Over years of focused, careful work, Martha Stewart built her company, Martha Stewart Omnimedia, into the household name for household goods and smart entertaining.
She lived her brand on the main stage at Inbound 2014, the world’s largest annual gathering of inbound marketers, when she put Inbound emcee Dan Sally, a HubSpot employee, through the juicer (literally) by making a green morning concoction on stage and then sharing it with the thousands of attendees.
You can say this about Martha: she knows how to get attention. During her speech, she was a trending topic on Twitter.
That’s evidence that while Martha Stewart is old enough to be the mother of many who saw her, her brand has a permanence that has translated to our 21st century digital culture while still thriving in the pre-Internet channels where she first made her mark — magazines and print.
Her ability to transcend communication channels (she named her company Martha Stewart Omnimedia long before most were thinking of such things) tells us something about how non-Millennials can make the most of new communications media.
In a talk and follow-up question and answer session that was largely devoid of glittering insights, however, perhaps what was most interesting about Martha were the personal insights she sparingly shared.
For instance, with a reputation as a hard-driving entrepreneur, would anyone have guessed that Martha’s inspiration for her first book was to preserve her experiences entertaining so that her grandchildren would have something to remember her by when they wondered what she had done with her life?
It’s no surprise perhaps that now that Martha has two grandchildren, she looks on her grandaughter Julia and sees “little Martha,” someone who might one day take over the family business.
The union of person and brand was best on display when Martha was asked why her brand is so easily recognizable at a place like the Home Depot. At first, she said it was because her brand had great labels with a distinct blue color. Then she added, almost as an afterthought, “it’s because Martha the person and Martha the brand are inextricably intertwined.”
She went to explain that this intertwining has led her company to take on other brands where the brand is the person, including (bam!) New Orleans chef Emeril Lagasse.
Martha Stewart the person and Martha Stewart the brand may be one entity. That entity is endlessly fascinating to us. I’ll bet most of us would be surprised, but have something of an “aha” moment if we understood what Martha considers as the source of her success.
Martha told her interviewer this morning that her greatest inspiration was the anthropoligist Margaret Mead. Mead was a trendsetter not only because she was a female leader in the male-dominated sciences but also because she was one of the first anthropologists who studied societal and cultural behavior in a way that gave the world insights about how human cultures, whether primitive or advanced, share much in common when it comes to family and the need for social interaction.
Is it any surprise then that Martha the person, Martha the brand and Martha the Twitter trending topic are so fascinating to us? They may tell us far more about ourselves than they do about her.