3-D library adds depth to Lisle-based Gladson’s business

This first appeared in the May 27 issue of the Daily Herald Business Ledger

Think 3-D is still all about wearing cheap glasses in a movie theater?
The technology has expanded into business applications as well, creating a new … pardon … dimension in the way manufacturers, retailers and marketers create and sell products to the consumer.
And Lisle-based Gladson, which has provided product images to the consumer packaged goods industry for the past 30 years, has stepped into the third dimension by releasing the world’s first 3-D database of CPG products for use by manufacturers and marketers. The database includes 3-D versions of the more than 150,000 product images Gladson already owns in traditional formats.
Gladson CEO Susan Sentell said 3-D imaging has grown because it allows a business to create virtual environments, which can allow them to do everything from gauging consumer reaction to a new product on a store shelf, to enhancing the consumer experience on their e-commerce sites and even developing virtual store layouts to maximize product exposure and shopper convenience.
“If a manufacturer like Proctor and Gamble or Kraft was going to come out with a new type of product, they would show pictures of products and engage in market research,” Sentell said. “Now they’re actually creating simulated store environments and the consumers will actually see that product as how it would look in the store.
“Those 3-D objects allow the consumer to virtually take that product off the shelf and take a look at it,” she added. “That’s driven a lot of efficiencies and sends real-time information back to the manufacturer as to the openness of the consumer and how they’re reacting to the package design.”
The images are of products you likely have sitting on your kitchen shelf or in your closet. The majority of Gladson clients are in the grocery, drugstore and mass merchandising fields.
“It’s typically anything you’d see in a grocery store, a drugstore, or a store like Target. Those are the type of products that we specialize in,” said Steve Cole, Gladson’s chief marketing officer.
Sentell adds the items are “the ones consumers buy and use the most every day.”
In addition to market research, Sentell said 3-D images are also used in store and promotion planning. Businesses can create virtual floor layouts when planning new stores. They can also experiment with product promotions in a virtual environment, so that they maximize customer exposure and convenience before the actual promotion is placed in the store. The result is a more efficient, faster process of getting the product into the consumers’ hands, she said.
“It’s all about speed to market,” Sentell said. “In these simulated environments, they’re able to get insights more quickly, make decisions more effectively, and get products and services out to the market quickly.”
Gladson partnered with U.K.-based Red Dot Square to convert the database to 3-D. Red Dot, which has U.S. operations in Chicago, has been a leader in 3-D technology, according to Cole, and the company also creates and provides software to help businesses utilize the 3-D experience.
Cole notes the agreement benefits both Gladson and Red Dot, as each company can offer Gladson’s database and Red Dot’s software services through the other’s customer base. Red Dot’s parent company is global advertising agency WPP Group, he notes, so their client reach is wide.     “There’s revenue for both of us in this relationship,” Cole added.
Cole said Gladson is getting an enthusiastic response from their customers for the 3-D library.
“It has exceeded our expectations in terms of the level of response we’ve gotten,” he said.
Sentell pointed out that while the technology is changing and customers are looking for more 3-D imagery, the new database will be an addition to the company’s offerings, and not replace the current 2-D products.
“We see (3-D) as a strong growth driver for us into the future,” she said. “We see this as really nice, steady growth as more and more customers adopt it. And it’s meeting a need that we’re heard from our customers.”
And that’s been paying off for Gladson. Sentell said business growth has led her to hire about 30 new employees in the last year — ranging from image editors and database coders to a new HR director, staff attorney and sales product managers. The company is also planning to open a second office in DuPage County soon, she added.
Area nonprofits have also benefitted from Glasdon’s growth. Products Gladson receives to create images are collected and donated to area agencies, Sentell said. Agencies such as DuPage Animal Control, the Northern Illinois Food Pantry and Operation Support have received some of the 25,000 pounds of food, health and beauty, and other products Gladson has collected, and the company recently received the Outstanding Food Rescue Partner for 2012 award from the West Suburban Community Pantry.
To see more, go to http://www.gladson.com.