Martha Stewarts brand research

The release of Martha Stewart from the United States federal prison system prompted a number of news reports about how her experience will affect Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia [MSO].

Here’s how Ms. Stewart’s experience will affect her company. Although certainly not how she would have preferred it, by serving her time in a federal prison Martha Stewart was tendered a gift — a five-month gift of intense market research — learning how a broad cross section of women lived, and hope to live, their lives.

This research will lead to a repositioning of the Martha Stewart brand — one driven to further build the brand through emotional connections with the market. As reported by the Associated Press in the New York Times:

With barely a break since she was released from a federal women’s prison…on Friday, a beaming [Martha] Stewart told several hundred employees Monday that she’s learned a lot about the country through the cross section of people she met in prison. That’s made her realize that the company she founded…focused too much on the technical aspects of entertaining or cooking in its editorial content, and not enough on why people need to take care of each other.

Noting a growing need to “preserve meaningful traditions” in a rapidly changing world, Stewart pledged…the company is going to deepen its bond “with the millions who read our publications and watch our television programs. And we’re going to engage and inspire new readers and new viewers for whom these topics may have seemed alien, unfamiliar or even — believe it or not — superficial.”

…Where Martha Stewart Living once focused on functional benefits in its editorial, it is now becoming more aware of the “emotional power of the brand.”

For her company this is powerful brand strategy. The emotional power of a brand is unlocked by identifying how a consumer feels and acts when using or affiliating with a brand, and WHY she feels and acts in that way. These emotional benefits, when connected up with the brand’s key point of difference, lie at the heart of any great brand strategy. This connection elevates a brand to one of contemporary relevance, and separates a brand from those of competitors.

While Martha Stewart cannot rewind the events of the recent past and start over, she can begin anew. With five months of introspection and the equivalent of intense market research into human thoughts and feelings, the company will benefit from Ms. Stewart’s heightened self-awareness of the emotional drivers behind the businesses of MSO.

For Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, and for Martha Stewart, it’s a good thing.


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