MDC Partners' Anomaly has partnered with entrepreneur Matt Seashols to help launch a new cannabis products company -- Hmbldt -- that relies on science to deliver specific doses and targeted health benefits for consumers.
Hmbldt, which Anomaly has a partnership stake in, seeks to fill a hole in the cannabis industry around "instructions and ingredients for products," said Mr. Seashols, co-founder and president of the company. He said the objective of the brand's patented dose pen is "to provide an expected and repeatable solution wrapped around the benefits that are afforded through and by cannabis."
Mr. Seashols said he had talked to a number of agencies about messaging, branding and packaging for Hmbldt, but "Anomaly was our favorite by far because of their informed and well-experienced point of view on business, strategy, storytelling and the development of innovative products."
The shop, which was No. 4 on Ad Age's 2016 Agency A-List, created the brand's visual identity, website and marketing materials. Anomaly founding partner Jason DeLand would not disclose the agency's exact percent stake in Hmbldt, but said the shop has invested a lot in terms of the team and resources and will receive ongoing royalties for products sold that Anomaly has a direct hand in innovating.
Mr. DeLand said the cannabis industry, which saw $5 billion in annual sales last year, cuts across geographies, ages, religions and cultures. "From our point of view, you can work five lifetimes and not see a more exciting category," added Mr. DeLand, who is a board member for Hmbldt, along with fellow Anomaly founding partner Mike Byrne.
About 18 months ago, the Hmbldt team started researching what's in the cannabis plant that offers specific functional benefits, like pain relief or relaxation, said Mr. Seashols. The team's scientific process resulted in formulas for Bliss, Sleep, Calm, and Relief, which are delivered in precise amounts through Hmbldt's dose pen.
Anomaly's interest in cannabis has been from the medical side, helping "real people with real needs," said Mr. Deland. He said Hmbldt's innovative dosage pen and scientifically created formulas could destigmatize marijuana by showing the market that they were designed "not to get high, but to address certain quality of life issues."
The products will first be available in California dispensaries and through online delivery platform eazeup.com. After California, Hmbldt will look to launch in Colorado, Canada, Washington, Oregon and Nevada over the next six months, said Mr. Seashols.
From an advertising perspective, Mr. DeLand said the company isn't doing a major paid push around the launch due to regulatory issues as well as the fact that Hmbldt is a startup that doesn't have a large budget. PR, social and digital media assets, and word-of-mouth marketing will be key, he said. Publicis' MSLGroup has no stake in Hmbldt, but was hired to handle PR for the company.
In June, Anomaly was hired by Apple's Beats by Dre to handle creative work after an agency search that began earlier in the year. The shop also opened a new office in Los Angeles this summer.