Like most hardcore KISS fans, I was excited to find out about the release of KISS' Sonic Boom way back in October of 2009. What I wasn't so wild about was that KISS was releasing the album exclusively at Wal-Mart and the massive department store had plans for exclusive KISS promotional areas known as KISS Korners.
I'm sure that when KISS sat down with Wal-Mart executives, Gene Simmons probably saw the potential for making tons of cash with the exclusive deal, but I don't believe that even he was able to see just how badly Wal-Mart would botch their end of the deal.
Of course, Gene and the rest of KISS had nothing but good things to go on. Popular acts like The Eagles and Garth Brooks had very successful exclusive runs with Wal-Mart, and AC/DC, the last group to have an exclusive promotion with the retail giant, saw their album Black Ice rocket to #1 in sales behind a very aggressive in-store campaign that featured large displays in storefronts and in the music department that included t-shirts and reduced prices on their older albums.
KISS, always one to do things bigger than everybody else, took things to the next level with the KISS Korner, a display very much like AC/DC's display, but with everything from KISS M&M's and blankets to KISS t-shirts and even Halloween makeup. They also did a hilarious commercial that had a lot of people, including my KISS-hating wife, laughing out loud.
The only problem was that Wal-Mart completely misfired with the promotion, with many stores not even bothering to set up the displays or having the KISS items scattered all over the place. While I completely understand the stores having the Halloween makeup, masks, and wigs in the seasonal department of the store, I don't see why everything else couldn't be found in the KISS Korner.
Depending on which store you went to, you might find KISS Mr. Potato Heads in the music department, toy department, or on some random aisle in the craft department. The KISS M&M's were literally all over the place, being found in just about every department that had empty shelf space. The KISS t-shirts, cheaply priced at only five dollars, were usually in the men's clothing area (understandable) but instead of set up in a highly visible area in order to make them stand out, they were jumbled in with all of the other cheap t-shirts available at the store. The KISS blankets and action figures were the hardest items to find, if the store you happened to be in sold them at all. In my area alone, only one of the four local Wal-Marts sold the blankets and action figures. I managed to find the blankets in the Halloween area and the action figures smashed somewhere between Thomas the Tank Engine and Little People toys in the preschool area!
They even botched the release of Sonic Boom. The album wasn't supposed to hit shelves until October 6th, but Wal-Mart apparently forgot to tell their employees, as the album was readily available a few days before that. Of course, this mistake was in my favor, so I snatched up the album as soon as I saw it. At first, I thought that it might have been some sort of single release of Modern Day Delilah, the album's first single, but nope, it was a Wal-Mart screw-up.
The only good thing about the whole KISS Korner debacle was that people who wouldn't normally be exposed to KISS were given heavy doses of it all over the department stores. Imagine the look on granny's face when she bends down to pick-up some M&M's to hand out to kiddies on Halloween and the Demon's tongue is wagging back at her from the candy bag! Or how about the toddler who wants a new toy train and he sees Paul Stanley straddling his guitar next to Thomas the Train!
While the album managed to reach #2 in it's debut, I often wonder that if Wal-Mart had done a better job with the KISS Korner promotions, would Sonic Boom have made it to #1? We will never know.
Hopefully KISS won't do the same thing with their newest album, Monster, expected to land in 2012. Oh, here's that commercial I mentioned earlier. I love the smirk from Tommy Thayer (Spaceman) when the members of the group are first introduced as the newest Wal-Mart employees, as well as Gene's expression while scanning an Aerosmith album for a customer.
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