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: 02/15/2019

    Will Google’s modular tech change how consumers buy smartphones?

    I expect companies will try. But they are fighting an uphill battle against consumer truths. Yes, customers might say they “want” them today. But what’s the clearer reality? Every business “modularizes” and fails. It’s a classic move when a product begins to run out of dramatic new improvements. But it never succeeds. Why? First, it blurs value. When advertising the iPhone X, Apple can talk about that phone, make promises, show what you’ll get. Advertising cannot do that with modular. Second, once the consumer has bought and owns a device for a week, the modularity becomes entirely unimportant. While they “could” change their modules, very few ever do. So they don’t, in the long run, find the modularity of value. Google would be wise to study the history of products.
  • Posted on: 02/15/2019

    eBay looks to lead a ‘retail revival’

    I’m torn about this one. On the one hand, this is an opportune time for eBay to gain from how Amazon’s new policies are seriously hurting small businesses (which they spent a lot of money trying to tell us isn’t happening). On the other hand, eBay is dramatically hurting the clarity of their brand with the addition of “retail.” What IS eBay these days? Auctions? Retail? No one really knows. It could be we are seeing a classic tech “pivot” begin here - and that in a few years eBay could be primarily a third-party seller market. That would be disappointing (as one who collects aerospace memorabilia from the 1950s through 1980s). But it might be a solid future. Time will tell.
  • Posted on: 02/15/2019

    Will Amazon’s decision to bail cause a New York backlash?

    The HQ2 search was a circus from the day it was announced. But that kind of circus plays to Amazon’s advantage and they seem to have reaped tremendous benefit with it establishing them among the broad population as one of the new industrial giants. I’m not surprised the deal fell apart. It never looked like a great deal for New York from my point of view. There will be some losses to NYC in the added business and vibe that would attend to an HQ2 location. But Amazon? It won’t have immediate negative impact. But Bezos should be concerned that now that they ARE an “industrial giant” the bloom is off the rose. They will be expected to be good corporate citizens. As one more proof that they big business and not what they’ve hyped themselves up to be, it will have some negative impact long-term.
  • Posted on: 02/14/2019

    Will Mastercard’s sonic identity connect with consumers on a new level?

    Sonics can be quite effective if used well. But I haven’t been impressed with Mastercard’s latest efforts. And a projection of voice-driven sales of $40 billion? Have they forgotten that when a number is tiny today the error in a projection of that much growth is huge - as much as +/- 100 percent? I doubt that Mastercard will see much value from this sound branding. I don't think sound branding is a wrong thing - but I don’t see that Mastercard stands to gain from it.
  • Posted on: 02/14/2019

    America has too many retail stores

    Retailers need to be very cautious about these closings for one reason: Clicks and online sales are always higher in a geographic area when there is a physical store in that area. So yes, they overbuilt. But each single store closing can have more than one store’s worth of hit on retailer profits and revenues. I’ve written about the mere advertising value of a store in an area. That’s not enough on its own to justify a store. But it’s a significant value that must be added into the considerations of closings. My recent blog post on Bricks & Clicks looks at some of the reasons for higher sales with physical presence.
  • Posted on: 02/13/2019

    Retail leaders need to care more about tech

    Let me caution retailers. Yes, tech is critical to your future; not as “tech” but as tools to make your stores and operations better. I fully agree with Paula Rosenblum’s caution about the shiny bauble (my term) syndrome that has caused significant problems for retailers. I’d even suggest that a massive group panic think within the retail market has been encouraged by companies selling tech solutions as a way to create the fear, uncertainty, and doubt often used to force tech into places it shouldn’t be. What should retailers do? Tech is maturing. It does not trump good retail store service. It does not become more important than having the right mix of products on the shelf. It will not bring people to the store. But it CAN make all of that more efficient and more profitable and, sometimes, more effective.
  • Posted on: 02/13/2019

    Can Whole Foods’ business afford higher prices?

    Whole Foods has been remarkably price insulated. Yes, they have a reputation for higher prices. But if these prices are across the board, it’s not that they are extracting unusual margins from products. So the inflation situation described above is unlikely to cause a problem for them. All that said, it reminds me of how much Amazon was able to get the press to buy off on a “lower price” mythology when they purchased Whole Foods. Story after story repeated it - yet the studies of prices showed virtually no change and that was even for Prime customers.
  • Posted on: 02/12/2019

    Barneys to become first major retailer to open legal weed shop

    Clever stunt. Probably smart for Barneys. And it will have a short-term impact. That said, I do expect that as laws become more clear, more corporate entities will open weed shops -- whether stand-alone or integrated into stores. On the other hand if they’re looking for profit, they should pay close attention to the hours and accessibility maintained by the successful current stores. It may be that to make profit these stores need to maintain highly extended hours.
  • Posted on: 02/12/2019

    Will Marie Kondo de-clutter retail?

    Marie Kondo has struck a chord with how much of the public? A small percentage — at least from what I’m seeing in my ad/marketing related Twitter (where she’s pretty present among those paid to trend watch) and my Facebook feed (where discussion of her show is non-existent - the place where trends should show up). I’d recommend assuming she strikes a chord with 15 percent to 20 percent. Then work the math from there - assuming she has a long-term effect with those. As a point of rebellion, let me note what DID show up on my Facebook feed yesterday: “... the lovely Japanese concept of tsundoku, the guilt-pile of books acquired with the intention of reading but left unread.”—Maria Popova, quoted in NYT Book Review Hence, my own personal bias - I’m more in the Popova than Kondo realm.
  • Posted on: 02/12/2019

    Is Allswell with Walmart’s tiny house tour?

    As a promotional device to make a small splash and raise awareness that they have a line of DTC mattresses, it’s mostly a smart promotion - I love traveling shows and even though they reach only small audiences, they can have a strong pass along impact. However, I am concerned that “tiny homes” could sully the brand for the mattress. While there’s been tremendous hype about the tiny, it appeals to a niche. My concern promotionally would be that “tiny home” would over-ride “great mattress” as the consumer message from the tour. I would also express concern that we’re at the tail end of the tiny home fad. The TV shows are fading, the news stories are dropping... Walmart needs to take care with the “optics” on this one and make sure it’s more a traveling show than a tiny home show.
  • Posted on: 02/11/2019

    Foot Locker makes $100M leap into the sneaker re-seller space

    This is a smart move by Foot Locker. At the same time, I’m cautious about the long-term potential of GOAT. In part, featuring the $60,000 shoe communicates “this is a collectors market” - not a place to buy shoes. In part, used markets like this have always existed but never grown large. Given their size, Foot Locker’s investment seems appropriate and wise. And however they implement a partnership, it should be useful to them. But I don’t expect it to be an “embracing disruption” sized activity.
  • Posted on: 02/11/2019

    Is there really wisdom in the crowd?

    First, what Prof. McCoy is talking about is not about crowdsourcing - it’s a fundamental principle of marketing research. Too many companies accept the most popular answer. But superb research teams are always looking for the surprises -- those things that reveal something unexpected that gives us more insight. Then, he suggests shifting to a wickedly bad research approach. One- and tw0-question research does not reveal anything useful because people are too complex for it. To give him credit, he’s attempting to reduce a massively complex problem to smaller bits -- and is using a common sociological approach. But this approach is rarely successful. Because, as I came so see reading Rick Nason’s book on complexity when you face a complex problem and believe it can be solved by reduction, those answers always fail you.
  • Posted on: 02/11/2019

    Are apps and voice assistants the keys to e-grocery adoption?

    What Bain seems unable to appreciate is that a physical grocery list may well be already the most efficient and effective way to plan a grocery trip. It’s a beautiful fit to the vast range of human interest and challenge of finding what you need. I started attempting to use grocery list apps 10 years ago. They’ve never worked because they are clunky, complicated, and laborious -- for me. So let me challenge Bain back: Why is there a presumption that online ordering of groceries is best for humans needing to keep food on the table? There’s no evidence to show that it is or ever can be.
  • Posted on: 02/04/2019

    Which commercial won Super Bowl LIII?

    Two winners this year: Microsoft for a sensitive representation of meeting diverse needs - that delivered the only purposeful ad that matched the product. Washington Post for so many reasons. Certainly, the critical nature of journalism to society. But also, for the face that Jeff Bezos once again endorses the value of traditional media while too many retail execs are letting marketing departments run wild with far less effective online gimmicks. And one big ironic match: Burger King. Only an art school trained creative would convince themselves they were doing something “big” when they matched the insipid art of Andy Warhol with the insipid food at Burger King. Was it that the collective subconscious among the advertising team told the truth despite themselves?
  • Posted on: 01/29/2019

    Are new brick and mortar solutions the key to digital brand growth?

    Physical space dedicated to a partial implementation of brick-and-mortar retail for digital natives? A lot of things don’t add up. First, it sounds partial. Rather than sell their goods these are like promotional popups. There’s some value. But if the good are important they should be sold. And if they aren’t true retail spaces, then customers are going to read that as negative. Second, we need to remember that Sharper Image failed in the end. Why? Too much competition carried goods that were far too close (and Sharper Image dedicated themselves to a few hero products). These sound like poorer versions of the Sharper Image store. This idea doesn’t add up for me because it lacks the unifying value of retail: a place to shop for curated, related goods.

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