Presenter: Regular listeners to the programme will have followed our coverage of the trial of Martha Stewart, one of the best-known women in America, leading to her conviction on charges of having lied to federal investigators. Stewart’s company, Martha Stewart Omnimedia, is described as a ‘lifestyle media and merchandising giant’, producing everything from books and magazines to TV programmes, garden furniture, towels, kitchen equipment … pretty much everything you could need to make your dream home, and pretty much all sold using Martha Stewart’s name. Now, as we’ve reported recently, shares in Martha Stewart Omnimedia have fallen dramatically since her conviction and many analysts are convinced that, if the company is to survive, a name change is inevitable. I’m joined here by Professor Dave Spader. Dave, do you think there’s any future for the Martha Stewart brand?
Professor Spader: Well, that’s the big question. As you say, the share price has fallen dramatically and that’s not good news for any company. The company’s own research says that 70% of their consumers think they should keep the Martha Stewart name, but at the same time advertisers are keeping away from the company’s magazines. Advertising in the Martha Stewart Living magazine is down 35%. I think what’s happening is that they’re keeping the name but playing it down and putting the emphasis on other things. For example, one of their newest magazines, ‘Everyday Food’, no longer has ‘From the Kitchens of Martha Stewart Living’ on its cover. Things like that. Publicly, they’re saying they’ll stick with the name but I think we’ll continue to see Stewart’s name fade from view somewhat. Whether they’ll get rid of her name altogether I think it’s too early to say.
Presenter: Are there other examples of brands changing names to survive this kind of bad publicity?
Professor Spader: Oh, several. Philip Morris, the cigarette company, has recently become Altria and, in America, Esson became Exxon. But they were both parent companies changing their names, and I don’t think we can make direct comparisons with the Martha Stewart brand where she really is – or perhaps I should say was – the public face of the brand.
Presenter: So, you think the tough times will continue for Martha Stewart Omnimedia?
Professor Spader: I’m afraid so. Whatever they choose to call themselves.