Martha Stewart: All brand new?


Martha Stewart: Who is she? Or should the question be, "What is it?" Life can be difficult when everything you do can be attributed to the company you keep. Especially when you end up going to jail. Guilty or not, one way or another, the company ends up being affected. How do you deal with that?

Martha Stewart is showing real class when it comes to a situation that would cause others to wilt, shrivel up and disappear. (read more)

And because of that, so is her company. Her new show is bringing her back with a bit of a friendlier image, mentioning her time in the slammer enough that you wonder if she might be pushing it a bit. Her new role on The Apprentice shows her to be a tough business person, but with a bit of a softer side than Donald Trump. She insisted on firing people by letter, instead of on the screen. The producers didn't like the idea, but how are you going to argue with Martha Stewart?

So, what part is Company, and what part is Martha? The two have to blend in some cases. Where does marketing, as in shopping cart and organic escarole meet marketing, as in brand image and sales?

Trying to separate the two can be a vexing process. Martha the Person is from Nutley, New Jersey. She rose up from the middle class to become a model, a stock broker, a caterer, and one of the most important people in late 20th and early 21st century America. How do you beat that?

Martha the Company--that is, Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, Inc. (MSLO)-- "…operates in four segments: Publishing, Television, Merchandising, and Internet/Direct Commerce (IDC) through which it creates and distributes content and merchandise primarily in eight areas, including home, cooking and entertaining, gardening, crafts, holidays, keeping, and baby and kids."

Martha Stewart the Person is friends with Sean "Puff Daddy or Diddy or PD or whatever" Combs. Martha Stewart the Company has a double dutch contest on her show in which the majority of the contestants are white.

Martha Stewart the Person learned how to cook from her mother. Martha Stewart the Company has her mother on the show to teach others the same tricks.

Martha Stewart the Person has a fully loaded hot dog at Pinks in Hollywood named after her. Martha Stewart the Company has her eating sandwiches on the air that the health conscious world won't touch.

Martha Stewart the Person loves animals and always has them around her. Martha Stewart the Person also reportedly has some black horses she won't let go out in the sunlight because it will cause them to change color.

Martha Stewart the Person was a very good stockbroker who was friends with Brian Dennehy, the actor, who was by all accounts a very bad stock broker.

She is the Person that the Company is about. She is also the founder of the Company.

She's a buddy and a confidante who has been known to show a temper. She's a girl from Nutley who has had two movies made about her being the world's biggest bitch. Starring Cybil Shepard, a woman who has been called the same thing.

An enigma inside of a circle inside of a question inside of a prison inside of a board room.

Since her new persona/show started, stock in Martha Stewart the Company has been dropping. Maybe this is a correction in the high price brought on by all the publicity. Or, in the great American tradition, maybe people are just sick of her. Or confused.

She has plenty of new projects coming to the fore, from starting a 24-hour cable channel to joining Howard Stern in an attempt to prop up satellite radio. There are DVDs in the works (hints, not songs), and a book. About her stay in jail? No. The title is, "The Martha Rules: 10 Essentials for Achieving Success as You Start, Grow, or Manage a Business." Is that the Martha rules as in "Martha's rules" or "The Martha" as in The Donald?

Eventually, this will have to be worked out. Too many question marks can eventually lead to the bottom line. Neither Martha would like to see that.

In the meantime, the world is watching an incontrovertibly amazing woman build a world-class company.

On one of her recent shows, Martha the Person showed a belt buckle she had made on Canal Street in Chinatown in New York. It features the name given her by her companions at Alderson Prison: M. Diddy. On the same day, she wore diamonds from Harry Winston, one of the most expensive jewelry stores in the world. Which is Martha the Person, and which is Martha the Company?

This is a person who has the talent and the money to make her into anything she wants to be. She's working hard now to show she has flaws. Or is it she wants to world to think she has flaws?

Maybe it's time for Martha the Company to take the spotlight, so Martha the Person can get a little rest.

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