Martha Stewart to Partner with Marijuana Grower for Pet Products

studying martha stewart as a brand

By Jonny Lupsha, Freelance News Writer

Lifestyle celebrity Martha Stewart has announced her plans to work with Canopy Growth, a Canadian marijuana grower. Together, they’ll develop cannabis-based animal health products. Does this partnership contrast too strongly with Stewart’s traditionalist brand?

Dog treats on top of cannabis leaves

Martha Stewart likely shocked some of her viewers with last week’s announcement of her work with marijuana producers Canopy Growth. The story, which was covered by CNBC, states that Stewart will “play an advisory role” in the company as they develop animal health products derived from cannabidiol oil (or CBD), the potent oil found in cannabis flowers. This business venture is a stark contrast to her decades-long attempts of presenting a traditional, wholesome public image. But what is a brand anyway, in the long run, and how can it change over time?

Defining Branding Today

“One definition [of a brand] is practical—it focuses on branding elements associated with a particular product or line of products,” said Dr. Ryan Hamilton, Associate Professor of Marketing at Emery University’s Goizueta Business School. “Branding elements include things like the name, logo, slogan, or tagline; sometimes a character, maybe a spokesperson; even things like the font and color scheme, packaging design, endorsements, and sponsorships. It can also include some more abstract things like a design aesthetic or guiding philosophy.”

Dr. Hamilton said this view applies to the company that markets the product on which the brand is based. However, he also mentioned what a brand means to customers, “According to this view, a brand is the network of feelings, information, thoughts, experiences, and evaluations associated with a particular product, service, or company as stored in a customer’s memory.”

Essentially, to a company, a brand is the collection of audiovisual and marketing aesthetics surrounding a product. To customers, a brand represents the experiences and emotions associated with that same product. When customers have an established emotional or mental association with a product, they have expectations surrounding that product in the future. Martha Stewart herself is a brand, with hundreds of products ranging from roses to home organizational items. Her typical brand appeal with fans of do-it-yourself crafts and home decor is why her partnership with Canopy Growth surprises so many and why she’ll have to carefully decide how to provide brand value to her targeted customers of animal health products.

The Four Types of Value for Customers

According to Dr. Hamilton, there are four types of value in a consumer’s eyes. Functional value comes first. Functional value implies that a product helps you do something. “The functional value of soap is that it gets you clean,” Dr. Hamilton said. Monetary value also matters. Monetary value serves as a reference point for other products. For example, a Bic pen selling at $50 sounds outrageous; a Mont Blanc pen selling at $50 sounds like a bargain. Things like quality, company reputation, product reliability, and more affect monetary value.

The third kind of value is social value. “Social value is the value a brand provides in facilitating relationships with other people,” Dr. Hamilton said. “In many situations, a brand serves as a kind of passkey that lets you into a clique or group.” We experience this every time we talk about our favorite sports team or TV show. Psychological value is the fourth and final kind of value. Psychological value affects how we see ourselves and how we express ourselves to the world. Getting a boost of confidence from a new suit provides internal psychological value; the formal attitude others exude to someone wearing a suit provides external psychological value.

Martha Stewart utilizes all four values. Her products help you organize your home and your life—functional value. Stewart’s endorsement of them carries some weight concerning quality and worth of the product—monetary value. Her popularity and her controversies often cause discussions among her fans, especially when they see one of her products in one another’s home—that’s social value. Finally, owning several Martha Stewart products may cause customers to feel relaxed in their organized homes or more confident in their cooking with her food products. That’s psychological value.

Martha Stewart, as a brand, has tremendous appeal. If she and Canopy Growth market their joint venture properly and focus on providing value to their customers, they should enjoy plenty of success.

Dr. Ryan Hamilton contributed to this article.
Dr. Hamilton is an Associate Professor of Marketing at Emory University’s Goizueta Business School, where he has taught since 2008. He received his Ph.D. in Marketing from Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management.