For many companies, mobile has become a paradigm changer, creating an intimate relationship between brands and consumers. But in a fast-changing digital world, many companies often don’t know how to go about mobilizing their brands.
Cream is a Tokyo-based mobile creative lab building innovative solutions for brands to engage efficiently in a mobile world.
Led by Swiss born tech entrepreneur Pierre Gaulis, Cream shapes and executes mobile strategies for major brands in Japan and internationally. The company develops applications that help high-end brands communicate their values and engage more efficiently with clients thanks to impactful digital sales tools or mobile training and loyalty programs.
Cream’s clients include Tag Heuer, Louis Vuitton, Caran d’Ache and the EU in Japan.
Japan Today catches up with Gaulis to hear more.
When did you establish Cream and how was it at first?
In December 2010. At the beginning of 2011, we started to get concrete business. Then came the earthquake and everything stopped for about six months. It was really tough. In September 2011, we signed our first big contract and since then, business has been good. I expect sales for this year to be greater than 2012.
What does the name Cream signify?
Cream means cream of the crop. It’s short, simple and easy to remember.
What are your services?
We are a mobile creative lab. We build applications for brands and companies. Our focus is on B2B and B2B2C. We specialize in HTML 5, which enables clients to create one app and deploy it through any device and any OS. In other words, we mobilize brands.
What do you mean by that?
When I say mobile, I don’t really mean smartphones. I’m talking about a lifestyle. I often tell clients there is a difference between going mobile and going into mobile. The idea is to put mobility at the center of your strategy as an integral part of your brand.
Who are your clients?
Mainly foreign multinationals. We started initially working with their Japanese branch or the Asia-Pacific branch, which is headquartered in Japan, and after that, what we did here was used internationally, and so we now work with them on an ongoing basis. We work with a lot of luxury brands such as Tag Heuer, Louis Vuitton and Caran d’Ache but also work with new organizations as well. Recently, we built applications for major events creating a link between virtual and real life experiences.
What did you do for your high-end clients?
At Louis Vuitton’s flagship store in Omotesando, on the 7th floor, they have an art gallery called Espace Louis Vuitton. We built a virtual iPad guide. So when you go there, you can use iPads for free to get insights about artists and exhibitions. That’s an example of how we bring interactivity into physical places. Usually we do that at the point of sales more than for museums and galleries. For example, if you go into Caran d’Ache shops now, you will see big touch screens that can be used either by staff to showcase products or directly by customers to get some recommendations for gifts.
For Tag Heuer, we built a cross-platform solution for their training and loyalty purposes. These brands have a huge retail network and most of the staff are not working for them, but the retail shops. So we build a bridge between the brand and the staff, providing training and point of sales management.
How do you market your company?
Utilizing my network, word of mouth and doing a good job are our best marketing methods. When you work with high-profile brands, their selection of a vendor is picky because they pay a lot of attention to their brand image and they want to make sure they work with somebody who understands that. If prospective clients see that we have done something successful with a renowned brands, then they get interested.
What are your company’s strengths?
I think we are unique in the sense that we work closely with brands rather than through intermediaries. In Japan, everything is usually handled by an ad agency which then outsources work to companies like us. That is not our approach. We bring the consulting part to work with a client’s marketing and sales management of the brands to define what they want and how we will do it. This is important in this industry because a lot of people want to go into mobile but they don’t really know what to do and how to do it. We have that expertise. Another strength is that we do all the designing and programming in house. I don’t wish to outsource. There is a lot of trust involved with our clients. When they pay us, they know who is doing the job.
There is still a big knowledge gap and education is very much a part of our sales cycle. It is fairly long but this is where I see the value of our service—taking an active role in shaping the brand’s strategy and objectives for our clients.
How competitive is the industry?
It is a fast-changing industry. Companies’ marketing budgets have shifted from newspapers to TV to online and now mobile. However, compared to the number of opportunities, I don’t think our industry is that competitive yet. There are a lot of companies in the mobile space, but typically B2C, such as gaming and things like that. Japan still lags a little in mobile and digital branding. I find it interesting because if you think back, the advent of computers was very much top down. The first computers were developed for work purposes, then for consumers. With mobile, it is the other way round—consumers have come first, because of consumer-oriented companies like Apple with their iPhone, iTunes store and so on; in other words, corporate mobile has still to come.
What are your expansion plans?
My goal is not to grow the business too fast. Right now, there are four of us here in Tokyo. The next step is to open a branch in Switzerland in September. We work already with a lot of European brands and it is good to have an office in that proximity.
What is a typical day for you?
I get up around 7 a.m. and walk my two dogs, the go to the office around 9. Then I pretty much manage projects. The days can be long but it is a rewarding job.