The domestic diva, Martha Stewart, is watching her media conglomerate do not so good things. It just reported plunging sales and a second quarter operating loss of $2.9 million. Publishing and broadcast units reported losses, reveues down 16%. Ad pages are evaporating for most titles. Wherever did all those loyal fans go?
Well, loyalty to the brand has never been what it was. Not after Ms. Stewart was convicted on four felony counts in 2004. When you are a human brand, it’s really, really hard to separate your personal life from your brand activities, no matter how much Martha insisted that was so at the time.
The scandal – and resulting jail term – didn’t affect perceptions of her creativity, or entrepreneurship, or elegant wardrobe. None of those human brand values changed. What did – dramatically – was the element of trust; in the woman and, therefore, in the brand. Sorry, human brand. Eight years ago “Brand Trust” accounted for a 30% contribution to consumer engagement. Now it’s even higher – Nearer to 40%.
The trick for a brand in that situation is to:
1) Understand precisely what drives loyalty and engagement in your category (drivers do change category-to-category), what expectations consumers hold for those drivers, and how the brand matches up on those drivers and to those expectations. Then, all you have to do is 2) Get the human brand to behave accordingly. Usually #1 is the toughest of the two steps because most brand metrics don’t really measure those accurately. But looking back, Martha wasn’t the most cooperative brand as regards #2 either.
But here’s a bone that can be thrown to investors. Apparently, Martha can look to man’s (and woman’s) best, and according to many, most loyal of friends. Demand for her exclusive line of Martha Stewart-branded doggie bowls and squeak toys is strong, and helped fetch $15 million of revenue for the merchandise division.
It’s been said that dogs are not our whole life, but they make our lives whole. And under the right set of circumstances, a brand’s bottom line too.
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