2005 Rockin’ The Corps concert for U.S. troops Iraq and Afghanistan, and performing on 2009’s American Idol finale to 30 million viewers. The KISS legacy continues to grow, generation after generation, transcending age, race and creed. The unparalleled devotion and loyalty of the KISS Army to the “Hottest Band in the World” is a striking testament to the band’s unbreakable bond with its fans.” – from http://www.kissonline.com.

Before ending, Mr. Ballera launched an interesting concept on how to “judge” a brand. He called it “the tattoo test”.

Is a brand so important to you that you would tattoo its logo on your body?

Now, that´s a tough question!

As marketers, we should ask ourselves this question every time we want to send a message out there. Is our message so strong that people will fall in love with the brand, that they might tattoo the brand´s logo on their bodies? If the answer is no, maybe we should rethink our strategy.

Mr. Ballera kept the conference room breathlessly. I don´t know when the two hours passed. I enjoyed every minute and I liked how he kept the audience engaged.

I entered the conference without knowing what to expect and got out in love with the KISS band. That my friends, means to be a great storyteller.

I remain with “A brand is a state of mind”. And, in case you were wondering, KISS means Keep It Simple Stupid!