Martha Stewart’s Sticky Ideas

Written and Edited by Gregory Bartolomei


According to the text Made To Stick, by Chip Heath and Dan Heath there are six principles or reasons why an idea is not forgotten. These six ideas are: simplicity, unexpectedness, concreteness, credibility, emotions, and stories. Martha Stewart and her business Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia have successfully used these principles to market the brand name Martha Stewart. Most notably, Stewart has used the principles of simplicity, concreteness, and credibility to give life to her brand. Martha Stewart demonstrates her success with “…her award-winning magazine, Martha Stewart Living, her best-selling books, Emmy award winning television show, website, syndicated newspaper column, national radio show, mail-order catalogue, and product lines.” These products also demonstrate how ”…Martha Stewart [came to be] America’s most trusted guide to stylish living.[1]


Martha Stewart was born in Jersey City, New Jersey. She was one of her five. In 1961, Stewart babysat for the children of Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berra, and Gil McDougald.[2] All three men are currently in the Baseball Hall of Fame for their success in the sport of baseball. As a result of her success baby sitting the children, Stewart decided there was great value in learning domestic skills and she sought instruction on cooking, sewing, canning, preserving , and gardening[3]. At the same time, Stewart began modeling. She appeared in several advertisements.[4]

After attending college, Stewart pursed a career in business, landing a job as a stockbroker.  About ten years after working as a stockbroker, Stewart opened a catering business.[5] At a party catered by Stewart’s business, Stewart was introduced to Alan Mirken, head of Crown Publishing Group.[6] From this meeting, Stewart got to publish her first book, Entertaining. This book became a New

York Times best seller and launched Stewart’s career.[7]
From this book, Stewart had appearances on many television spots but most notably, The Oprah Winfrey Show and Larry King Live. Shortly after the success of her book, Stewart began publishing a magazine, a weekly television show, contributor for CBS’s The Early Show as well as starring in prime time holiday specials on the CBS network.

In September of 1997, Stewart consolidated all of her brands under one company called Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia. At the same time Stewart, created a website, a catalogue business, and a direct to consumer floral business. She felt she could cross promote the brands and generate synergy. Since the creation of Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, the company has grown to be worth $173.12 Million[8], and it is difficult to have a dinner party without someone saying Martha Stewart.

After the creation of her firm, Stewart enjoyed success in business. Yet, in 2003 Stewart was convicted of insider trading as well as obstructing justice. She served a year sentence and house arrest for two years. The People special, Scandals! That Rocked America, stated “Some expected America’s goddess of domestic perfection to fall into terminal despair. Instead, with the drive that would make her a billionaire, Stewart took her lemon of a sentence and made lemonade. Heck, she made a lemon soufflé.[9]” After Stewart’s release, she launched a number of highly publicized projects including a new line of products at Kmart stores, a television store, a wine label, product lines at Walmart, eco friendly carpets, and a line of homes. Currently, Stewart is expecting is launch a new show called Martha Bakes on the Hallmark Channel.

What is Sticky About Martha Stewart?

A lot can be said about the quality of Stewart’s products and services, but what has made her so successful – in the long run – is her cross promotional marketing strategy. Cross promotion is a form of marketing promotion where customers of one product or service are targeted with a promotion of a related product.[10] In hand with the cross promotion, Stewart is able to market a variety of products. If the consumer is interested in sewing, cooking, or gardening – Stewart has the needed channels to sell these products. However, simply promoting a product because someone bought a related product or because the product is a superior product, is not the core of Stewart’s promotions. The core of her promotions is to engage her consumers. Stewart, by engaging her consumers, can better sell her product. She has been doing this successfully for over 20 year many years, but a recently published text Made to Stick (2007)  indirectly offers an interesting perspective on elements of Stewart’s promotional strategy and how these elements have contributed to her success.

As Made to Stick points out in its first principle simplicity, the copy written in Stewart’s advertising are simple. For example, when looking at a free recipe on Stewart’s website, other free recipes are recommended and the cookware needed to make. However, unlike IKEA for example, the names of the dishes and cookware are simple and transparent. For example, what is a Gemak[11]? It is the listed product name for a colander. Stewart, simply list a colander as Must Have Colander[12]Additionally, there is copy on the webpage explaining what to look for when buying a colander, what kind of foods can be prepared with a colander, and what are things that can be done with a colander that do not involve cooking.  Stewart is clearing explaining what a colander is, what can be done with it, and why this matters to the consumers. This by doing this, she is clearly communicating the simple ideas behind a colander.

In addition to contributing the simple idea of the colander, the what is presented is also concrete and credible – Made to Stick third and fourth principles respectfully. The idea is concrete because on the website there are images of the food, images of the cookware, images of the food being cooked and eaten, and images of the cookware being used. This visual reinforcement – also seen in all of Stewarts channels of communication make it clear the food should be cooked and eaten using her cookware. The idea is also credible because of the language use on the website. For one dish, the copy on the website says, “Get a head start on dinner with this fresh take on a slow-simmered, all-in-one meal that makes clean-up a breeze.[13]” Directly below this copy are directions for cookings, times for prep work, cooking time, and the yield of the dish.  Directly below that are consumer reviews of this particular dish. One review from llebzauis on 28 Nov, 2011 says:

Really tasty! This recipe was really good. The beef was very tender and juicy. I added soy sauce along with the worchestire sauce. I also added potatoes to the recipe. I will be adding this to my recipe box.

This review, coupled with the cooking directions and the copy on the website worked together to show whomever is evaluating the product the credibility of the product. While this is a simple example, the table in appendix one shows the complexly of her strategy[14] and how she can constantly market her products.

The Unexpected Proof of Stickiness

With respect to the complexity of Stewart’s promotional strategy, its should be noted Stewart can contribute a lot of her success to the fact she was revolutionary in the market. Because she was revolutionary with her promotional strategy she touches upon another one of Made to Stick’s principles – unexpectedness. Because, Stewart was the first person to sell so many products so many different ways consumers did not even realize they were being cross sold. Stewart was able to capitalize on this and emerge as a dominate market force. The creation of the Food Network and the Home Shopping Network can trace their roots to Stewart’s early successes. Yet, what was even more unexpected for Stewart was how she was able to remain credible after serving time in jail.

Her success after such an event should be attributed to the fact Stewart had created an empire and a label equal to Ford or Chevrolet before her conviction. The label Martha Stewart had a life beyond the trials and tribulation of the person. Before the conviction, she was the top label in Home Decorating and Homemaking. After the conviction she still was the top label in Home Decorating and Homemaking. The image below, created at the time of her sentence is highly suggestive of Stewart’s standing.


aaaaaMarthaStripesINMartha Stewart is an incredibly successful person. Her brand is one of the most recognized in business. Her success reinforces the principles suggested in the text Made to Stick. Because her marketing plan was to produce simple, concrete, and credible products and services with simple, concrete, and credible advertisements she was able to become the market leader. While she did not employ the elements of story and emotion in her marketing plan – these principles came to fruition when she was convicted.

In today’s world the jury of public opinion does not always view justice the same as the courts. Many of Stewart’s fans thought her conviction was a token crime conviction for insider trading. The public interpreted her crime as a paper trap, not as a malicious, premeditated crime such as child abuse that clearly would negate her character and shed much negativity on her business empire. Also, Stewart served her time with dignity, made the best of her prison environment and made as much contribution to others inside the prison as possible. She still remembers those in prison with several assist programs.

In addition to already being simple, concrete, and credible Stewart has become unexpected, a story, and an emotion. With the large majority of her success being from only half of the principles – it is exciting to see what she will be able to do with all six at her behest.

Appendix 1


 Martha Stewart currently publishes five magazines
Print Newsletters
She recently launched a paid newsletter, the “Martha Stewart Newsletter”.
Email Newsletters
She has three email newsletters
She publishes many instructional books on cooking, housekeeping, gardening and weddings.
She has a very popular radio show on Sirius, titled Martha Stewart Living Radio.
The queen of media has many TV shows
She offers a mix of holiday music, jazz, and childrens music.
Martha sells instructional DVD’s on cooking, holiday event planning, gardening, and weddings.
Her website offers video clips from TV programs and instructional how-to’s.
She offers one RSS feed for her blog Bluelines.
Her website sells advertising, offers subscriptions to her many print publications. It also has one blog, called Blueprint’s Bluelines, which is related to their Blueprint magazine. Website also sells merchandise, links to sub-sites, and offers video clips and articles on Martha’s craft and food projects.
 Martha has tons of merchandise on the market, including


 **Due to technical difficulties we recently had to switch domains and transfer all of our website content.  Please keep in mind that while we have been publishing articles for two years, the published dates shown may not reflect the initial publish date.


[1] “Martha Stewart Biography.” Investing Value – Business and Investment Portal. Web. 08 Dec. 2011. <>.
[3] “Martha Stewart Biography” Retrieved 30 June 2006.
[4] “Martha Stewart Stars in Unilever Ad — 55 Years Ago: Before She was Famous, She Was Promoting Lifebuoy”Advertising Age, Published: June 23, 2011
[5]  “Martha Stewart”Reference for Business: Encyclopedia of Business, 2nd ed. Advameg, Inc. Retrieved 29 October 2010.
[6] “Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, Inc. – Food Came First, New Fields to Conquer.”Reference For Business – Encyclopedia of Small Business, Business Biographies, Business Plans, and Encyclopedia of American Industries. Web. 08 Dec. 2011. <>.
[7] “History of Entertaining – Martha Stewart Entertaining.” Delicious Food Recipes – Arts and Crafts Ideas – Entertaining Tips – Gardening – Pets – Martha Stewart. Web. 08 Dec. 2011. <>.
[8] “Google Finance: Stock Market Quotes, News, Currency Conversions & More.” Google. Web. 08 Dec. 2011. <>.
[9] “Martha Stewart: A Federal Case.” Scandals! That Rocked America. TIME Inc. Home Entertainment, 2009, p. 70
[10]  Picard, Robert G. (2005), Media product portfolios: issues in management of multiple products and servicesRoutledge. p116
[11] “GEMAK Colander – IKEA.” Welcome to – IKEA. Web. 08 Dec. 2011. <>.
[12]“Must-Have: Colander – Martha Stewart Food.” Delicious Food Recipes – Arts and Crafts Ideas – Entertaining Tips – Gardening – Pets – Martha Stewart. Web. 08 Dec. 2011. <>.
[13] “Slow-Cooker Pot Roast – Martha Stewart Recipes.” Delicious Food Recipes – Arts and Crafts Ideas – Entertaining Tips – Gardening – Pets – Martha Stewart. Web. 08 Dec. 2011. <>.
[14] “Martha Stewart Mequoda Media Brand Study.” Digital Strategy for Publishers | Mequoda. Web. 08 Dec. 2011. <>.

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