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Monday, May 31, 2004

Stewart's Community Service Strategy

CNN reports Martha Stewart is offering to conduct community service to lighten her sentence. OK, clearly a last minute ploy. Had she started doing this earlier, it might have made an impact. Now it merely comes off as panic.

It is the right thing for Martha to do however. It's the one thing she has not passed along to others through her franchise. She helps America learn how to cook, clean and craft. She could help underprivileged women enormously by helping them learn business skills.

Thursday, May 27, 2004

Grounds for appeal changes game

Perjury charges brought against a government witness have the Stewart legal team prepping for next week when they will request a new trial. The charges give Stewart grounds for appeal and a last chance at staving off a prison sentence.

Yes, you might say, "it's a good thing."

The June sentencing is the other shoe dropping as it relates to this case. Prior to the verdict in March, Stewart, MSLO and companies like K-Mart were all in limbo. Separate strategies were waiting to be implemented based on a guilty or not guilty verdict. These companies are in a similar state as we wait to see if Martha Stewart will do time in prison.

Before the above news, it was merely a question of HOW long she might serve. This changes the game and, I suspect, her lawyers are not the only team shuffling plans accordingly.

Thursday, May 20, 2004

Al Ries Weighs In On Martha Stewart

In a recent interview with Strategic Public Relations, author, brand guru and PR proponent, Al Ries weighed in on MSLO's chances without Martha Stewart.
SPR: Martha Stewart's case is calling the wisdom of brand personification into question. Do you think Martha's brand can survive without her? Do you think brand personification is a good idea?

Ries: No, we don't think the Martha Stewart brand can survive without her, but we do think that brand personification is a good idea.

For every failure (Martha Stewart) there are many successes. Ralph Lauren, Calvin Klein, Tommy Hilfiger, Donald Trump, George Foreman and many others.
The full interview is available here.

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

All eyes on June sentencing

Martha Stewart's TV Show is on hiatus until her June sentencing. Her TV show and media empire have been hardest hit by her scandal/crisis/legal issues. Not surprising they are waiting. It adds even more suspense to Cedarbaum's sentencing.

Wednesday, May 12, 2004

Oprah Takes Aim

We’re a scant four weeks away from the sentencing and the story continues to evolve as Martha blames everyone but herself.

For sake of discussion, let's oversimplify Martha Stewart’s empire into media and retail. While the news media has been quick to point out how the conviction is impacting MSLO quarterly earnings, retail is doing well. Depending on which story you read, you will see that the stock is down five percent or that MSLO lost $20 million last quarter.

If earnings continue to plummet, the NY Post predicts we will see more changes at MSLO.
The bottom line? Look for mass layoffs, running well over 100, coming soon - and that's just for starters. At its current headcount of 545, the company has barely cut back at all from its peak of 610 employees just two years ago. Look as well for an announcement, after a suitable interval, that the company plans to relocate to more "suitable" (read: cheap) offices elsewhere than its present digs in Midtown and TriBeCa.
So I send a shout out to those members of the press that ran with the five percent to keep things in perspective. Martha does not need any help painting this bleak picture.

Or does she?

Martha’s new plan is to prove that MSLO cannot survive without her presence. Forbes first broke this story last month (see below). This is a great plan to keep Martha in her farmhouse instead of the big house, but it conflicts with MSLO’s strategy of distancing themselves from Stewart.

Media Post provides us with inconsistency’s case in point as it details MSLO’s plans for Martha Stewart Living magazine.
Martha Stewart Living will retain its name, but undergo other alterations: Stewart's column will disappear by next month's issue, and the cover will be redesigned for the September issue.

”While retaining the name Martha Stewart--which connotes brand attributes of quality expert information and a unique sense of style--we will place greater emphasis on the name 'Living' as the brand label," Chief Executive Officer Sharon Patrick said Friday morning.

Patrick said that a survey found most readers felt it was too early to take Stewart's name off the magazine, but that it was important to make changes to the cover. The subscribers didn't seem to be put off by the verdict.

"These results demonstrate how much our subscribers value the key attributes associated with the name 'Martha Stewart,' and how much progress we have made in evolving the brand from expert personality to trusted brand attributes and brand labels," Patrick said.
Doph! Speaking of publishing, did I mention how well retail is doing?

Oprah just announced a new home magazine to capitalize on MSLO’s publishing funk and pick up Martha readers. This is a smart move on O’s part. She no longer has Rosie’s magazine to contend with and Rosie was handily addressing the Oprah audience and the Martha audience. Her approach might have been much different from Oprah and Martha, but she delivered.

Here is a good exercise in brand personification—compare and contrast Oprah, Rosie and Martha. Rosie shows us a brand tied to an individual can survive scandal.

Wednesday, May 05, 2004

No Go on New Trial

Martha Stewart's request for a new trial was denied today. Her legal team may have one or two more plays to run between now and June, but more than likely Martha will wind up doing some time.

One result of Martha Stewart's prison sentence could be further distancing from her by Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia (MSLO). They've already started to introduce products without her name—the publishing side that is, the retail side is still seeing brisk sales. In fact, The New York Times reports that "since June, when Stewart was indicted on charges of conspiracy and obstruction of justice, Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia has applied for 12 trademarks—none of which include her name."

I'm also predicting that MSLO might start referring themselves as just that...MSLO. I call it pulling a KFC. Unfortunately, this is no longer an accurate statement as KFC tries to distract us from the sizzle and crackle of the deep fryer by evolving from Kentucky Fried Chicken to KFC and now to Kitchen Fresh Chicken? They should have stopped at KFC.