Wal-Mart Isn't Kutting Korners to Kapitalize on KISS and Put Target in a Pearl Jam

In its battle of the bands with Target, Wal-Mart is getting serious.

Or perhaps delirious, but, no matter what, its latest entertainment initiative looks to be fun and productive.

Wal-Mart revealed yesterday that it would be mounting what it refers to as KISS Korners in its electronics and Halloween aisles to support its exclusive distribution of the band's new album Sonic Boom.

Among the featured items involved are Mr. Potato Head versions of all four band members in full makeup. That's not all, of course, even if the Mr. Potato Heads are likely to be a couldn't-top-them-with-sour-cream marketing and sales success, particularly among hard-core KISS fans. The multifaceted KISS Korner merchandise initiative will be in place when Sonic Boom releases on Oct. 6 exclusively at Walmart stores, Sam's Clubs and Walmart.com. The release certainly counts as a value proposition, given that the eleven-track CD is part of a three-disc set that also features a new generation KISS greatest hits CD and a live DVD shot in Argentina during the band's South American tour, all for $12 bucks. Clearly, Wal-Mart is making a pricing statement with its recent entertainment products, one that may pressure other retailers. Recall that Wal-Mart released its latest Myley Cyrus exclusive as a seven track CD selling for $8, or, on Wal-Mart .com, as a $7 download. Many Wal-Mart stores put the CD in the racks early, in time for a selling opportunity over the last weekend of August. That's a prime back to school selling slot with lots of kids in stores, and eight bucks is something many can afford and others, given the price under $10, might talk their parents into purchasing. Myley was not happy with the stores that sold the CD prematurely, however, as the three day early release blew the album's chance of debuting at the top of the music charts the next week. She had to settle for a number three open.

Kiss Korners will promote the album and provide fans with an additional opportunity to purchase value-priced merchandise ranging from $5 KISS t-shirts to $10 for the Mr. Potato Head "kollectables." While the electronics department displays may be more instrumental in driving music sales -- the band's catalog of earlier recordings will be available, too, with CDs ranging in price from $5 to $9 -- the Halloween department KISS Korners could clean up on a particular item, full makeup kits, including character-appropriate wigs, that allow consumers to take on the look of their favorite band member for just five bucks.

Wal-Mart will have a lot of help in promoting its KISS enterprise, as Gene Simmons, band spokesman and deal-maker extraordinaire, will put every effort into maximizing the financial opportunities that arise from the release of Sonic Boom. Besides a commitment to live performance support, he's already pitching Dr Pepper in a major ad campaign for the beverage's new cherry flavor, one that will bring more attention to the band, the album and Wal-Mart. So expect a full-scale acoustic and commercial KISS assault, one that should make the retailer an even bigger presence on the entertainment and Halloween scenes than it has been.

As for Target, well, Pearl Jam has put out a good initial single, The Fixer, for its upcoming album Backspacer, which Target will distribute as exclusive chain retailer and in a deal with iTunes that should benefit it in the long run. Yet, somehow, an Eddie Vedder Mr. Potato Head might be cutting things a little too close for anyone's comfort.