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: 08/22/2017

    Will Amazon’s two-minute pickup service appeal to students?

    I partly agreed. Yet college students also, in general, are low on cash. Were this offered to high-earning, mobile young professionals I might get it. But students? At least not the ones I teach in Portland (at a school which will soon get one of these).
  • Posted on: 08/22/2017

    Will Amazon’s two-minute pickup service appeal to students?

    There are a lot of problems with this -- mostly around pricing. And unless Amazon starts to charge premium pricing, they'll take a triple hit to any chance of profit.First, this really is simply a convenience store. And convenience stores are able to operate profitably by charging a premium for that convenience. That's basic economics and consumers are willing to pay for the convenience. Win-win.Second, take the expensive economics of convenience store and now hire additional staff, inventory systems, etc. to do all the pick and pack. In a convenience store, the consumer does their own pick and pack. Not here.Third, we are ... uhm ... talking about college students? Money challenged, skating by ...It really doesn't add up: Establish a premium service, offer it to those who can't pay for it then (probably) choose not to charge effective rates for ever making profit?The only thing I can imagine is that someone inside Amazon is carried away with that brand theory about "get them loyal early" -- except Amazon doesn't have a loyalty problem. So I don't get this one.
  • Posted on: 08/21/2017

    Where did Applebee’s go wrong with Millennials?

    I'm not deeply familiar with the situation. But from the description, this sounds like poor brand choices by Applebee's more than an issue of Millennials.Brands take decades to build into powerhouses. That also means they change slowly -- not on a dime. So a quick pivot by Applebee's was destined to fail by fundamental brand realities.The contrast with Walmart is interesting. So Applebee's felt it had a problem and tried to change its brand dramatically. They probably LOST enthusiasm from their dedicated customers with their changes -- and there's no way to build new ones fast enough to undo the damage done by losing the dedicated ones.By contrast, Walmart didn't change it's brand. They remain what we think of Walmart (among consumers). But the corporation bought brands that already existed and were strong and added that revenue and strategic potential.Those are entirely different responses... And no surprise Applebee's is struggling.
  • Posted on: 08/21/2017

    Why are Target’s small stores much more productive than its big boxes?

    This is fascinating and I applaud Target for doing these small stores. That said, we must avoid applying the logic error that I see manufacturers make with online sales.Double the growth from something small is excellent -- but still small. The key question for Target is whether these stores can contribute enough to their total bottom line to pay for the added overhead of more leases per dollar, more store management per dollar, more stocking locations per dollar, etc. ...It's been incredible to me to hear manufacturers was poetic about online sales only to confess they're talking about less than 5 percent of their sales (depending). It takes a LOT of 50 percent growth on 5 percent to become significant.
  • Posted on: 08/21/2017

    Should all retailers offer subscription services?

    In my own experience, the value of a subscription depends on:
    1. Whether I can accurately estimate a reliable consumption in a period of time to avoid either running out or over-stocking (either being a consumer pain point).
    2. Expectation that the product doesn't change significantly over time -- meaning I don't want to seek improvements or better products (things I discover in the store).
    So a subscription model fits for medicines with regular daily consumption. It somewhat fits for pet food and laundry detergent (I wouldn't subscribe despite the above example). And in other categories it's a bust.The questions the retailer has to ask is: Does this help my business and help my shoppers? If I were to offer subscriptions, how would I do so to make it useful and not a distraction? And in so doing, the retailer needs to control investment because in nearly every case, subscription will be -- at best -- a narrow corner of their business and will also likely lose shopper dollars by reducing store visits.I consider subscriptions similar to aggressive couponing. What Groupon's rapid rise and fast stagnation showed us is that aggressive couponers are a niche -- 10 to 15 percent. Subscription likely has a similarly small niche in most cases. But even worse, it only adds value to 10 to 15 percent of the shopping of that 10 to 15 percent of shoppers do -- meaning 1 to 2.25 percent overall.
  • Posted on: 08/16/2017

    What bad habits do retail solution providers need to break?

    I'll add one more. Providers are claiming crazy outcomes from their work -- outcomes that are magical in nature and far beyond what's ever possible. Of course sales teams always exaggerate by painting a great picture. But in the retail tech and data business the claims are far beyond mere puffery.Providers would serve themselves and their clients better by focusing on the tremendous potential of their work but ratcheting back their claims.Of course, it's the retailer's job to take a serious and deeply skeptical "buyer beware" attitude toward this type of selling. Still, it's concerning how few providers for retail recognize it's an incredibly, richly complex challenge where no single technology or data application has the ability to "be the magic change" -- yet those are the pitches that are made.
  • Posted on: 08/15/2017

    How should vendors respond to Walmart’s reluctance to raise prices?

    I don't agree that "pricing starts with Walmart." My experience of consumers is that they consider a lot of things -- price is just one. We obsess about price because it's easy and that lets us be distracted by relatively small price issues. It's far more powerful to create value that consumers want. What's the Sergio Zyman quote? In the absence of other meaningful data, consumers will fall back on price. But that means there's far more than price -- we too often leave value, meaning, utility, and the rest sitting on the table while we chase price.But Walmart does have exceptional power. I once worked with a manufacturer with a tremendous innovative new product. They wanted to maintain margins in the beginning and chose not to take it to Walmart first round...except their sales guy did. And Walmart offered to take it on (big order) but at a price that destroyed their ability to get margin for their innovation. It was exceptionally hard because once that deal was on the table, it threw off all other efforts for a sane introduction.Unfortunately, in a situation like this, manufacturers are caught in a nasty bind -- if they walk away Walmart will just fill the category with a competitor. Each company will have to sort out their own way forward with this.
  • Posted on: 08/14/2017

    Does the internet know us better than we know ourselves?

    There's tremendous value to be gained by adding Big Data analysis into our mix of research opportunities. And it's really not a new thing - direct marketers have relied on Big Data for decades. And with direct marketing experience, there are huge hidden risks that are being ignored.First, Big Data is almost always secondary data -- gathered for a different purpose. That means it will have holes (I recommend re-reading Deming about what it takes to have reliable data).Second, with big data we never know what we DON'T know. And that error leads to horrendous failures. Here's a blog post I wrote about what we don't know -- especially "why."Finally, in terms of applying Big Data, it's best for micro-management -- small tweaks that have small impact. The ability for Big Data to make a big difference is rare.That's why it needs to be clearly put in place: added to qualitative and quantitative research as another way to learn about a business. But retailers should take care -- Big Data is not nearly as powerful as many will promise.
  • Posted on: 08/09/2017

    What to do when shop local turns into look local and buy online?

    I think we have to be careful here. Before Amazon, there were a lot of reasons people would look at something then not buy it in the store. That's human and there's a clear portion that attempting to fight it will offend shoppers.What's also not figured into this discussion are the number of shoppers in these stores who checked it out online before coming into the store to pick it up -- they won't make it evident that's what they did. And estimates are that there are far more of these than we know.All that said, every retailer's strength must be making themselves a place people want to shop. Do that well, and you'll win in the long run. I noticed a local pet food store in Portland put up an outdoor sign saying "We're a lot more fun to shop than online." It's true. And, despite a small PetSmart outlet within 2 blocks, that store IS fun to shop at and they continue to do tremendous business -- it's where we buy our pet food.
  • Posted on: 08/08/2017

    Does Dunkin’ need donuts?

    These kinds of efforts are always made to sound big. But it's unlikely to do much to help Dunkin' Donuts increase sales and profits. And there's risk that it diffuses some brand equity (that part Byron Sharp calls "mental availability" through distinctive assets).My prediction? In three year's we'll give this one a big "meh." Yup. They tweaked their name. Nope. Didn't do much else for them.For a case study, we need merely look at how KFC has been lurching from brand theory to brand theory for years now.Perhaps efforts like this reflect the truth that marketing departments and executives obsess far more about brand than consumers do. We always need to take care to look at these things from a consumer point of view. Will this matter to consumers? Meh.
  • Posted on: 08/08/2017

    Should executive pay structures change to address slower growth at retail?

    Across all industries executive pay is often attached to "metrics" that don't reflect overall business health. It's not a bad political strategy to give the impression of smart management. But it doesn't recognize what Deming observed -- that aggressive management to metrics leads to perfectly managed companies that fail.Put this up against the reality that we are in a period of retail evolution where metrics will change rapidly and constantly. We do not know today which numbers will be most meaningful in two years.So ... yes. Executive pay structures should change. But in changing we need to be quite wary of how pay packages can entrench dysfunction and, perhaps, we need to try to return to a more human reality -- that most people prefer to do the important things rather than just hit metrics.How can executives be compensated in ways that encourage the team to come together in crisis and drive creative answers that create future success? Incentivizing according to fixed metrics seems like a poor tool for causing that to happen.
  • Posted on: 08/04/2017

    Will Amazon’s new return policy help or hurt its marketplace sellers?

    First, this seems like a no-brainer. Amazon needs consistency in return policies among all sellers.That said, Amazon's error was allowing other practices to develop -- and now they are hurting the resellers who allow Amazon to have the appearance of offering "everything."This is yet one more bit of damage to third-party sellers -- and I've been hearing a LOT of complaining about Amazon using heavy handed policy changes to damage their businesses. Many feel like it's been a "bait and switch" -- after relying on Amazon to build effective businesses, Amazon is now taking away their profit.I've warned before that those relying on third-party Amazon selling need to watch out for a big pivot -- as Amazon finally takes profit seriously it seems likely that Amazon will make big changes that hurt them, like pivoting to brick-and-mortar.
  • Posted on: 08/04/2017

    Can customer journey methodology level the playing field for brick and mortar retail?

    There is a tremendous amount to be learned by modelling typical customer journeys -- especially looking for points that stop the journey, divert the shopper or draw their attention to bring them in.But digital experience shows that obsession with customer journey (a tool for maximizing immediate digital sales) tends to build short-term revenue at the expense of long-term strength.Traditional advertising, for example, communicates with three groups: those ready to buy, those who will buy in the next 12 months and those who will buy in the next three years. No amount of online hypertargeting reaches those second two groups -- they are not exhibiting behaviors that can meaningfully identify them.We should also remember customer journey modeling has been used for decades of retail research work with in-store customer tracking and other excellent research tools. The only thing new today is adding in big data.But before we expect that adding big data to the mix to make a radicalizing difference, I recall my friend Shahin Khan's big data observation: That the ratio of data with meaning to data without meaning asymptotically approaches zero. In other words, meaningless data risks overwhelming data that has meaning.
  • Posted on: 08/04/2017

    Are the four Ps of marketing irrelevant for retailers?

    It is tiring to face newly-coined marketing theories like the "four Es" day after day (look up the great Mark Ritson video "7 Ways to Make Marketing Great Again" for a superb, common sense take-down of the marketing industry's desperate need to claim the old is dying).The four Ps remain the core of marketing for a retailer. And there is real truth that Es are important. But they are merely part of the four Ps. Place? Um. The internet is a place. And a retailer needs a strategy for leveraging their places as a unified force to drive sales. That seems pretty simple and obvious.The point of the four Ps is that each marketer/retailer needs to develop their own strategy for succeeding within the Ps and for the Ps combined.What concerns me most for retail is that it's far more exciting (and possibly easier to win with internal politics) to spend time with these big theories than to do the truly hard work needed for success: Sorting out how to succeed by creating a strategy that uniquely leverages products, places, prices and communication then implementing that strategy.
  • Posted on: 08/03/2017

    Are retailers squandering store traffic?

    This is an important, but risky, topic. Once someone has come into your store, it's reasonable to want as many as legitimately possible to spend some money and to spend more money. And there are solid answers here about customer service and checkout as key.The problem with a metric like this is it isolates one element of shopping and leads us to ignore what might be most critical. For example, Byron Sharp has done tremendous work on Double Jeopardy in brands. While marketers everywhere obsess about maximizing heavy shoppers, Sharp's work finds that the larger a brand's market share, the larger the average spending per consumer (so pure focus on big spenders ensures small market share).So my guess is that problems with conversion are linked to product mix or product display or traffic flow problems. Solving customer service problems will only do a small amount. Having compelling, important products will do far more. Remember when Keurig dominated stores? Remember when the Foreman Grill drove all small appliance departments? Remember when...? If you have products people care about and make them easy to find, shoppers will spend money.

Contact Doug