Case Study – Martha Stewart



Martha Stewart is not just a person, she is a brand and a household name at that. There is no better case study for anyone looking to create a personal brand. Martha is a business magnate, media personality, author and magazine publisher. She is the owner and founder of Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia which is a diversified media and merchandising company that is composed of publishing, internet, broadcasting media platforms and merchandising product lines. Her’s is a fine empire to aspire to.

MSLO owns a variety of print publications (like Martha Stewart Living Magazine and Everyday Food), television and radio programs (like The Martha Stewart Show and Martha Bakes) and e-commerce websites (

 Martha was born in New Jersey to middle class Polish parents. She became the occasional babysitter for the children of Micky Mantle and Yogi Berra of the New York Yankees. She would organize birthday parties and babysit all four boys. The parents were all amazed at how well they would behave for Martha. That was how her career into domesticity began!

She learned how to cook and sew from her mother. Her grandmother taught her the process of canning and her father shared with her his avid fascination with gardening. She began modeling in high school, along with her many extracurricular activities such as the school newspaper and art club.  Martha was featured in several television and print ads. She graduated high school with straight A’s and was given a partial scholarship to Barnard College.

 During this time Martha studied architectural history and met her husband Andrew Stewart. She left Barnard to be married and had her first and only child Alexis. She returned to Barnard a year later and graduated with a double major in History and Architectural History.

 A little known fact is that in 1967 Martha became a stockbroker. This is an interesting tidbit because Martha actually spent some time in jail in 2004 for insider trading. However it was after moving to Westport , Conneticut and restoring an old farm house that Martha began to fully pursue her domestic abilities. She started a catering business in her basement and shortly after opened her own store. She met the head of a prominent publishing company through her husband and soon began publishing cookbooks. Her book “Entertaining” became a New York Times Best Seller in 1982. It became the best selling cookbook since Julia Child’s “Mastering the Art of French Cooking.”

From then on Martha began to release a slew of books on cooking and entertaining and also wrote numerous newspaper columns. However, it was her television exposure on shows like Oprah, Larry King Live and CBS’s the Early Show that foreshadowed her television success.

 In 1990, Martha Stewart Living magazine was born. By 2002 circulation was at more than 2 million copies per issue. In 1993, she began a weekly half hour show, which quickly turned into a weekly full hour show, and later to an hour long show each day.

The cover of the May 1995 issue, New York Magazine declared her as “the definitive American woman of our time”.  Now that is a statement!

 In 1997, Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia was formed and there has been no looking back since.  Martha felt that organizing all of the brand’s assets under one roof, would promote synergy and that she would have greater control of the brand’s direction through the business’s activities.

In addition to her media group, she also has many exclusive and expansive lines and partnerships with powerhouses such as Macy’s, Michael’s and Home Depot. Martha does not simply loan out her name, she is involved in almost every aspect of product development and production for these collections from concept to creation. No detail is too small for Martha from finding the perfect inspiration for a paint color to ensuring that her products have the best packaging on the shelves. It is this focus and consistent delivery of quality that has created the value behind the Martha Stewart brand for decades.

 She penned a book on business and branding titled “The Martha Rules” in 2005.  Her tale resounds with the message that an empire starts with a single step. If you look at Martha’s trail of success it becomes apparent that her continuous luck, is not luck at all, but the ability to understand the needs of her customers and deliver products and services that are above and beyond.


Want to build a fabulous personal brand? Then focus on YOUR wants and needs.

 Want to build a successful personal brand? Focus on the wants and needs of YOUR CUSTOMERS.

 Martha Stewart is not successful because she has excellent taste (all though she does.). Martha Stewart is successful because she is incredibly in tune with new and innovative ways to constantly be adding value to the lives of her customers. She has created an empire by identifying that women wanted to learn how to become better keepers of their home and so she created the inspiration, information and product line needed to do so! She made her brand the one stop shop for becoming a better cook, decorator, gardener, and crafter. She’ll show you the amazing results of doing things her way via gorgeous imagery in her magazine, then she’ll teach you how to do it and then sell you the products that you need. It’s pure brilliance!

 Sure Martha has a passion for all things in the domestic sphere, but she is quoted as saying that she does not produce or sell any information or products that she does not believe will enhance the lives of her customers. Sometimes what you don’t sell or produce is even more important than what you do. When you are building a personal brand it is easy to include everything that you love, when really you should be extremely selective about creating a focused group of what you love that can create value for others. The better your offerings the less you need to begin. A successful business isn’t just about having something to sell, it is about having a solution for your customer’s problems. Even something as frivolous as a monogrammed pillow is not just a pillow, it a solution for my customers who are in need of a gift to give at their friend’s baby shower.

Once you start viewing your business as a means to creating solutions you will be heading in the right direction for understanding what you should be offering and how to best market it. Once you understand this concept it appears obvious, but an over-saturated marketplace full of struggling businesses selling useless products and services tells us it is not obvious at all.

As entrepreneurs, we are creators. We spend much of our time producing products and services that reflect upon our perspective, experience and taste. But smart entrepreneurs know that success lies in keeping the wants and needs of our customers in the forefront of our minds.


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