Doug Garnett

President, Protonik

Doug Garnett has spent his career with innovation and is an expert on using marketing to increase ROI for ground breaking consumer products distributed through online and retail outlets. Doug is the founder and President of Protonik, LLC — a consultancy focused on the unusual marketing needs of innovative products and services. Protonik works with manufacturers, brands, inventors, and retailers.

Prior to forming Protonik, Doug spent 20 years as founder and CEO of ad agency Atomic Direct. Atomic leveraged TV across all ranges of broadcast, cable and web to drive sales. Atomic’s work covered a wide range of products, but had particularly specialty with home, hardware and automotive products.

Doug taught for 13 years in the business school at Portland State University. He writes and speaks regularly about the unique challenges facing companies when they attempt to use innovative products to create demand and build brand. In addition to his role with the RetailWire BrainTrust, he is a member of the BWG Advisory board, the Response Magazine advisory board, author of the book “Building Brands with Direct Response Television,” and can be followed on Twitter @AtomicAdMan.

Doug started as a mathematician at aerospace giant General Dynamics where he worked on the Atlas-Centaur launch vehicles, the Space Shuttle, and the Tomahawk Cruise Missile program. He spent 5 years in marketing and sales of scientific supercomputers before finding his true home — in advertising for retail products. Doug has worked with Lowe’s Home Improvement Stores, Rubbermaid, AT&T, DisneyMobile, AAA of California, The Joint Chiropractic, Professional Tool Manufacturing (Drill Doctor), Kreg Tools, P&G, Apple Computer, Sears, Braun, DuPont (Teflon, Stainmaster), and Hamilton Beach.

  • Posted on: 03/26/2020

    Would bundled tech services spur the sales of smart home devices?

    Google advertised their smart home devices by turning the lights blue or with an intrepid arctic explorer scaring his daughter at Christmas. Consumers aren’t buying it -- there isn’t enough value to adopt smart home devices. Note especially how dependent they are on security. That’s bad. Home security has been stuck at around 20 percent of homes since the 1970s. Why? As a woman in a focus group around smart homes once observed “We’ve been in our home 26 years and never been broken into. Why do I need a security system now?” There IS opportunity -- but the device manufacturers haven’t developed a vision for valuable devices beyond security. Over the past 20+ years I’ve worked with the issue often. What I’ve never seen is a manufacturer commit to move beyond security and into true value.
  • Posted on: 03/16/2020

    Should retail close?

    Yes. Retailers should close except those whose goods are critical for daily life (e.g. supermarkets). For those, it seems we need a way to limit the number of shoppers at a time. Years back I wrote a post about business’s biggest weakness: Improvisation. And it’s at a time like this when improvisation skills are most needed. For a retailer like NIke — closing is not a question. For a supermarket? It’s time to learn as we go. There are no hard and fast rules for allowing people to obtain the goods of basic living within a pandemic. Note that improvising is NOT out of control or ignorant of the rules. Rather, improvising in music or in sport requires innovative thinking within the rules of the road — to achieve something we’d never have arrived at without it. “Practicing on the Bandstand: Some Thought about Miles Davis, Improvisation, and Business.”
  • Posted on: 03/13/2020

    Is blockchain the answer to supply chain visibility?

    Blockchain isn’t the issue here — it’s basic communication. As with any effort of this type, the cost of unifying the communication could be far higher than any potential improvements warrant. Retailers should be cautious about this effort. It’s not clear that it’s anything more than a committee report delivered to committees.
  • Posted on: 03/13/2020

    Is a compelling Amazon alternative?

    It’s a great idea in many ways. Independent sellers have shown that there continues to be a market untapped by Amazon’s online Barnes & Noble model. That said, I wish their discussion showed they clearly understand what independent booksellers bring to shoppers. More interesting titles than Amazon promotes. More variety in content than Amazon’s “five star reviews” would ever discover. Those are the reasons people tend to love independents. I’m rooting for them. But as a consumer behavior guy, I recommend they go spend some deeper research time with those who buy from independents. The worst thing that could happen to them is to believe that the purpose of supporting independents financially is enough. It’s not.
  • Posted on: 03/12/2020

    Why is Neiman Marcus shuttering its Last Call off-price business?

    This seems to make sense — especially since outlet style stores are no longer merely a place to offload overstock. At this point in time, does Nieman Marcus really need to have to source and create product to fill the small Last Call channel? I can't see it.
  • Posted on: 03/12/2020

    Coffee chain’s turbo-caffeinated expansion driven by data

    A friend of mine audited businesses. And he observed that rapid expansion is a superb way to mask bad finances — hence why some rapid expanding firms collapse so quickly. Specifically, this friend observed that fast expansion with new outlets masks the bad other words exactly what Luckin is doing. I do NOT know what's going on here. But their claiming data is the key competitive advantage rings hollow. Why? Because it's the specific sales pitch data people have been selling and which hasn't been found true. So, for now, I'm skeptical and will continue to ask serious questions like this one: Is the data claim merely hype which masks fundamental financial problems which will lead to their downfall (or to be propped up by the Chinese government)?
  • Posted on: 03/11/2020

    Are online sales metrics irrelevant for brick and click retailers?

    Online options wooed sellers by offering rich metrics. Except we have now learned those metrics are merely numbers and rarely offer insight unless very carefully controlled. (The NPS being the worst of the bunch — highly hyped, offered to investors, and generally of little meaning.) It is good to see companies beginning to finally wise up.
  • Posted on: 03/11/2020

    Brands have a lot of reasons for working with Amazon

    This survey appears to be brand managers, hooked on “Amazon increases” at high percentages, rationalizing their deals. Does Amazon improve your brand? Nope. Not unless you pay them a lot of money to appear high in searches — and then Amazon will still place their own private label products higher. Driving sales? Amazon returns double digit growth — but minuscule numbers in the grand scheme of things. So managers are hooked on the million or two they get from Amazon, and ignore the $50 million they get in stores. And “new customers”? Perhaps a few. But these folks ignore that they never get to know who those new customers are — only Amazon does. This survey is mind boggling. Manufacturers needs to find some clearer wisdom than this.
  • Posted on: 03/10/2020

    Target wants to unlock its videogaming potential with a new concept store

    This looks to be another smart move by Target. They should take care not to expand this idea everywhere — there will be many stores where it doesn’t return enough for the cost. On the other hand, to learn how to better sell games? Absolutely worth the investment. Good to see.
  • Posted on: 03/10/2020

    Will rival retailers buy Amazon’s ‘Just Walk Out’ technology?

    Who is asking for this? Shareholders? Check. News media? Check. Customer? Um. No. And that’s the problem. Amazon is attempting to create for itself another feeding frenzy. But I just don’t see it. This story overplays the “pain point” theory of checkout. Are long checkout lines a problem? Yes. But how often does that happen? What is the trade-off from losing the personal contact? How many hurdles will customers have to overcome simply to use it? (My son’s Amazon Go experience was that it turned walking into the store, signing up for the tech, verifying that he had the tech, etc. into a MAJOR pain point.) Once again, Amazon is using prestidigitation to distract the market. What we really should be asking is what Amazon is doing behind its back and why they’re hyping this so much. The straight answer? There’s no chance of them ever making profit off their retail-like online sales. That’s what they’re hiding.
  • Posted on: 03/09/2020

    Will augmented reality tech effectively bring the try-on experience online?

    Just to continue my skepticism about AR: while there are some tremendous places AR will help companies, the retail store (or online retail) is not one of them. Even my students know that there’s a massive difference between trying on a sweater and seeing it photoshopped onto your body in VR. It is not possible to effectively model fit, finish, and tailoring against the real human body (much less true color). I do not see it working for categories. On the other hand VR has an excellent behind-the-scenes opportunity to show what a store might feel like without building it. And that’s been the important application of VR since it was pioneered in the 1950s in simulators for jets and rockets.
  • Posted on: 03/09/2020

    Can retailers ensure stores are coronavirus-safe?

    Retail will be one of the most evident places where we feel the change that will be needed to respond to the virus. That means we can take a lead in helping society learn the real message here: We all depend on one another. And we depend on others to help keep us all safe. Extra cleaning of stores? Absolutely. But far more interesting is the reality that we have to balance things like re-usable cups (environmentally damaging) with the presence of this virus (life threatening). Perhaps rather than focusing on (sometimes exclusively) single-issue politics, we can learn to treat each other better and focus on what really matters: living together as a society.
  • Posted on: 02/25/2020

    Was Burger King smart to showcase moldy Whoppers?

    Burger King is making a significant product change. And Burger King, as it has done so often in the past, botched the ad. Why make an ad which reminds us of how moldy and run down Burger King outlets feel these days? Where the staff has the barest enthusiasm? The ad fails, also, because only a tiny part of the market is aware of the claim that McDonald’s burgers don’t mold. (That said, it’s very cool footage if it weren’t trying to be advertising.) Saddest of all? Smart creative could have made it work. Reverse the footage and focus on how the Whopper is so good that customers don’t need the preservatives — so Burger King is taking them out. A sad example of how lost the modern advertising business can be.
  • Posted on: 02/24/2020

    What are the biggest barriers to AI adoption for retailers?

    AI adoption won’t be visible — most employees won’t even notice. And that makes this topic even more critical. I highly recommend the new book by Melanie Mitchell of Portland State and the Santa Fe Institute — “Artificial Intelligence: A Thinking Guide for Humans.” Key in this book is discovering how relatively simple it is to fool an AI-based system. Also how easy it is for an AI deep learning system to embed prejudices — not clear them up. AI is merely a new set of algorithms — only this time humans don’t drive every step but teach the algorithm things in such a way that we can never know what it learned. As a result, Mitchell gives excellent examples of the mis-training of AI and how hard it is to detect that it has happened. Retailers should embrace AI -- and do so cautiously, knowing that they don’t control it. And if they implement it poorly, it will end up controlling them.
  • Posted on: 02/19/2020

    Shoppers have a love/hate relationship with self-checkouts

    Self-checkout's value seems quite clear to me: It's a nice tool when I’ve dashed into the store for a small set of things. It's quite frustrating to use if I have more than that. I am concerned to see evidence that grocery management (seeking to eliminate the headache of having real people working for them) is pushing self-checkout more than customers want it. Many other excellent tools in the store die when managers attempt to make them the only tool in the store.

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