Where to begin with Martha Stewart, “Queen of All Things Domestic”? She’s a person, of course, but she’s also a brand. She’s been a model, stockbroker, caterer, author and TV and radio personality, and is the founder of the multimedia and merchandising empire called Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia. She’s also a convicted felon. Most importantly, she was a guest last December on an episode of The Simpsons, doing a very funny parody of herself.
Because she has such a high profile, and such a distinctive personality, consumers’ feelings about her as a person affect their feelings about her products (most of the time; some people can separate the two). So it’s unavoidable for this netnography to be as much about Martha as about her products.
People love the Martha Stewart brands, including glitter, punch, flannel sheets, pumpkin carving kits, closet systems and much more.
Consumers also applaud her for having great ideas—and she certainly has a lot of them. (Reminds me of a favorite quote, from Linus Pauling, who won two Nobel Prizes: “The best way to have a good idea is to have a lot of ideas.”)
Her recipes are also favorites with consumers—and more than one mentions they like listening to her talk.
On the negative side, there’s Martha’s well-known conviction and jail time in 2004 for obstructing justice and lying to investigators about a stock sale. Consumers haven’t forgotten, and many hold it against her.
Not everyone is enthralled by Martha’s recipes.
Some consumers like Martha the person and all she stands for, and others don’t. Negative comments include “she scares me,” “she irritates me,” and “ she intimidates me.” This poster expresses a fairly common reaction to a woman whose approach to life seems out of touch with that of regular people.
Here’s a tweeter who can separate Martha the person from her products.
And here’s one who can’t.
Looking at the big picture, the overwhelming majority of positive comments are about Martha’s brands, ideas, recipes and products. The majority of negative comments (66 percent) are about her as a person, because people think she’s irritating, scary, untrustworthy, intimidating or boring—and a criminal.
So should she dissociate herself from the brand? Well, after her conviction, she resigned as head of Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, which comprises publishing, broadcasting and merchandising businesses. Although she resigned her formal leadership position with the company, it’s not possible to separate her image from the brand’s image, because it’s really all about her creative vision and personal sense of style and taste.
As for insights, all that comes to mind is that Martha is a polarizing figure, not just because of her crime, but because she’s a successful, beautiful, confident, creative perfectionist. You either like and admire that or you don’t, which often determines your decision to buy or not buy her company’s products. It wouldn’t be possible, or even desirable, for her to stop being who she is in the hope that that would help her company sell more products. It wouldn’t, because to a very large degree, her style and image is what makes the company’s products as successful as they are.