Friday, December 18, 2009

MSLO 2009 Year in Review

2009 was a challenging year for any media and merchandising company. The downward spiral of the economy took a huge toll on many companies including Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia.

While ad pages in Living, were beginning to rise in early 2008, it was evident from the ‘thin’ issues throughout 2009 that the economy continued to impact media buyers decisions where to use their advertising dollars. For any magazine, the lack of ad dollars can mean certain death. I am thankful that Living was not among the dead. Martha Stewart Living continues to inform and inspire readers month after month.

Despite the bleak economic forecast, MSLO moved forward with a number of new partnerships and initiatives. Let’s take a look at the year 2009:

Q1


 
MSLO and the Hain Celestial Group announced a collaborative effort to create a new line of Martha Stewart branded cleaning products. The products, which went into soft launch in November, are chemical and perfume free. Sold under the “Martha Stewart Clean” label, the products are currently available at Giant Eagle stores in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia as well as through Amazon.com. National rollout is scheduled for the first quarter of 2010.

Martha Stewart has always shared her passion and love of pets with readers and viewers. Recognizing that the vast majority of the MSLO customer demographic share the same passion; MSLO responded with the launch of a new pet micro-site within marthastewart.com. This new initiative includes helpful tips on pet care, an email newsletter, and even Martha’s dogs got into the act with their own blog, “The Daily Wag.” This is the first of a continued expansion into the world of pet keeping.



MSLO also announced the partnership with Crane and Company, one of the leading creators of fine stationary products. Martha Stewart Stationary made its debut with a full line of wedding invitations and wedding related stationary products. The line expanded again in September, with the addition of a full line of Martha Stewart holiday cards, available in boxed sets or personalized box sets.

Critics and viewers alike raved about "Whatever, Martha!" and the Fine Living series was renewed for a second season. The second season saw Martha herself make an appearance on the show and she was quite humorous!

Q2

In a stunning move, Wenda Harris Millard, one of the co-CEO’s of the company stepped down from her role. This move was huge news in the media as rumors had been circulating about tensions between Wenda and Martha. Throughout early 2009, numerous reports emerged of staff layoffs and changes at MSLO.

MSLO partnered with iAmplify to create “Martha University.” iAmplify is a leading provider of online video content in a number of specialized areas. Full length video segments from the vast content library at MSLO were made available for purchase. This partnership seemed to be short lived. No new content has been available since Halloween.

Q3

The Martha Stewart Show premiered for its fifth season with stable but not outstanding ratings. The show continues the same format of celebrity guests, with a season five focus on the handmade and the homemade.

The biggest announcement of the year came in September with MSLO and The Home Depot announcing their partnership for an exclusive new Martha Stewart Living brand. The Home Depot, the largest home improvement store, will begin carrying Martha Stewart Living outdoor furniture in January 2010, followed by home organization merchandise in February. MSLO and The Home Depot have acknowledged that additional expansion of the brand at all Home Depot stores can be expected throughout 2010.

This partnership is key to the continued growth of merchandise as the Kmart contract closes in a matter of weeks. The Home Depot partnership positions MSLO to have a huge distribution mechanism for the high quality products consumers have come to expect. The Home Depot contract will include both US and Canadian store distribution.

Q4

The Weddings franchise continued to expand with a new partnership with Sandals Resorts. “Sandals Weddings by Martha Stewart” will offer brides and grooms beautifully planned destination weddings inspired by the pages of Martha Stewart Weddings.

Martha Stewart Weddings also celebrated its 15th anniversary in September and published the first special issue from the franchise on destination weddings.

PetSmart and MSLO announced they will team together for exclusive distribution of a new line of pet care products developed by the Age Group, “Martha Stewart Pets.” The new line will include apparel, beddings, grooming supplies and more. This new line is the first step in claiming some of the 50 billion dollar pet care market. PetSmart will be the exclusive distributor of the line which is expected to be available the second quarter of 2010.



An expansion of the partnership with Hain Celestial was also announced to include a new line of Martha Stewart brand of food products. Fresh, organic, young turkeys were immediately available for the Thanksgiving holiday, with online and limited east coast availability.

In early 2010, consumers will find Martha Stewart branded baking mixes and dried pastas hitting store shelves. This food program comes after the first food initiative with Costco closed late last year.

The newest MSLO family member, Chef Emeril Lagasse began his own radio call in show, “Cooking with Emeril” on Martha Stewart Living Radio, Sirius channel 112/XM 157. Listeners have the opportunity to interact with Emeril while he shares his latest adventures and travels.

With the highly anticipated new brand “Martha Stewart Living” expected to make its debut at The Home Depot in January, the first expansion of the brand was announced early in December. A new line of low VOC paint will be distributed through The Home Depot, under the Martha Stewart Living brand. This new paint collection will carry 280 colors available in both interior and exterior paint finishes.

The Home Depot will also carry the entire 10 product offering of Martha Stewart Clean. This will be the first major national roll out of the natural cleaning product line in the US and Canada.

But Wait… There’s More…

Merchandising

The Martha Stewart Collection, available exclusively at Macy’s continued to perform well and was a bright spot in the department store sales figures.

Martha Stewart Crafts expanded with many new craft tools and items. Shopping at Michael’s for Martha Stewart Crafts became a whole new experience with the expanded line.

The online shopping experience became easier with a redesign of the ‘shop’ page on marthastewart.com. Now, visitors to the website can purchase Martha Stewart items without leaving the website. Order fulfillment is handled primarily by Amazon.

Publishing

Three books were published in 2009 – Martha Stewart’s Cupcakes, Martha Stewart’s Craft Encyclopedia and Martha Stewart’s Dinner at Home all rose to the best seller list within days of release. Also in the world of publishing, two wonderful special issues were produced, “Martha Stewart Halloween” and the annual “Holiday” issue. Sadly, the special issue “Outdoor Living” was not published this year.

Television

Outside of the daily program, there was other television news this year. Martha made her first appearance with Rachael Ray Show and Rachael made her first appearance on Martha’s show in November. What some were touting as “television history” quickly became a media hot topic following an ABC News Nightline exclusive with Martha which aired later in the month. During the interview, Martha pointed out the differences between the two, which fueled speculation that the rumored ‘feud’ between the two truly does exist. Both have denied any ill feelings.

The Best Moment / The Worst Moment

Quite easily, the best moment of the year came with the announcement of The Home Depot and MSLO partnering for the new Martha Stewart Living brand. Following the news of the Kmart contract ending with no hope of renewal, rumors were running amuck with speculation where Martha Stewart would go next. When Martha Stewart Crafts began to appear at Wal-Mart, many analysts thought they had the next merchandising move figured out. Many had hoped for a Target relationship and some had thought Kohl’s was a good place for the remake of the “Everyday” brand. None of the possible options became reality.

MSLO’s decision to keep ‘soft home’ at Macy’s and expand lines at other retailers makes perfect sense for now. This is worth watching, however.

In my opinion, the worst moment was actually several moments tied together: The appearance on Rachael Ray, Rachael’s appearance on Martha, and the Nightline interview.

In theory, the idea that the two mega-stars of the kitchen would come together for appearances on television was marketing genius. It was an opportunity for devoted Martha fans to accept Rachael and Rachael fans to accept Martha. ( often, there is disdain between the two fan bases). The cross-over in “fan-ship” could easily translate to dollars for both Martha and Rachael. However, it was an opportunity missed.

I give credit to Rachael for conducting an excellent interview. Martha was quite funny, personable, and seemingly relaxed. Rachael was controlled and led an excellent, informative interview. The appearance on the Martha show was not quite so favorable. Martha seemingly lacked interest in Rachael and at points in the segments appeared condescending and bordered on insulting. It wasn’t an appearance I enjoyed watching.

The kicker came with the Nightline interview, when host Cynthia McFadden brought up the show appearances and the rumored ‘feud.’ While Martha gave her honest opinion and provided an honest response, it wasn’t so much ‘what’ she said – as much as ‘how’ she responded that killed the opportunity for marketing gold. The non-verbal communication screamed of supremacy over, and dismissal of Rachael. Martha could have played that piece of the interview to her advantage and sadly, she failed. Instead of gaining some of the Rachael market, the wedge was driven further. A huge missed opportunity and it gets my vote as the worst moment(s) of 2009.

Predictions for 2010

Having studied and followed MSLO for many years, I have several predictions for MSLO in 2010:

• Rapid-fire announcements of continued product introductions at Home Depot to include Gardening supplies, lighting, and home improvement tools.

• A partnership with a major office supply store for home office organization tools

• Expansion of the affiliation with Wilton Industries/ EK Success for a Martha Stewart Baking line of pans, decorating tools, and packaging to be exclusively distributed through Michaels. A hint of this product line was seen during this years Christmas craft line.

• Expansion of the craft line to include fabric/sewing crafts (to coincide with the release of the new sewing crafts book due in early 2010).

• Ad pages will increase in the second quarter of 2010.

As this year comes to a close, we'll bid farewell to the Martha Stewart Everyday line with hopes of many 'good things' yet to come. 
 
My friend Andrew, at Martha Moments has posted his annual Martha Stewart Living magazine year in review.  What was your choice for best and worst issue this year?

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