Martha Stewart Webtoons Aim to Endear Next Gen DIYers

Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia may never recover its pre-scandal market value, but the popularity of its domestic-diva founder only continues to strengthen. And now she’s got her eye on the next generation of homemakers.

On Friday, AOL Kids launched the debut of Martha and Friends, a Web series starring an animated Martha Stewart imagined as her 10-year-old self: a blonde-haired, “problem-solving, craft-loving generous spirit” who — along with best friends Lily, Kevin, and Hannah, and dogs Francesca and Sharkey — show kids how much fun DIY projects can be.

“Ever since I was a little girl I’ve had a passion for crafting and cooking,” said Stewart. “My hope is that this series will inspire a whole new generation of do-it-yourselfers.”

Scheduled to run twice a week for at least 13 weeks, the short-form webisodes put an emphasis on creativity, imagination, and independent thinking — and in this case, “independent” doesn’t mean “alone.” On Martha and Friends, even the dogs actively participate in craft activities, from decorating flip-flops and making paper lanterns to squeezing fresh lemonade and whipping up batches of s’mores.

Instructions for each episode’s DIY adventure are posted online, along with additional interactive activities and games. Some of these seem a bit aspirational for the intended 6- to 11-year-old audience (barbecued chicken kebabs with potatoes and summer squash, really?). But maybe that’s just Martha for you, in cartoon as in life: a girl who “always has good ideas and seems to know how to do everything!”

Media speculation’s been that the 2005 stock scandal that sent Stewart to prison camp (and barred her from the MSLO exec board for five years) would be the end of her homemaking empire. That may be true, in a sense, as MSLO properties including magazines, TV shows, and the Sirius XM radio operation all continue to lose money.

But the Martha Stewart licensing and merchandising business, which includes branded home goods at Macy’s and home-improvement products at The Home Depot, is profitable.

That points to the strength and appeal of Martha’s personal brand, post-incarceration. She’s become a more accessible — even sympathetic — version of her former self, still over-the-top and fussy, but armed now with a previously lacking sense of humor and pop-culture awareness. For proof, watch her bake with Andy Samberg or Snoop Dogg. Plus, she’s embraced YouTube, apps, and Twitter.

Teaming with AOL Kids for Martha and Friends is just one more example of what Martha’s doing right for her brand — with or without MSLO. And that, you know, is a very good thing.

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