What’s important to you? Being popular? Making money? Putting a product you believe in into the marketplace?
America’s homemaking icon, Martha Stewart, has managed yet again to get serious media attention by becoming the most popular girl on the department store playground.
Earlier this year, J.C. Penney offered Martha millions of dollars for the rights to sell Martha Stewart-branded household products in their store to help with J.C. Penney’s turnaround strategy.
This would seem like a great business venture for Martha had she not already sold exclusive rights to her home products to Macy’s, and signed a contract that prohibited any other store from selling these exclusives.
In essence, Martha sold the same rights twice and offended Macy’s by making a deal with a less upscale department store. And all for a few extra million bucks
So what’s a girl to do? J.C. Penney claims that Martha is a critical piece of their turnaround strategy, while Macy’s says they need Martha products to drive growth. In Macy’s defense, they did take the initial risk by selling her products post prison sentence. Does she owe Macy’s a thank you? Or is she simply saying, “It’s been real, I’ll be moving on now.”
The battle over Martha makes me wonder, when a brand starts to grow up, should it pledge allegiance to the retailer who gave it its first break? Or should it consider financial gains and test other department store waters? Why should she be banned from J.C. Penney shoppers? Their consumers have homes to decorate and meals to cook, too. Why shouldn’t penny pincher Pam in the Midwest, who doesn’t have access to a Macy’s but has a Penney in her mall, be denied easy access to a jewel-toned casserole dish?
From a branding standpoint, one can argue that long-term brand building equities wins over short-term financial gains. But since Martha Stewart Living is an established brand, can she afford to take more risks?
Debate as you will. At the end of the day, Martha has managed to come out on top. Matt Lauer recently grilled her on her retailer popularity. He made an interesting analogy around his feelings being hurt if Martha did all cooking segments on the Today Show, and all decorating segments on CBS This Morning. In the fourth hour of that same Today Show segment, she was cheffing up some delicious meatloaf.
So I guess her brand lives on.