Martha’s Time Out

October 2, 2005

Welcome back Martha. We missed you. But we knew you’d be back. A woman with your smarts and a brand with your strength couldn’t be wiped out by a measly few months in jail. In fact, your time away is the best thing that could have happened to you and us, the public. It was a much needed time out.

Time outs work wonders for both brands and people. I use them very effectively with my 3 year old son. After being at wits end with my little boy, I make him stand in a corner for a time out at which point I can take a deep breath myself. Afterwards we both emerged refocused and I remember why I love him so much. Like a computer reboot it clears the system and allows to time to forget the bad stuff and look forward to a bright future.

Martha has emerged from her court-ordered time out, better than ever. There have been a few missteps, like Martha’s Apprentice reality show. But overall she is on the right track.

First of all, Martha’s live, syndicated television show is a daytime delight. Live television is the perfect remedy for toning down her image of absolute perfection. Let’s face it, nothing can be perfect on live television and you can tell Martha accepts that. It allows us to see the human side of Martha. And seeing Martha in this new way is marvelous. She is funny, warm, and engaging. And I think with practice she will continue to get even better.

Secondly, Martha has embraced the media. After the scandal she shunned the media and hid out for over a year. But today she is doing countless interviews to promote her brand and image. And Martha is answering tough questions with candor and humility. She’s even poking fun at herself and her situation. All of which have done much to resurrect her image and brand.

The worst scenario would have been a bitter Martha. But it is quite to the contrary. Martha is sweeter, kinder and funnier than ever. She has been able to move on from her situation and get back to business with grace. She has acknowledged her jail time; she has made fun of her jail time. We are now all willing to move forward with her into a new era of Martha.

But there are some problems. Let’s start with the Apprentice. In a word, The Apprentice: Martha Stewart sucks. There is no reason for this show to exist except that NBC needed a show to fill its lackluster line up. Mark Burnett must have snuck Martha some delicious scones into prison in order to get her to sign on to this dud. No doubt Martha wanted to come out of jail with guns blazing. But she has her hands full with the magazines, daytime show and Kmart stuff. And her perfunctory involvement with this show is evident; she obviously can’t stand being on it. It is a lousy show, and now that it will be up against ABC’s Lost it is sure to be sunk. The Donald’s over-the-top antics keep his version of The Apprentice afloat, but even then the joke is kind of stale.

The second problem is Kmart. The problem here is the store itself much more than Martha’s foray into sheets and towels. Can’t she just somehow move her stuff into Target? I would much rather see her brand in the bright booming aisles of the chic Target brand. Kmart and new partner Sears are fading stars that do little to help keep the shine on Martha. They need Martha a lot more that her brand needs them. And Martha doesn’t make sense in either of them.

Nobody likes to get in trouble, whether fully deserved or not. But I think Martha’s jail time has brought a conclusion to the issue. Her public time out has done wonders in recharging a powerful brand that is likely to dominate homemaking for some time to come. Women everywhere are cheering your return Martha and embracing your new found humanism. Myself included.