Doug Garnett

Founder & CEO, Atomic Direct
Doug Garnett is an expert introducing innovative products at retail — especially using TV. His career has been spent in innovation and he is the founder and CEO of ad agency Atomic Direct. Atomic leverages TV in its full form across all ranges of broadcast, cable, web, in-store, and direct mail video. Atomic’s work covers a wide range of products, but they are particular specialists with hardware and home products.

In addition, Doug is an adjunct professor of general advertising at Portland State University. He writes and speaks regularly to share his vision of how brand clients can leverage the power of innovative products. He is a member of the Response Magazine advisory board, author of the book "Building Brands with Direct Response Television," and can be followed on Twitter @AtomicAdMan.

Doug's experience with innovation started at aerospace giant General Dynamics where he worked on the Atlas-Centaur launch vehicles, the Space Shuttle, and the Tomahawk Cruise Missile program. He shifted to marketing while selling supercomputers before finding his true home — in advertising for retail products. Clients include Lowe’s Home Improvement Stores, Rubbermaid, AT&T, DisneyMobile, AAA of California, Professional Tool Manufacturing (Drill Doctor), Kreg Tools, P&G, Apple Computer, Sears, Braun, DuPont (Teflon, Stainmaster), and Hamilton Beach.
  • Posted on: 06/23/2017

    Should brands ditch the slang?

    Far too often, slang, edginess, negativity, text abbreviations, emoji's and any of a thousand other approaches reflect a 40 year old creative director's attempt to keep themselves young. But more often than not, slang is used to avoid thinking deeply and getting clear about what we're trying to say.Yes, in some cases marketing can use some slang and succeed. But when it goes bad, it goes very bad.I once worked with advertising for "inline skates for the snow." Despite warnings, our CD had created long form advertising with bazooka toting bikini babes and a host of other creative ideas that were projections about what the young want.We did research with the ads among 16-20 year old inline skaters we recruited at skate parks. Their response? They wanted to know what the product was, how it was made, how they'd use it for tricks, whether it would last ... in other words they wanted to be sure they'd be making good use of their money. Duh. They don't have much -- it better be used well.Sadly, I sat behind the mirror with the entrepreneurial VP of marketing as the extent of the tremendous waste of money sank in.
  • Posted on: 06/21/2017

    Will Amazon Prime Wardrobe change how Americans shop for clothes?

    Will some consumers love this? Of course. Who wouldn't love having a company throw money at giving you your every wish? Will this end up having been a smart move by Amazon? It puts incredible pressure on Amazon's operations and on Amazon's investors while it also adds tremendous pressure for department stores. On balance I don't think it's a smart move.My question though, is, why?. Why would Amazon announce a service that makes no economic sense? So let me hazard a first guess. There has been tremendous hype about Amazon's large business in the "clothing and accessories" market. Except the only part of that market that makes consumer sense via Amazon is accessories -- not clothing.This has the feel of a desperate move to try to jumpstart clothing sales. Now we watch and wait to see if it lasts or ends up having been a tempest in a tea pot.
  • Posted on: 06/16/2017

    What happens now that Amazon is acquiring Whole Foods?

    I'm not surprised that Amazon has bought a brick-and-mortar chain, I have been predicting it for months because it's the only way for Amazon to find profit on the retail side of their business.I am surprised it's Whole Foods. Amazon buys into a fundamentally troubled business model here and a company having to learn how to step back from unsustainable premium pricing.This does fit with the Bezos purchase of the Washington Post -- respected brand but with difficulties. And let's hope that Amazon is wiser than some commenters I saw on Twitter this morning who were reinventing Whole Foods as merely a DC.I expect Amazon will treat Whole Foods as true retail -- the Amazon bookstores are not overloaded with online wizardry but are fundamentally just good stores.The key to watch for: where next in Amazon's search for retail profitability? Department stores? Home improvement? Mass market?
  • Posted on: 06/12/2017

    Would Nordstrom be better off private?

    Digerati like Amazon show the merest whiff of profit and Wall Street rewards them aggressively. Traditional retailers string together runs of 12 highly profitable quarters and Wall Street punishes them.So, yes. Wall Street's short-term thinking and obsession with out-of-date metrics like comps have been punishing retailers for far too long. I think Nordstrom is absolutely correct that they will be able to respond better to the changing retail business out of the spotlight of the stock market.However, this choice would leave them in a tricky spot for raising capital -- dependent on strong investment banking relationships.Whether this is their best strategy isn't clear to me, but I fully endorse their desire to get away from the absurdity of the stock market.
  • Posted on: 06/09/2017

    Is IKEA really going to start selling on Amazon’s Marketplace?

    I appreciate IKEA's interest in testing their way forward. But strategically this move concerns me.Mr. Loof's statement reflects a belief that they can just lift up their brand and put it elsewhere. Brand doesn't always work that way. Because while IKEA products have a clear perception in the market, their exclusive stores are part of that perception (in a scarce number of stores). Even smaller-pickup stores retain that brand quality.Once IKEA leaves that model, I expect their brand to diminish. They might find that this approach generates tremendous revenues for a few years. But in the long run, if they fully embraced it, I expect to see IKEA's brand suffer.What about Amazon Marketplace? I don't think it matters which marketplace -- the result will be similar.
  • Posted on: 06/08/2017

    What does it take for retailers to thrive amid shifting consumer preferences?

    It is disappointing to see how many lists like this omit products. Retail only exists to sell product. And values like entertaining or experience events are support to that fundamental reason to exist.To think about a way forward without product seems to be classic ecommerce thinking -- because ecommerce sites suggest "we can offer anything." They can, but they also aren't tremendously profitable today.Product based strategies that move into the future for retail will be critical. It's sad that our industry isn't talking about it more.
  • Posted on: 06/02/2017

    Are smart speakers limited as a shopping tool?

    I suspect that even these numbers over-state how much shopping use there is for speakers like Alexa. Usually research like this only determines "11 percent used their speaker at least once to shop" ... meaning regular and repeat use is lower. Same with ordering food. (However I wasn't able to review the original report.)And that all makes sense. Which means retailers shouldn't get carried away with these devices. The primary focus should be to ensure that speakers are effective for getting your location and hours.
  • Posted on: 06/01/2017

    Should Amazon buy Macy’s?

    Great question. I think there's a solid probability (not a guarantee) that Amazon's only profitable retail future requires a pivot to brick and mortar. Wall Street won't let them continue with just over 1/2 their revenue returning no profit. The margins on cloud services are superb (really extraordinary) and on devices and content are good.Now they have to fix their profit problem on the rest of the business. And the economics are better in brick and mortar (as we've seen in some excellent posts lately) than ecommerce.Looking at Macy's, there's one way that it might be a very smart way to quickly leverage up into a major brick & mortar play. On the other hand, it may come with so many liabilities at this point (many hidden) that they'd never make the pivot succeed.
  • Posted on: 05/31/2017

    Will personalized pricing only lead to more discounting?

    To a degree, I think these pricing gadgets are technology that CAN be built looking for a reason to exist. The creators have found that reason by adopting the theory that for all consumers it's all about price.They are wrong. Only a segment of customers are highly price-sensitive. Yet these price strategies go out of their way to train those who aren't price sensitive to become price sensitive.There is no way for a dash to the pricing bottom to end well. We should note that many of the best brands work hard to maintain price consistency across channels -- and win as a result.
  • Posted on: 05/30/2017

    Will Google change the game by linking clicks to in-store purchases?

    Assuming the tool works it could add some good interesting data to the discussion.But I advise caution. The last time I reviewed some Google attribution work (several years ago) they sent us big clear answers -- based on exceptionally unstable attribution of the very tiny, tiny portion of online actions they could attribute. It was an incredible error to have suggested clear answers of any sort.So this announcement gives me a headache. What I expect is several years of magical claims of discovery of amazing things which aren't accurate and only look at a small portion of the advertising mix, yet are sold to retailers and brands as if they were absolute finds.There will likely be some valuable insights. But will the value of those insights outweigh the damage done by claiming too much from them? And in the long run will this turn out to be yet another big digital announcement that fails in practice? Only time will tell.So let's dabble with the new toy ... with caution.
  • Posted on: 05/25/2017

    Are some retailer CEOs too old to learn new tricks?

    First, it seems J.Crew caused many of their own problems. And we've seen it often in their category -- it's difficult to maintain a coherent AND meaningful brand for a retailer like J.Crew when fashion style trends move so fast.What about the bigger CEO question? I think the mix preventing progress is more toxic: CEOs are distracted by shiny baubles while bureaucracy keeps their organizations stuck in old ways.For this reason, I hesitate to say CEOs are stuck in the old days -- and attitude from shareholders that rewards CEOs for shiny bauble syndrome. So many "clever tech" or "store entertainment" moves have no strategic base -- show no insight into making retail stores a place more consumers want to shop.
  • Posted on: 05/24/2017

    Will Amazon’s use of data transform how retailers operate stores?

    In my visits to our local Amazon Books, this value Ms. Cast is suggesting seemed negligible. As I browsed the ratings weren't evident and the titles were the same ones found in Barnes & Noble or our local independents (Powell's, Annie Bloom's).While I respect Amazon's search for smarter retail, I think Amazon is attempting to create a value story where one doesn't really exist. Perhaps the similarity in titles with other stores reveals that choosing the most popular books doesn't require online ratings.I do think Amazon has more to bring to retail and hope we see more than mere gimmicks in the future.
  • Posted on: 05/23/2017

    Can offline word-of-mouth be used to drive business results?

    I have been struck for years by how businesses get focused on a byproduct of doing their business right.Should WOM be a goal? It's good to measure it and know what's happening. It's a good indicator if you have problems. And in a well-oiled marketing machine it should be happening naturally. If you have products worth talking about, have a place worth shopping at, offer deals that are important and tell people about these things with advertising and clear communication, WOM will be strong.What's not discussed here is whether there is sufficient payout from focusing marketing dollars on WOM vs. where else you might use them. I have not found the trade-off to be strong and smart strategically.WOM-focused marketing can lead your team to dash around expending considerable effort for small returns when considered in terms of your needs to survive the next few years of retail transition.
  • Posted on: 05/23/2017

    How should retailers balance personal versus impersonal experiences?

    One key truth makes this more complicated: I don't think these are clear segments. Whether I prefer using gadgetry to place my order or prefer placing it with an individual depends on the day, what I'm buying, which store, which category and whether I'm alone or with others.So I thoroughly agree with this conclusion -- but I caution against merchants creating rigid segments and designing all their efforts around them. Stores have to create room for a range of people to be satisfied.It also isn't about speed or convenience. These two approaches are, I believe, more personal -- representing mostly how we perceive the speed or convenience, not how fast or convenient it is in reality. (It's often slower to use the terminal to place an order.)Overall, we need to stay focused on the ultimate goal: when the shopper leaves the store we want them to have had an experience that leads them to want to come back again. How should each experience be crafted to make that happen?
  • Posted on: 05/22/2017

    How should self-checkout be incentivized?

    We enter dangerous territory if we start trying to control consumer actions in the store with incentives. Incentives too often backfire and create dysfunction.We can see the dysfunction that might come by looking at the example noted above -- the airlines. Yes, they have started micro-pricing all parts of a trip. And the result is incredibly frustrated flyers who struggle to comprehend what all is happening. The only way airlines have controlled this blowback is by keeping prices so low that they are unrealistic (I can fly in four hours from Portland, OR to Chicago for less than the cost of gas to drive there in two days). That has increased consumer expectations for extraordinary service without pricing or margins that make that service possible. It's a train wreck, so to speak.My recommendation: We should have both types of checkout and allow consumers to choose. It is the store's job to staff in order to level the load. And that should be it.

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