Ro Kohli has been in the entertainment industry for the past 20 or so years, first working in publicity, then in street marketing, where he headed up Roadrunner’s street team and did tour marketing. He initially started his own company, War Machine Marketing, as a street marketing company. However, the recession found the labels that had been hiring him previously asking him instead if he could make some of the items that he’d been handing out, which led him to what he does now. And while he’ll work with just about anyone, he wants to try to bring metal to what he does. “For me it’s always been about “How do I introduce metal into other aspects of life,” he says. “Metal and toys, metal and comic books. I brought Nuclear Blast and Century Media to ComicCon for the first time. I saw kids walking around in Iron Maiden shirts, and I was like “Why aren’t we here?”
While street marketing can be as basic as standing outside a concert and giving someone a flyer as they exit, Kohli says that there are simple, cost-effective ways for a band or artist to brand themselves. Instead of a flyer or CD, he suggests lighters. “You can make them cheap and make a ton of them,” he says. “Even if someone steals it, your brand still moves. Whether someone gives you $1 for it, or you give it away to someone, it’s not a whole lot of money out of your pocket. You’re still promoting to that guy. Especially in the hard rock genre and even country, people are always smoking something. That’s kind of the thing that people are always looking for.”
If money was no object, Kohli says the sky is the limit. “I think anything tech related is a good option,” he says. “Car chargers, wall chargers, backup batteries. People are into tech-related and off-the-wall types of things. Like how interesting would it be to go to a Metallica show and pick up a Metallica toaster that burns a Metallica logo on your toast? You can do that with Darth Vader, why can’t Metallica do that?” The company also makes custom-wrapped coffins. “In the end, how different is that from wrapping a truck or wrapping a bus?,” Kohli says. “People are buried in suits or dresses, which they might have hated wearing when they were alive, but to have them buried in an Iron Maiden coffin, if that guy was a fan, everyone knew that about him.”
Lately, there’s been a shift towards digital advertising as opposed to street marketing, but Kohli thinks that could change. “Millennials have grown up with [digital technology],” he says. “And I think that eventually it’s going to turn back around where these kids are going to think “You know, I actually want to hold a comic book in my hands,” or “I want a CD sampler or a flyer or postcard.” Now that most of those kids are in their 20s, I think there will be a bit of retro appeal, but they also don’t have the basis of comparison from piles and piles of fliers. We were once relieved to get rid of those fliers, but for them it’s sort of cool now to have things you can hold. It’s a new experience.”
One unique item War Machine Marketing offers is custom action figures. Want an action figure version of yourself as Deadpool or as a Stormtrooper? They can do that. Kohli works with a sculptor that creates action figures based off of photos of that person. He’d like to be able to make Slipknot figures or one of Megadeth’s mascot Vic Rattlehead. He said that a dildo bat was one of the oddest things he was asked to make. “For one of the Saints Row games, one of the weapons is a big penis dildo that’s like three feet long and they asked us to make that,” he says. “We totally would have got them made, but they needed them in three weeks. It would have to be more of a custom-made thing. They literally wanted people running around the San Diego Comic Con, beating each other with penis baseball bats.”
Another unique, one of a kind and priceless item that Kohli made is something we’re giving away: a custom poker chip made for Lemmy’s 70th birthday, just 15 days before he passed away. “Lemmy’s management told the Rainbow they wanted to make a bunch of stuff, and directed them to me,” Kohli says. “They already had a merchandise deal for Motorhead, but doing things like poker chips and napkins doesn’t really fall under a merch contract. That’s what we made, we only made 100 of them and they were only given out to the people at the venue. They were snatched up instantly. And they won’t be made again, so that’s why I like to keep a few extras. It’s a really cool snapshot in time, it was literally a few weeks before he passed.”
We’re giving away five of these one of a kind poker chips. To enter, just tell us what your favorite Motorhead song is below. We’ll pick four winners at random on June 27th from the contest entries and give a fifth away exclusively for those that have signed up to our weekly newsletter. Sorry, this contest is open to U.S. residents only.