Martha Stewart ~ A Case Study in Reputation Management

Martha Stewart Case StudyBy Ruth Zamoyta
January 2012

Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia has grown from one woman’s catering business to a domestic-arts conglomerate with licensing tentacles in everything from slotted spoons to new homes to cabernet. “Martha” is more than the person, more than the brand. When someone says, “That’s so martha,” she is alluding to a certain aesthetic in entertaining and home décor.

With tighter purse strings keeping people at home for gatherings and driving affluents to discount outlets—and with MSLO’s agreement with the JC Penney discount distribution channel—it was a good time to target a new demographic: the young aspirational woman who wants to impress her guests and will spend the extra dollar to make her home a beautiful place.

At the time, the demographic set for Martha Stewart Living magazine was the college-educated, home-owning woman in her upper 40s (on average) with an average HHI of $70k. Although MSLO had been operated at a net loss for a few years, that loss had been shrinking since 2008, and retail sales (excluding Kmart) had grown 48%, indicating that activity was picking up in their current demographic. It was critical for MSLO to maintain its reputation as the authority on high-end home entertaining and décor. This would also help capture younger, price-sensitive women who aspire to appoint their homes and events with the style and grace of the luxury crowd.

I recommended that MSLO place greater emphasis on the digital-format magazine circulation, apps, and alliances with services such as OpenSky and WeddingWire. I also suggested creating a gallery on marthastewart.com where people can post shareable content.

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