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Product Launch/Issues Management: Breuners Home Furnishings Corporation

When Breuners Home Furnishings Corporation agreed to be the nation’s largest retailer of Martha Stewart Signature™ Furniture with Bernhardt, the Lancaster, Pennsylvania furniture retailer had no way of knowing the high-risk gamble it would represent.

By the time Dan and his team were engaged to maximize the positive exposure of the launch while managing potential negatives, Ms. Stewart was the focus of a criminal investigation that had sullied her personal and professional reputation. As we neared the introduction, it was clear that an indictment could come at any time.

To avoid trouble, we skirted national outlets in favor of local daily and weekly newspapers in towns where Breuner’s stores are located. We arranged one-on-one interviews with lifestyle editors who did not object to our strict guidelines prohibiting questions about anything not directly related to the furniture.

We also executed a grassroots strategy that leveraged Ms. Stewart’s passionate base of devoted fans. Our invitation-only celebration gave hundreds an opportunity to meet Martha and enjoy a presentation detailing her interior design philosophy. We carefully selected a small number of journalists to document the event as well.

As a result, media coverage was friendly and focused on the furniture, not the scandal. Despite images of Ms. Stewart being led from her office in handcuffs weeks later, the introduction of Martha Stewart Signature Furniture was the most successful in the history of Brueners Home Furnishings. Sales exceeded even pre-scandal expectations.