Martha Stewart is still alive and she’s at Staples

Apr 22, 2015

Is she still alive? That’s the question I got asked by one of the resident Millennials as I sat at my desk reading a Staples’ press release announcing the chain had reached a deal to sell a line of home office products under the Martha Stewart brand.

"We’re excited to team up with Martha Stewart to bring a new line of beautiful Martha Stewart Home Office products to our customers," said Demos Parneros, president of Staples North American stores and online, said in a statement. "The Martha Stewart Home Office products give our customers solutions they need to manage their home or home office in an attractive and functional way."

The deal marks the second time Ms. Stewart and Staples have worked together. The chain began selling Ms. Stewart’s branded office supplies, such as sticky notes, journals and rubber bands, in its stores and on its website in 2012.

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While known by Baby Boomers for her television shows, books and magazine focused on homemaking, there is a younger generation of consumers who may not be as familiar with Ms. Stewart. What value does the Stewart brand hold for them?

A 2012 USA Today article questioned whether the number of products bearing Ms. Stewart’s brand had diluted her trademark in the process. At the time, Michael Stone, co-founder and CEO of Beanstalk, a brand licensing firm, said, "If you ask 50 people what the Martha Stewart brand stood for, you’d get a lot of different answers, which is not really what a brand is all about. A brand is a consistent image in people’s minds."

How, if at all, has Martha Stewart’s brand equity changed over the last 10 or 20 years? What challenges or opportunities does this represent for retailers that sell Martha Stewart-branded products?

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9 Comments on "Martha Stewart is still alive and she’s at Staples"

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Paula Rosenblum
2 years 8 months ago

Clearly said Millennial was not watching Martha’s epic performance at the Justin Bieber roast. The clip has been zooming around the internet.

I think the JC Penney/Macy’s farkle created a lot of trouble for her. I see her attempting to re-build. Will she be able to? I think so, but the market will be different.

Max Goldberg
2 years 8 months ago

Today the Martha Stewart brand stands for relatively little, and as the company branches out into areas like office supplies its core story diminishes even more. The challenge for retailers who decide to sell Stewart-branded products is to make the brand relevant to consumers, which will create demand. Personally, I don’t see how a brand that was built on recipes and entertaining is relevant to office supplies. It seems like quite a stretch.

Kai Clarke
2 years 8 months ago

Martha Stewart’s brand is a mess. She has not focused her efforts as she did earlier in her career, and after her stint in jail she has failed to reinvigorate her name/brand. This has only brought about more confusion and a loss of real appeal.

Kelly Tackett
2 years 8 months ago

Of course she’s alive. She’s BFF with Kanye and busy roasting the Biebs. Is she relevant? Beyond her pop culture status, that’s a far different matter. Her name is still plastered on everything from cat toys to duvets, but I struggle to see any real engagement with her as a brand personality. And in the era of peer reviews, having Martha’s seal of approval just doesn’t add much value.

Anne Howe
2 years 8 months ago

Roasting Bieber? Is Martha Stewart trying to be the next Joan Rivers?

What does her brand represent today? A hodgepodge of unrelated categories.

Where is her retail point of difference? Gone.

This doesn’t add up to a comeback, IMHO.

Cathy Hotka
2 years 8 months ago

Martha Stewart is ubiquitous, with a sharply-defined identity.

The more interesting story here is the rise of the home office and the increasing number of people who are successfully self-employed. Staples has catered to this market for years, but now may find that they can hold back competition from Amazon and Walmart by having desirable private-label products for entrepreneurs.

Gene Detroyer
2 years 8 months ago

What value does the Martha Stewart brand hold for office products? Certainly not enough to pay a premium for!

Craig Sundstrom
2 years 8 months ago

Sticky notes? Maybe tacky notes would be a better description.

Anyway, while most here agree the brand has little equity, my concern (if I were a retailer considering a branding opportunity) would be that it might actually have negative equity (if that’s the right word for it): few things, methinks, will make a customer turn away from a product faster than it being labeled yesterday’s trend.

Carol Spieckerman
2 years 8 months ago

One visit to her website and a quick scroll through the comments on her prolific, beautiful and well-written blog will confirm that there are many, many die-hard Martha fans out there (count me in). I love her Staples products, particularly her notebooks and I know many people who, like me, head to Staples just to buy the line. Unfortunately, most of the Staples stores I’ve visited do a horrible job of merchandising the collection. It’s often a shop-off-the-floor experience and out-of-stocks are common. Maybe it’s Martha’s brand partners who need to step up their game.


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