On Feb. 18, 1974, Casablanca Records released Kiss’s first album, Kiss. It didn’t do very well. Critics and listeners who had followed rock music in its post-Beatles era turn into serious, high-minded stuff dismissed the band as a novelty act. Upon seeing them perform for the first time, executives from Warner Bros. dissolved their partnership with Casablanca. Despite a considerable amount of tinkering and several attempts at releasing a single that would catch on with pop listeners it initially sold only 75,000 copies, a flop at the time.
Forty years later Kiss’s debut is ensconced firmly in the rock canon, and after years of being passed over for acts with more critical respect the band will be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame this April. Some of the credit goes to the music itself, which blended bits of glam and heavy metal with unexpected pop hooks. But mostly the album, and the group that made it, were a success because of some of the most brilliant and successful marketing the music industry’s ever seen. From makeup to caskets, here’s a look back at Kiss’s marketing strategy.