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: 01/20/2020

    What does it take to create a risk-taking, innovating retail culture?

    Marketoonist also gives us excellent insight into this problem....
  • Posted on: 01/20/2020

    Best Buy CEO faces alleged misconduct probe

    Somehow, our modern world is struggling with the reality that we are human — and that means both intellectual and biological animals. While we clearly can’t condone, and must fight, horrors like Harvey Weinstein, we are also asking very human people to work in very close quarters with other humans — and then asking them to “turn it off, like a light switch” (In the brilliant words of the “Book of Mormon” musical). I will begin to find hope again when we see articles attempting to sort out how people can remain human and work together — without a demand for some kind of ethereal perfection. In this case, I’m saddened because it’s been good to watch the business advancement of Best Buy over the past few years. Since this pre-dated (apparently) her tenure, does it really matter? I know the absolutes — and the news loves absolutes. But what is the human response here?
  • Posted on: 01/20/2020

    What does it take to create a risk-taking, innovating retail culture?

    Cultural change starts with the board, CEO, and the remaining C-Suite executives. Some changes needed? Many best practices must be abandoned – because the culture of best practices is a culture or control and limitation which fights against innovation. Most management of subordinated by KPIs need to be seriously challenged — and often abandoned. KPIs are only valid in stable situations and innovation is not stable. But most of all, the board and C-suite have to demonstrate by their own actions the embracing of risk taking and eliminate the political punishment of those who take risk. These are issues I’ve written about in a 4-part series about 11 diseases which kill innovation — 4 deadly, 4 less so. Here’s the first.
  • Posted on: 01/17/2020

    Wegmans has a better website, but did it need one?

    Any website re-design runs a very high risk of redirecting too much money and focus into something which can have only minimal return. Certainly from what has been written, it sounds like the focused changes are useful. But are they strategically important enough for the investment? All that said, there is also one major risk I’ll point out with a re-design. With an existing site which customers have figured out how to use (for better or worse), the new site must replicate all that works before it adds new things. Sounds easy — but it’s not. And we have plenty of examples of companies who became too distracted by website redevelopment. I hope Wegmans made a good choice — they’re quite an interesting chain. And every retailer should approach website redesign with caution.
  • Posted on: 01/17/2020

    Are Gap Inc. and Old Navy better off together?

    I’m quite relieved. The idea of the separation seemed quite ill considered. Together they face a daunting set of challenges. Separately? They’re too small to have a chance of beating the challenges.
  • Posted on: 01/17/2020

    NRF 2020 Review: Human vs. Machine

    Let’s first get it out of the way: what’s called “AI” isn’t intelligence but automated systems running on data. They’re not replacing the humanity of a person soon — but will brilliantly automate repetitive and boring tasks. That said, the is deciding where human intelligence is most critical within your company. Without a focus on the human, a company sets itself up for competitive failure (at least once we’re past the first two or three years of the new tech hitting).
  • Posted on: 01/16/2020

    Burger King sets the dining mood with a ‘Whopperish’ aesthetic

    Burger King outlets desperately need a face lift. Is “high concept” design the way to go? I doubt it. Nice seating, clean looking environment, etc. would go a long way a lot faster — because they could apply it to more restaurants...faster. Chipotle? They’re a much different beast from Burger King — if they don’t continue to put quite a bit of money into design we’ll all wonder what happened to them.
  • Posted on: 01/16/2020

    Did Trump’s phase one deal with China deliver the goods for retailers?

    Good of them to sign this. But it’s only a start. For Trump to claim any kind of victory from imposing big tariffs then making them a little less big is pretty disingenuous.
  • Posted on: 01/16/2020

    What does Target’s Christmas miss mean?

    I remain mystified that Wall Street thinks it can make broad, accurate pronouncements on companies like Target based on Holiday numbers. So first, it means nothing important. (Read “The Halo Effect” by Rosenzweig.) On the other hand, we forget that Target’s story about itself is just that — a story. Within it there are some important truths. But there are also covered up weaknesses. It might have been that the products available in Electronics and Toys were pretty weak this year — that’s my guess. At the same time, while Target has a solid strategy not everything will work in that strategy — so they can’t rest on the laurels of some strategic announcements followed by one year of good numbers. Life moves on — even when you’re Target.
  • Posted on: 01/15/2020

    NRF puts on another ‘big show’ for a hopeful industry

    I am finally hopeful for retail — hopeful that we will finally begin to leverage the value of bricks. It won’t be easy, though. Many retailers are in bad situations from a decade or so of using “fight Amazon” as a strategy. In fact, I heard surprising whispers from one of the retailers that had be praised heavily for the success in their anti-Amazon fight but thrived because of macro-forces, not their strategy. Let’s build on that. Now that it’s clear how many problems there are with an all digital strategy, let’s get focused on building on bricks while smartly using digital to create a competitive advantage.
  • Posted on: 01/15/2020

    Is Amazon more friend or foe for digital start-ups?

    Amazon used to be the hero of the digital start-up — or any start-up distributing directly to consumers. However, they’ve lost that. By allowing massive players to dominate with advertising, startups are now lost amid the overwhelming chaos that is Amazon. My advice? Stay away. This deal with the devil may seem attractive. But you won’t know who bought your product — only that it sold. You won’t be seen well in searches — your big competitors will. Amazon will foist onto you the responsibility and cost of Prime delivery. It’s sad. Four years ago I recommended that startups use Amazon and watch warily (Trust, but verify). Today, Amazon has lost all claim to being a reliable business partner for a start-up.
  • Posted on: 01/15/2020

    Will Walmart become a fashion destination in 2020?

    Walmart isn’t only competing with Amazon and online — it’s Target who has mastered the ability to use big names to give their daily wear fashions some velocity. Where should Walmart focus? A mid-life student once explained Target’s success to me. She liked Target’s designer brands because her daughter wasn’t embarrassed to be wearing clothes bought at Target. “Bought at Walmart” isn’t a fashion statement for a teen or pre-teen. They will have to put a lot into advertising and branding in order to make “from ____” into something a teen accepts...maybe even wants.
  • Posted on: 01/14/2020

    Consumers want up-to-date online reviews

    I don’t trust this study. In most cases, consumers do not know how recent a review is — or have to do extra work to find out. That means research asking them how important it is has nothing to do with actual behavior in the market. Just because we ask a question, consumers will ALWAYS answer it — it’s like completing school homework. And it’s not the consumer’s job to ensure they have a valid and useful answer — that’s our responsibility reviewing the research. What retailers should do is focus on getting reviews and making those reviews available to customers. They should also fight back against the age old practice of killing an SKU with bad reviews and replacing it with a new SKU for the same product. Otherwise, reviews work quite well for consumers at this point.
  • Posted on: 01/14/2020

    Is Walmart’s Alphabot what the future of e-grocery fulfillment will look like?

    I don’t think robotic technology is a strategic advantage for any grocer – it’s part of the jacks or better to enter the game. So it’s hard for me to get excited about this company’s robot or that one’s automated system. As technology, they may be fantastic — an effective robot is not an easy thing to build. But we need to take care not to be wowed by technology while ignoring the key question: Is e-commerce grocery really the huge opportunity it’s being hyped as? I’m quite skeptical.
  • Posted on: 01/14/2020

    Will ‘guests’ love Target even more as Circle members?

    I like the simplicity of Target’s Circle program. That said we need to be cautious about any loyalty programs. Research shows that loyalty programs too often reward people for shopping they would do anyway and without extending the average retention of shoppers. Other research indicates that the highest spending consumers are also the most market savvy — hence most likely to shift spending to another brand.

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