PROFILE

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.
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  • Posted on: 04/25/2017

    Can tailored digital video messaging transform grocery end-caps?

    Putting a huge endcap with a large Coke bottle on it increased sales. No surprise. Physical presence in the store always has a big impact. The screens contributed only a small amount to that increase and the digital tailoring an even smaller amount.My guess is 80 percent of the impact is the big endcap, 15 percent is the screen and only 5 percent is from all the digital complexity. (These are guesses, but reasonable ones based on measured experience.)It's not surprising that the Coke execs credit a digital advancement which is a program they have an extensive career risk on. But that's weak thinking for us to accept.What will be important to watch is whether these endcaps can survive the store environment. Having put a lot of video in-store, it's hard enough to get a simple video to play reliably over an extended period of time (like a couple of months).
  • Posted on: 04/24/2017

    What customer service lessons can be learned from United Airlines?

    The biggest surprise in the United debacle is that none of the individuals worked for those that are blamed. It was a United flight number but a Republic Airline crew on the plane (the report I read was unclear about gate agents). The law enforcement involved was also subcontracted.So it seems more to show the risk a brand assumes when it doesn't directly manage the people the public believes represent it.What's the lesson for retail? The front line determines satisfaction with your brand so empower them to deliver true customer satisfaction through service -- rather than the few superficial things that can be measured with satisfaction surveys.I do not think dissatisfaction with the store is driving online sales -- mostly it's price and convenience. That said, creating a store where it's interesting and useful to shop will drastically increase the number of customers, number of visits and the spending on each of those visits.
  • Posted on: 04/21/2017

    What’s needed beyond KPIs?

    KPIs are just a proxy for what's truly going on in your business. As a result, they are always merely an estimate and too often a weak estimate.The thing that makes KPIs both useful and misleading is the fact that they oversimplify reality. This makes it critical to avoid managing by the metrics. Rather than being the focus for the way you manage, they should be one item that informs it.Edwards Deming suggested, in fact, that managing to the metrics leads to the perfectly-managed business ... that fails. It's sadly too true.It's also critical to complement KPIs with other input. They should be combined with traditional consumer research (especially qualitative), walking the store, talking with front-line and back-office management and a good sense of the competition.And this is what makes business fun. Because management can't be turned over to algorithms -- we aren't slaves to KPIs. Successful business decisions require executives, informed by a wealth of research including KPIs, using their analysis, insights and instincts to make difficult decisions.
  • Posted on: 04/13/2017

    Are retail CEOs ready to ‘disagree and commit’ like Jeff Bezos?

    Bureaucratic organizations develop a tendency to delay decision making for many reasons. Waiting for "more complete" information is one. More insidious is attempting to make everyone happy. So, Bezos' spirit is accurate in the sense that companies need to do everything they can to encourage innovation and improvisation that leads to more effective answers.But the theory of "decide quickly" is a proven myth. My advice is that a decision made before its time is as erroneous as a decision made too late. The book "Silence" about introverts discusses excellent research showing (a) biz school drives a culture of "faster decision" over "better decision and (b) sometimes that's important but (c) many times it's incredibly wrong. This is especially true for decisions that involve subtleties.So there's good spirit in Bezos' comment for us to keep in mind. But he suggests it as policy. Following it as a rule will lead to as much (or more) error as it leads to good things. Perhaps this explains those major & long-lasting mistakes Amazon makes.
  • Posted on: 04/12/2017

    Will virtual reality transform in-store merchandising?

    VR tech simply can't live up to the hype. It will succeed in some very limited consumer-facing applications and be useful in store planning. But it won't transform retail.At this point we are at the peak hype moment -- lots of hype about things that haven't been built. If you will, it's a type of vaporware that we are told science fiction stories about. Once real work starts, as good friends of mine are doing, reality will narrow down where it offers any value. So we will see it have some impact. But, as my friends are finding, there simply aren't good areas where it offers much.In part, we need to remember that stores are physical and their advantage is physical. Drawing consumers to the physical store to offer them digital integration with products simply doesn't add up.
  • Posted on: 04/11/2017

    Are ‘Employee of the Month’ programs worth it?

    The key problem in all employee recognition is that it's yet another top-down program which from the bottom up can look irrational, random and serendipitous.When they work, the people who are recognized are those who their fellow employees agree deserve the recognition. But from what I hear, far too often employees find that those who are rewarded are those who play the politics inside the company -- not those who best serve customers.Done honestly it's not a bad idea to add something to what can be a dreary world. But the bigger the corporation, the less likely a program will be done honestly without the bureaucracy taking away the value.
  • Posted on: 04/10/2017

    Should the same-store sales metric be retired?

    All metrics are merely proxies -- estimates we hope relate to the health of a business. That means we must always remain cautious about these proxies failing when the market changes. Too often businesses forget that metrics are merely proxies and not full indicators of business success.Store comps should get far less emphasis in the future because they are a less and less accurate proxy for business health.Unfortunately, that means weaning Wall Street from their reliance on same-store sales.We should also remember W. Edwards Deming's caution -- that over-reliance on metrics leads to perfectly-managed businesses that fail.
  • Posted on: 04/06/2017

    Why is digital advertising underachieving?

    Digital advertising was sold with tremendous overstatement and hype. Marketers are realizing it will never deliver on what was promised to them.And that is a good thing. Because digital is merely a media option -- one of many. And as a media option, it is incredibly fragmented and offers little control over knowing that you are getting the value you think you paid for.Advertisers need to be very careful about what they ask digital ads to do for them. So I think this survey reflects a dawning reality that digital hasn't lived up to the hype. Now let's let it live among the many media options while we focus on the most powerful strategic options -- including choosing the best mix of all media.
  • Posted on: 04/05/2017

    BrainTrust throwdown: Is it inevitable that tech companies will dominate retail?

    Retail is a business based on people, for people, by people. I remain aghast that the digerati seem unable to stop and ponder that reality. Some days I find arguments like these from tech are fueled with a Utopianism found in science fiction -- the kind that ignores humanity.Tech is a tool. A powerful tool sometimes. But a tool.Yet too many fall prey to an incredible misunderstanding of the Apple Store.Apple stores succeed because of their products -- outstanding, high demand, innovative products. All their tech trappings are nice and are good brand support. But Apple stores don't succeed because of their tech -- they succeed because of Apple products. And Apple products uniquely (among tech products) appeal to that which is human. They work because they are designed for people and not technologists.Yes. Retailers must stay focused on good applications of tech tools. But the only future for retail is a human future.
  • Posted on: 04/04/2017

    Why haven’t customer surveys gone mobile?

    In research practice we learn that the validity of consumer answers depends on whether they believe the line of questioning and the research itself is productive. (Consumers have a BS meter that detects frivolous lines of questioning.)Given the incredible overuse and abuse of customer surveys, it's smart NOT to move them mobile. Consumers do not believe these surveys are valuable and the data gathered in them is generally worthless (when it comes to truth). Unfortunately, managers are hooked on these surveys to justify their decisions.My advice: we must stop believing that cheap research like these surveys is worthwhile. Instead, take the time and money to do serious, in person research work. What retailers will discover is that research will find incredible strengths that they can leverage for profit.
  • Posted on: 04/03/2017

    Should retailers take a public stance on social issues?

    As we read this, we must expect that any generational set of attitudes remain that way over time. In fact, rather than consider this as something "new" among Millennials (for example, the young asked corporations to care in the 1960s), let me suggest this is a pretty typical attitude for 20-30 year olds.But here's the big question for a company: Should your policies be influenced because of a survey suggesting that somewhere amid their consideration set, young consumers say they'll offer a slight advantage to companies who "do good"?There are huge assumptions built all the way through. My advice to companies, generally, is simply to be true to yourself and your values. And that includes doing good in any ways that are tangential to your business. Go ahead and do them -- but don't ever do them with the grand idea they build your business. Take action because is it part of being a responsible company.And with that in mind, Mark Ritson out of Australia has pointed out that, perhaps, we need to start with far more basic things: the most good a company can do is pay its fair share of taxes.
  • Posted on: 04/03/2017

    Are consumers interested in Kroger’s stories?

    The marketing world is too often lost in mythologies about brand. And this effort seems particularly lost.Let's make the first, most important, observation: "Kroger" is not the consumer brand. In most areas, Kroger is a parent brand that consumers barely know (or care) exists. Where does the consumer shop? King Soopers, Fred Meyer, etc. It's concerning that the PR team at Kroger misses this truth about the real world of their customers.And then the idea of stories.... It's hard to imagine that paid promotional stories put forth on a Kroger blog are stories that will influence consumers.I"m always saddened when I see companies waste time on efforts like these, because usually a public effort like this reflects a deeper error in the company understanding of how brands work for consumers.
  • Posted on: 04/03/2017

    Will mobile order and pay-only stores improve Starbucks’ operational performance?

    Agree. But we've seen this train wreck coming. Starbucks risks a no-win -- attracting consumers with the myth that big conveniences in life are free.We've seen Amazon raise consumer expectations through money-losing services (like Prime). I fear retailers taking the good BOPIS model then piling on money losing service features to where they raise expectations they'll never meet profitably.We should demand of ourselves that we charge for convenience. Fundamental economics....
  • Posted on: 03/24/2017

    Will struggling retailers find new lives as pure play e-tailers?

    Good points. I wonder if they'll get a false short-term reward as they repurpose inventory -- making the economics better for a time without realizing they're false economics?
  • Posted on: 03/24/2017

    Will struggling retailers find new lives as pure play e-tailers?

    I can't imagine any savvy retailer choosing to give up the difficult economics of brick-and-mortar to take on the bad economics of e-commerce. Perhaps there's a successful place halfway between where they are today and pure-play e-commerce but I expect it will take a considerable search to find it.

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