mms international was one of the first companies to introduce the business of specialty advertising in France, it is a pioneer in the licensing sector and has set benchmarks with its innovative sales strategies. Thanks to a combination between import and brand name products as well as efficient logistics and customising units, today the company from the Provence is a key player on the French market and beyond.
Before Albert Lucky founded his company in the idyllic Provence town Grasse in 1976, he had already spent several years working in the pen business in Europe and the USA where the industry already had established structures. In France the sector was at that time still in the development phase: Specialty advertising, in Europe better known as promotional products. Albert Lucky understood how powerful the media would become and founded mms – the name stands for measured marketing services. “mms was one of the first, if not even the very first company in France to create and also import promotional products and systematically market them as such,” explained Philippe Velli, Director of the Customer Service Department and one of the five shareholders that run mms.
At the same time, by importing low-priced items – a majority of which were writing instruments – mms began to customise its product range itself – here again, one of the first suppliers to do so in France. The company was also a pioneer in the licensing business. Since the beginning of 1980s, mms has held the exclusive rights to design, produce and market writing instruments and high-end office accessories under the brand name Pierre Cardin. “Each Pierre Cardin pen sold in Europe is created by us,” explained Art Director Ivan Ghioni, who is primarily responsible for designing the brand name products and is one of the shareholders of mms.
A further renowned company, which has close ties to Grasse, the “world capital for perfume”, soon followed the brand Pierre Cardin: the perfume manufacturer Galimard. Founded in 1747, it is the town’s oldest perfumery and is renowned worldwide. mms sells a collection of high-quality accessories that are designed, produced and sold under the Galimard brand name.
The relatively young own brand Pentastic rounds off the brand portfolio. “The Pentastic line-up comprises of writing instruments that are made using Swiss technology – which is a guarantee for high quality at nevertheless extremely competitive prices,” commented Ghioni. “The same applies for Pentastic as for our licensing products: All of the designs are created by us here in Grasse. Some of the products from the non-brand segment are also own designs.”
The current, 170-page catalogue that is divided into the categories “promotional products” and “corporate gifts” includes around 300 different products. The catalogue called “Guide to Specialty Advertising and business gifts” appears in 4 languages.
Efficiency and speed
A majority of the line-up is available from stock and is individualised and packed in-house. The company premises in Grasse spans approx. 4,000 m², the warehouse covers around 2,000 m², the other half of the floor space accommodates offices, the customers service and the art department.
The company maintains a further spacious warehouse with a customising shop in Imperia/ Italy, just behind the French/Italian border.
Around 65 employees work at the headquarters in Grasse. The purchasing, accounting, marketing, customer service and graphics departments as well as the warehouse, customising shop and packing department are all housed under one roof. “One of our biggest advantages is our speed. We have high capacities, short routes and each of our customising employees is familiar with each machine,” reported Velli. “The leadtime from order placement through to the receipt of the individualised product is just a few days. Furthermore, our focus lies on small volume orders. The majority of the goods are incidentally dispatched directly (drop-shipped) to the users. Our customers know well that we never sell directly but only through our distributors.”
mms offers all common customising techniques: In addition to screen, pad and transfer printing, laser engraving, hot embossing and domings, the company also offers direct and transfer digital printing services. “The digital printing method not only allows us to customise small orders of products with high-quality imprints without additional set-up costs, it also enables the personalisation of the products,” said Velli.
For certain models in the writing instrument sector, on request mms also offers the additional service of welding each individual pen in cellophane at no extra cost. This lends favourablypriced writing instruments the character of a gift.
Sales tools and customer bonding
“The majority of our product range falls under the low-price category and is tailored to the corresponding fields of application on the market,” stated Velli. “However, all of our items underlie the philosophy: The concept comes first, then the product. We want to support our customers in finding the optimal promotional product for each campaign goal, which is why we offer them training and ultimately help them to sell more products, more efficiently – this is incidentally an idea that the company founder Albert Lucky adopted from America.“ Each customer receives a weekly newsletter containing the “Idea of the Week”, a newcomer or one of mms’ bestsellers, accompanied by proposals for appropriate industries, fields of application and slogans. On request, mms also carries out in-house training courses. Last, but not least, the company has been inviting selected companies to weekend seminars for years, which take place at alternating venues on the Côte d’Azur, combining product training with customer bonding.
“For us customer bonding is of key importance and starts with the day-to-day business,” explained Velli. “Every customer has an individual contact partner and we constantly strive to find the best solution.” Continuity also plays a vital role within the company: Many of the employees have been with the company for 20 years or longer. Whereby, the founder of mms, Albert Lucky, recently sold his shares. The current management comprising of Yves Lucky (son of the founder) – sales and marketing manager – Philippe Velli and Ivan Ghioni, as well as the two other shareholders Jean-François Smith – Finance Manager – and Jérôme Spaterna – Managing Director – will lead mms into the future. “Among other things we want to expand in the export sector,” announced Velli. “Furthermore, we will carefully update the line-up to meet the demands of the times – this also involves more own designs, in order to evade the price spiral. What remains is our corporate philosophy, which focuses on service, brands and ideas – because after all this is still in keeping with the times.“
An interview with two French service providers can be found here: “Good opportunities for foreign suppliers”