Monday, October 30, 2006

Martha Stewart, ex-con and felon, sponsors KB Homes

Whenever I drive down I85 into downtown Atlanta, I see a KB Homes billboard with Martha Stewart on it.

"If anyone could turn a stay in jail into a good thing, it's legendary lifestyle maven Martha Stewart. Following the completion of her sentence on federal criminal charges, Stewart has not shied away from the limelight. Rather, she and her company, Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia (MSLO), have embraced the spotlight. The company has its fingers in many moneymaking pies: publishing (magazines and books), television (programs), radio (satellite radio network channel), and merchandising. Stewart controls about 55% of MSLO's stock and about 92% of voting stock." Hoovers - Omnimedia overview

Given the media uproar about her conviction and that she is a known felon, I find it hard to imagine why KB Homes would ever conceive of paying a felon to be their poster person. Odder still, I find it interesting that this glaringly inappropriate marketing scheme has gone largely unnoticed by the media. And judging by the timing of the ad campaign and KB's stock price, it appears to have leveled out the precipitous drop in share value experienced prior to June 06.

It led me to consider several things. The first of which, KB Homes has deep pockets and can afford to research the impact of their marketing efforts. Hiring Martha Stewart was no accident, and I am sure their research indicated a net positive effect for their bottom line. Furthermore, Omnimedia shares prices performed their best WHILE she was in jail, and have done rather well afterwards.

Martha Stewart's audience
is primarily females in general and gay males. The whole green vase phenomenon in California’s gay communities was spawned a la Martha. She is a risk taker and shrews businessperson, which is why she landed herself in jail to begin with.

I think what concerns me, personally, here is that given the past five years of corporate scandals, the untold billions lost in market capitalization as a result, the endless hearings and convictions, the scandals at the government level (Abramoff is the tip of that iceberg), and high moral ground we as a country are supposed to espouse in our efforts to bring democracy to the middle east, it seems odd the American public is so receptive to having a known felon selling family homes and communities to them. After all, a felon is a felon, whether they are dealing drugs, peddling porn, or bilking the markets. Imagine the Enron Exec's face on that billboard! You would have the entire country in an uproar. Yet, somehow because Martha is able to dictate the mediocre tastes of average American households, her tainting as a felon is somehow whitewashed, and she is allowed to sell directly to our children the homes they live in.

It is an odd world. Given a public that gives solid market support to felons, gives high ratings to shows depicting morally bankrupt and irresponsible lifestyles such as Sex and the City and Desperate Housewives, and sees reality as a bunch of ruthless losers stuck on an island with some tiki torches because they cant hold down a real job...well I see the writing on the wall for our American dream of liberty and freedom. Our society is in decline, has been since about 1964, and the wall is fast approaching. And American society, if it goes, will take out the world economy alongside, as we are all so closely connected, and we are the largest consumer on the planet.

Diamond, Jared. Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed. New York: Viking, 2005.

McNeill, J. R. Something New Under the Sun: An Environmental History of the Twentieth-Century World. New York: W. W. Norton and Co., 2000.

Tainter, Joseph. The Collapse of Complex Societies. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 198

Perhaps Bonfire of the Vanities would also be an appropriate add on here.

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