• Jennifer Marks

Thoroughly Marketing Martha

While it's going to be interesting to see what the much-anticipated launch of the Martha Stewart Collection this fall is going to do for Macy's, it will be even more intriguing to monitor how the debut's heavy promotion is going to impact the Martha Stewart Everyday program at Kmart.

The first challenge: how Macy's national advertising for the brand can distinguish itself from the once-heavy rotation of Martha advertising for Kmart. How does one make Martha's signature pitch — the hues, the fonts, the Martha-centric focus — unique to Macy's without jettisoning the core Martha-ness of the brand?

Either way, the Macy's campaign ought to provide something of a boost to Kmart's sales of Everyday product — assuming Kmart puts the product into place, keeps it in stock and merchandises it crisply.

One also has to wonder if the magic Martha brought to Kmart will be replicated at Macy's. There were certainly people who otherwise did not shop Kmart, but made the trip for Martha merchandise in the early years of the Everyday program. Whether that destination-status will be repeated at Macy's depends upon to what degree Stewart is still perceived by the shopping public as the doyenne of decent living.

The media marketplace has become flooded with Martha wannabes since the rejuvenated Martha/Kmart alliance exploded onto the scene a decade ago. So has the amount of personality-based programming on HGTV, The Food Network, et al. Many are following the Martha playbook — TV show, books, self-branded magazine, then product launch — though none has managed the total saturation the Martha brand pulled off in its halcyon, pre-jailhouse days.

But there is only one Martha, and that should generate a great deal of publicity for Macy's — and by extension, for Kmart.

Then again, maybe this is all just a much bigger deal inside the retail world than it is outside, in the real consumer world. When I mentioned to my bought-a-lotta-Martha sister the topic of this column, she responded with three questions: "Martha is going to be in Macy's? The real Macy's or all Macy's? Is Kmart still in business?"

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