"We both believe that there are a lot of commonalities between marketing a brand and a star or artist," says MLT CEO Gary Shinner, explaining why the companies are now working together to grow the brand.
The Firm, best known for managing Leonardo DiCaprio, Cameron Diaz, Martin Scorcese, Snoop Dogg and rock bands Korn and Linkin Park, also does consumer brand development, and will be helping the tea brand to leverage and expand its following within the entertainment community and thereby increase consumer awareness and sales.
The plan is to use both traditional and non-traditional marketing strategies and a range of entertainment and celebrity-driven initiatives. For example, The Firm will help MLT develop relationships with celebrities (possibly as company advisory board members) to create a celebrity fan base, which could lead to celebrity endorsements and sponsorships of parties, events and tours.
The partners will also create entertainment properties to drive consumer awareness. The first project is publishing what Shinner terms a "tea table book," which will document the story of the MLT brand and business, including photographs from Shinner's world travels.
In addition, it is hoped that celebrities may help MLT with its social initiatives in artisan communities that source its teas and materials. MLT has been supporting educational, health and other efforts in Sri Lanka, Philippines and Morocco, and is now establishing a foundation to expand initiatives in these and other regions, including China and India. Proceeds from the MLT book will benefit the foundation.
Shinner and MLT co-founder Jill Portman, his wife, started a tea house on Fillmore Street in San Francisco in 1996. MLT, which now has over $20 million in annual sales, pioneered the artisan-crafted blended tea category. The company invented the now widely emulated hand-stitched, translucent mesh trademarked Tea Pouch to deliver precision-portioned servings of its line of whole-leaf herbal, green and black tea blends, which have chunks of fruit, spices and flavors too big for ordinary tea bags.
MLT started by selling to upscale hotels, restaurants, spas and cafes, as well as online. By September, it will expand into 5,500 supermarkets and other retail outlets.