The Reinvention Of Martha
Stewart: UNH Marketing Professor Available to Discuss How Domestic
Diva Can Reclaim Her Image and Her Brand
Contact: Lori Wright
UNH Media Relations
Feb. 24, 2005
DURHAM, N.H. -- Next week, business mogul Martha Stewart will be
home again after serving five months in a federal prison. How does
a woman, whose image and persona are so intertwined with the brand
on which her financial empire has been built, recover and move forward
with her business interests?
Stefan Nicovich, assistant professor of marketing at the University
of New Hampshire Whittemore School of Business and Economics, is
an expert in marketing, communication, advertising and consumer
behavior, and is available to discuss how high-profile people such
as Stewart recover following seemingly devastating life circumstances.
According to Nicovich, unlike other high-profile people who have
recovered publicly, Stewart is not just a public figure. She also
is the product and brand on which her financial successes –
her merchandise, magazines and television shows – are built.
Reinventing her image and persona will involve a detailed strategy
that involves communication, image-building, branding, media positioning
and public relations.
“Martha Stewart, as an icon of popular culture, has several
options. She can reposition herself in the mind of consumers as
more (or different from) the decorating diva she is known to be.
She might try to incorporate her prison experience in helping others
avoid the same fate. Or she might try to maintain the status quo,
minimizing her time in prison and attempting to reestablish herself
as the decorating diva,” Nicovich says.
“Stewart’s actions in prison indicate that she is looking
to position herself as a decorator regardless of circumstances and
that prison was a learning experience on her life’s journey,”
Nicovich says. Portrayed as a demanding, cutthroat businesswoman
both before the ImClone stock scandal and during her trial, Stewart
recently has been trying to reposition herself. In the March issue
of Martha Stewart Living, the editor’s note talks of a positive,
resourceful Stewart who is spending her prison time teaching her
fellow inmates yoga, picking wild greens on the prison grounds and
making a nativity set for her mother using old molds found in the
prison’s ceramics studio. On her marthastalks.com web site,
she has kept in touch with her fans, writing passionately about
the needs of the women in prison with her and calling for her readers
to push for prison reforms.
“Martha’s basic problem is one of credibility and trust,
but it might not be as big an issue as it might be for other fallen
celebrities (Kobe Bryant comes to mind). Martha was never known
as a saint, nor even as a particularly nice person but as a shrewd
and driving businesswoman. Her ability to lead a company, based
on her ability to leverage her skills as a decorator and purveyor
of fashion, is not in question. Her honesty is,” Nicovich
“We as a society may be so jaded that we expect our business
leaders to be corrupt and Martha just got caught. In that case,
she might even reposition herself as the victim, the small fish
that got caught when the big fish got away,” he says. “But
it is interesting who we, as a society, forgive and who we don’t.
Hugh Grant and Robert Downey Jr. found work after their brushes
with the law. Paul Rubens hosted Saturday Night Live and made jokes
about his ordeal. We appear to have forgiven these celebrities,
but Howard Dean lost his bid for the White House based on a pep
Nicovich can be reached at 603-862-3338 or firstname.lastname@example.org.