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: 10/21/2019

    Jungle Jim’s delivers a foodie adventure

    This is an interesting and excellent one-off. I’m a bit put off by the description of “ahead of its time.” This exploratory approach was not unusual in the 1970s (Casa Bonita in Denver is a restaurant which followed the same path). And through the intervening years, we’ve had many, many individual successes and a few chains either in shopping or eating which followed this path. However, this is not a model anyone should follow. Kitsch (which seems the term of the day at this store) is fascinating, but not readily replicable to other locations.
  • Posted on: 10/21/2019

    Will Barneys find success setting up shops inside Saks Fifth Avenue?

    This makes complete sense — as long as they execute it quickly. The more shoppers are confronted with “Barney’s Closed” the less brand value there will be to set up something new. I expect we will learn that Toys "R" Us missed the boat in this way. Certainly someone will open stores with the same brand name — but it’s going to be very clear that customers are engaging with a different company.
  • Posted on: 10/21/2019

    Should Amazon be charging for ‘curated’ toy guide placements?

    No. Approaches like this are seriously degrading the Amazon customer experience — rather than going to Amazon and finding what we want, we now go to Amazon and are given what Amazon has been paid to give us. A good friend recently searched for a power tool. He got two pages with only a single copy of the tool he wanted — and the rest of the listings were those Amazon was paid to present him or were Amazon's own unrelated products. I understand why companies like Amazon feel they can’t turn down these revenue opportunities, but they’d be far better off to focus on customers than to prove to customers how hungry they are for revenue.
  • Posted on: 10/10/2019

    Can Target’s chief merchandising officer turn Bed Bath & Beyond around?

    I certainly wish Mark Tritton well in taking on this substantial challenge. Where I am concerned for him is that his resume reflects substantial experience in companies which were already focused - Nordstrom, Nike, Timberland, Target. Bed Bath & Beyond’s fundamental challenge at this point is a lack of focus and the chaotic shopping experience that results. His success will depend on his ability to get the space and time to focus Bed Bath & Beyond’s business before his superb merchandising skills can make a significant difference. He faces very hard work. And while there is tremendous potential remaining for Bed Bath & Beyond, it needs to become clear who Bed Bath & Beyond is before any merchandising can succeed.
  • Posted on: 10/09/2019

    REI opens outdoor adventure gateway concept

    I'm disappointed. REI drank the "experiences" Kool Aid. REI used to be the poster child for not getting distracted by the experiences theories. Their in-store climbing walls are nearly never climbed by customers. But they are exceptionally valuable establishing the memory connections for shoppers who visit REI and love to be reminded of outdoor adventures. The wall, then, is a tremendous addition to the store for the way it connects shoppers with the emotional reasons they like outdoor activities. These shoppers, then, also know they are IN a store and the key is preparing for their next adventure. Sadly, that's not the case with this store. Too far from the traffic that's needed — REI thrives because their store serves people who go many places — not one. I expect that in a year or two we'll hear of it's closing. At that time, people may say "at least they tried." But trying things based on faulty reasoning is never wise. Retailers need to stay focused on WHY customers shop before getting carried away making their stores into mediocre amusement parks.
  • Posted on: 09/30/2019

    Will consumers go for Kroger’s food hall concept?

    Nicely done, Kroger’s. They have been mixing up their stores here with pubs and more food options. This is a reasonable extension. What it seems to reflect that is particularly important is that consumers don’t have hard boundaries any more between grocery, prepared but uncooked food, and fully prepared meals. So establishing the connection between “food” and “Kroger” seems quite likely to work. That said, success will now be in implementation. We need to hope they have smart people with restaurant experience running the operation.
  • Posted on: 09/27/2019

    Why do IT service outages keep happening at retail?

    From a discussion with @JohnWLewis yesterday: “One of the reasons why aviation is so safe is that there is an underlying assumption that perfect safety is not available, at any price.”
  • Posted on: 09/27/2019

    How can retailers scare up more Halloween sales using social media?

    Social media just might fit decently with Halloween — because it is a visual holiday. Just look at the merchandising at Kroger — lots of things which live or die based on a quick look. That is, in fact, about the best possible situation for social media — quick look ads. Focus on those things which are visually compelling without words and you just might increase store sales.
  • Posted on: 09/27/2019

    Why do IT service outages keep happening at retail?

    When companies build themselves too tightly around a technology which is known to have failures, they subject themselves to those failures. Retailers need to adopt a different stance relative to technology: Today most seem to develop systems presuming they won’t fail. Instead, learn from the airplane industry. Embracing the truth that there WILL BE failure can make everyone safer — including the retailer's bottom line.
  • Posted on: 09/27/2019

    Amazon wants to take the lead on regulating facial recognition tech

    Of course it makes sense for Bezos to suggest this and for Amazon attempt to present a fait accompli instead of allowing legislation to be developed. That is wrong. The legislative process is also one of communication — where society learns about the issues and comes to general agreement on the rules. It is also concerning because as with many things, Amazon has poor vision when it comes to what society needs — as opposed to what their bottom line needs. All that said, there is a flaw in the Bezos plan. This makes them liable for holes in the legislation — at least in public perception. Should they really be taking on such complex territory? No.
  • Posted on: 09/26/2019

    Amazon tests program to take better care of employees’ health

    Am I far too cynical that as I read the list of services, I mostly see that Amazon is making it possible for employees to stay chained to their desks more? I'll answer that question: Yes. Yet given Amazon's labor history, this is likely yet another Amazon prestidigitation trick... "Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain..."
  • Posted on: 09/26/2019

    Can grocery shopping make people less lonely?

    I love that we are talking about the social value of a shopping trip. The grocery is a classic "third place" where there are people and not expectations. So the social aspects aren't simply about being around people but sometimes about being around people without expectations (like when things at home are rough). All that said, I fully agree with the concerns at the end of the article. Overtly attempting to CREATE this experience with a "social area" seems a bust. Stores SHOULD be aware of this issue. But the things which will make their locations good socially are far more subtle and will result from a thousand small changes -- not a headline making "social area."
  • Posted on: 09/25/2019

    Are smart carts a smarter way to ‘Just Walk Out’?

    Moving technology in a retail store? Huh. What could go wrong? Fundamentally, we can’t make in-store video and kiosk installations work effectively and those don’t go over bumps or get pushed into shelving. Those problems have been attacked for years — and the costs of making tech which survives in-store is simply too high. While on the one hand this seems smarter than wiring the “whole store” or the doorway, movement kills tech. So I’m not optimistic. (And if you’ve read my other comments this week, I also don’t think this approach improves customer experience except for a very narrow market.)
  • Posted on: 09/25/2019

    What makes consumers grumble most about returning online orders?

    My beef? Packaging and drop off. Stores are a far better place to return because I don’t have to worry about ensuring the product is packaged for shipment. Nor do I have to worry about the cost of return shipping. That said, it’s a bit shocking that we still have to discuss this. But the ability of online-only investors to underwrite losses has extended the online-only mythology far beyond when we all knew it was a bust.
  • Posted on: 09/25/2019

    Retailers must turn stores into ‘anything engines’

    The negative “endless aisle” dressed in new clothing. It's fundamental marketing that no one will succeed as an “anything store.” Stores have to have meaning for anyone to shop there — and meaning comes from a curated selection of goods. Yes Amazon pretty much lets you order anything as long as you I know of it before. But Amazon also doesn’t make profit doing that. And if you need to shop (not just buy), there is no single worse place to shop than at Amazon. I was also struck by the incredible flight of theoretical fancy — which seems to forget we are selling to human beings. Human beings are physical, live in physical space, understand the physical better, and are NOT capable of living in some theoretical multi-dimensional space — except for a few who have serious delusions. Haven’t seen a theory this far out in the ozone for quite a while.

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