Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia (A) (2002) Harvard Business School Case (Fournier, Winig, Herman, Wojnicki)
Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia (MSLO), a branded and integrated content and media company dedicated to “elevating the role of the homemaker,” went public on October 19, 1999, creating a company with a market value of $1.73 billion, and a stake for Stewart worth $1.2 billion. Aretha Jackson, president of a private investment firm, must counsel a client on whether to invest in MSLO–a precarious prospect in light of the steady downward plunge in MSLO stock performance since the IPO. Risks outlined in the company’s S-1 filing also highlighted special concerns specific to the management of the “Person-Brand.” Could the company outlive Stewart? What if Stewart’s reputation or image was tarnished? How, exactly, did the reputation of Stewart affect the value of the brand? Jackson must understand what meanings Martha Stewart claimed, and for whom, while also coming to grips with the meaning-management principles that applied in “managing Martha,” the person and the brand. From a cultural meaning-management point of view, the person-brand context is unique in that it must consider two significant sources of meaning, both of which must be managed: 1) the public (the brand face) and 2) the private (the person face). Also considers the special meaning-management issues involved with multivocality of the brand proposition: i.e., the embodiment of multiple, and perhaps conflicting, meanings within one brand for various consumer audiences. This is an important meaning-management theme as it involves MSLO’s engagements with K-Mart and the formulation of future line extension ideas.