When Gemini Cosmetics prepared to launch the KISS Her and KISS Him fragrances, brand extensions of the iconic '70s rock band, president and CEO Neil Katz knew conventional wisdom could cloud an accurate understanding of the product. The perception was that the band and its frontman, Gene Simmons, were only relevant to aging boomers.
"Kiss is not a band or a person, it's a brand," Katz notes. He called on LSZ Communications to help overcome "a certain perception that perhaps KISS wasn't relevant to today's consumer," says Lori Zelenko, agency principal.
The campaign focused on grassroots efforts around a 12-city tour in which Simmons made in-store public appearances to promote the fragrances. "We wanted as much local exposure as possible," says Zelenko. There also was an overlay of national outreach.
The strategy was to use PR as the primary tool for driving in-store traffic and generating sales.
PR messaging concentrated on positioning the fragrance as a lifestyle concept. "The goal was to reach beyond the KISS fan base to hit mainstream media," Zelenko explains, "and draw in a mainstream consumer who accepts the idea of the first kiss being emblematic of romance and the idea that it's fun to be mysterious and get outside of yourself."
Before the tour kicked off, Zelenko conducted trade outreach, which landed an April 2006 cover story in Women's Wear Daily, and worked with long-lead publications to generate fall/holiday editorial on the fragrances.
For the tour, PR primarily depended on radio promotions and interviews and local newspaper coverage, with TV being a focus once Simmons arrived in each market.
Zelenko created releases and pitches, coordinated media with Gemini staff on the ground in local markets, booked radio interviews before events, as well as live remotes, and coordinated radio giveaways.
"Kiss having been around for a long time, the radio was key; the radio people had relationships with [Simmons] in some markets and really wanted to talk to him again," she says.
Gemini also worked with KISS Online to spread the word to fans, and the Web site chronicled the tour with a blog, photos, and daily updates.
"At each stop, we would get two to five radio stations covering this phenomenon," says Zelenko.
Print coverage included the Detroit Free Press, Philadelphia Daily News, and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. ABC World News Tonight and CNN were key among TV coverage that reached more than 1 million people.
Typically, 2,500 people came to each store appearance, and the fragrance hit the top five in retail.
"Business was up 100% in the stores during [the personal appearances]," Katz notes via e-mail. "Sales generated all-time records with a minimum of $25,000 in just a few hours and, in some locations, $50,000."
"PR here was the primary tool for driving in-store traffic and making sales happen," says Zelenko. "And it is intended to be instrumental in expanding distribution and opening new doors."
She adds that there possibly will be another Simmons road tour in the spring.
PR team: Gemini Cosmetics (New York) and LSZ Communications (New York)
Campaign: KISS Her and KISS Him fragrance launch
Duration: April 2006-ongoing
Budget: About $100,000
The fragrance launch posed a major challenge in that the essence of KISS essentially defies what the whole beauty business is about. But by aligning the message with the band and promoting the "get outside yourself" angle, the effort actually exceeded all expectations.
Taking a simple, grassroots approach to each market was key, and Zelenko wisely capitalized on the band's tie to the fragrances by focusing on radio outreach. PR was able to help draw a variety of consumers to the public appearances, ranging in age from 2 months to 80 years old and, in some cases, coming from hundreds of miles away.