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: 10/17/2018

    New c-store concept is high-tech inside and out

    There are many individual elements here that sound quite excellent. I'm fearful for them that they're changing too much, too fast. Research shows that too many innovations at once lose customers -- leave them in the dust and unsure what the concept stands for. So, for example, the all natural convenience store is a major attempt. Focusing on that might be enough. Intriguing idea but a year from now, it will be interesting to see what has stayed out of the concept because I can't see any way that they won't have to drop a few items.
  • Posted on: 10/16/2018

    ‘Frictionless’ is the annoying word of the year

    Just as in physics, friction is often a benefit to shoppers. Just as humans rely on friction to be able to walk, shoppers rely on friction to aid in their process of choosing product and controlling their spending of hard earned money. When I put something into a cart, I often have not decided whether I’ll buy it - only that I’m interested. And the only shoppers who don’t worry about that are those with high enough incomes. Friction is, in truth, a neutral term. It seems most often called a problem for things that are unnecessarily complicated, silly, and barriers to a successful shopping experience. But pure worship of “frictionless” is, frankly, silly. Each retailer needs to understand where friction aids their shoppers and where friction impedes their shoppers. Only then will they maximize the shopper experience.
  • Posted on: 10/15/2018

    Will J.C. Penney’s new private brand connect with Instagram-savvy moms?

    I suppose I can imagine this set as a goal for the merchandisers and having some real value there -- at least helping them gather around a vision. But it sounds quite silly released into the media. No, the collection won’t succeed by inspiring Instagram discovery. Assuming it succeeds (and I hope it does), it will succeed by delivering well-made clothes with interesting fashion displayed well in the store and at a good price. As to this sentence: “Millennials are said to be eating out more because restaurants are able to deliver the socially shareable experiences the generation craves.” There are so, so, so many things wrong here. The research shows that only the rich Millennials are experience seekers -- those with less money aren’t. In other words, another way Millennials are just like previous generations.
  • Posted on: 10/12/2018

    Is Amazon on the right path to improved product discovery with Scout?

    Appreciate all that. The limitations I see are more serious than "words vs pictures". When we see furniture, for example, online, there really can never be the perspective needed to sense whether it's right for our world. Even at Ikea they use their displays to shift the appearance of furniture to make it appear more substantive than it is. But browsing in a store gives me all my sense and the ability to walk around something while touching it, to put something next to it to compare, to get accurate color and texture (subtleties online photo's can never carry), etc. The part of Tufte I was referring to is his critique of the communication limitation of digital displays. Color is never correct. There is a dot limit that can never get things. It's a 2d display — so just like in paintings, any sense of a 3rd dimension is an optical illusion. Things probably can be better than I expect. But Amazon has had a long time to work on it (say the last 10 years) and their website is no better at solving the browse problem than it was 10 years ago. Appreciate the thoughts...
  • Posted on: 10/12/2018

    Is Amazon on the right path to improved product discovery with Scout?

    Amazon has found the wall they can’t get past: While it’s great to buy things online, online sites are quite weak for shopping or browsing. These are fundamental limits due to technology. I recommend the folks at Amazon read Edward Tufte’s work. Digital devices are all incredibly limited when it comes to discovery as he documents -- and mere replacement of words with photos isn’t going to change that. (Scout appears to be a minor step forward with claims to do far more. It won’t.)
  • Posted on: 10/11/2018

    Would biometric feedback shopping carts creep out Walmart’s customers?

    Simple answer: Yes, this is creepy. It’s also concerning for the kinds of development being chosen for patents at Walmart. The danger of tech enthusiasts is when they become more excited about what CAN be done than what SHOULD be done. Fortunately, I don’t think this will ever turn into reality. It’s probably a defensive patent filing -- not intended to become reality. After all, the number of times it would help would not offset the far, far greater number of false alarms that this kind of technology is well known for (how often does the pulse meter work on the treadmill at the gym? And they are stationary...).
  • Posted on: 10/10/2018

    Will Best Buy’s golden years strategy deliver long-term success?

    The idea that services provide a stable barrier to competition is excellent, otherwise Best Buy is at the whim of the latest pile of chips in a box. So overall, this is a good strategy. I’m disappointed, though, that the focus is on “aged and infirm” products. Truth is that across all age groups, much tech is far too complicated for a majority of consumers to integrate themselves. There is a broader service opportunity helping people of all ages integrate these complexities. As a very simple example. We bought a Ring doorbell which we haven’t yet installed. Why? We asked the electrician to install it and they don’t have the tech ability to take the job on. We ask the tech folks to install it, they refuse to work with the wiring and the physical installation. So, 18 months later I’ve tested it out without installation — yet it just sits in our kitchen. And it’s not that I’m tech naive. I started life as a programmer and worked with supercomputers and set up the first installation of a network of Apple II’s at General Dynamics.
  • Posted on: 10/09/2018

    Is it too late for a new store concept from Barnes & Noble?

    Bookstore success is all in the details. This approach must be accompanied by curation of an interesting array of books, magazines, and gifts. Executed well, this approach can be a winner. However, given Barnes & Noble's history, I consider that a big "if". Somehow they've always stocked product in ways that feel stale and corporate — lacking the excitement of potential discovery that should attend every bookstore visit. Cracking the curation code is their only route to success against Amazon and independents. Other retailers need to pay attention. B&N is merely the most severe example of merchandising controls taking all the interest out of their assortment. Every other retailer fights the same battle with varying degrees of success.
  • Posted on: 10/03/2018

    Are retailers deaf to radio advertising’s potential?

    The entire marketing training network in the U.S. is turning out young graduates who are deaf to all traditional media -- and especially radio. Universities over-emphasize digital at the expense of other forms and end up turning out business grads who know little about the real media world. Students embrace this because they don’t know better. Professors embrace this because it helps their careers to write and teach about shiny new baubles. Retailers need to start training programs for incoming marketing teams -- to build a more complete understanding of all the media options so they can get more balanced mixes. Retailers also need to pull back on KPI-based programs which often reward the most expensive media just because its results are easily countable.
  • Posted on: 10/02/2018

    Why do retailers practically ignore existing customers to go after new ones?

    I disagree with the fundamental premise of this article -- that research shows there’s more money to be made grooming loyalists. The excellent work of Byron Sharp (summarized in his book How Brands Grow) has shown that the law of double jeopardy dominates growth. Namely, the healthiest brands are those with the most overall consumers and when they have the largest market share, each of those consumers also spends more annually with the brand. For retail, then, it’s most critical to be bringing “new” or “returning” customers back to the store. At the same time, the communication which achieves this also leads loyal customers to spend more. Secondarily, some grooming of what are believed to be loyal customers can be useful as a tactical approach -- but it should never be the primary effort.
  • Posted on: 10/01/2018

    Walmart expands test of pickup-only grocery store concept

    Fulfilling through separate pickup locations is a marketing mistake. Customers who choose to pick up are not “pickup only” customers. Rather, they are “pickup sometimes” or “pickup mostly” customers. So rather than get their minds focused on remote locations where they wouldn’t shop, pickup should be at the store location -- so that when customers think of "Walmart" they still think of a store. This is especially critical in that pickup appears to be primarily a valid side-option -- a way to build loyalty so that the more profitable store trips happen with YOUR brand and not a competitor. Moving that action away from the store is incredibly short-sighted.
  • Posted on: 09/27/2018

    Will Amazon disrupt retail again with its new 4-star store concept?

    Good for Amazon - that they continue to work to improve margins by embracing bricks. But they are distracted by digital and data mythology. Stores won’t be stocked well by ratings. A human buyer can curate an interesting mix that’ll always beat the blandness of “highly rated” or data driven curation. Curation is partly a creative endeavor - including some interesting products with no history. Only a human being can crack that code. Otherwise, all stores will be blindly identical in mix.
  • Posted on: 09/26/2018

    Does business need more and better storytellers?

    Business does NOT need more storytellers. After all, “storyteller” is inherently a creator of fiction. Some might call it “lying” but I don’t. Still, Malcolm Gladwell is a brilliant storyteller - but dig into the facts behind his writing and it turns out we shouldn’t rely on what he says. Consumers know this in their guts and are quite cautious about those who tell slick stories that lack true reality. Employees also know this -- having been fed an incredible range of stories promising to “fix everything” and delivering little. What businesses need are better marketing communicators -- those rare wise few who understand the entire range of communication that builds business while respecting consumers. Telling a story is only one narrow slice of communication.
  • Posted on: 09/26/2018

    What’s Dunkin’ without Donuts in its name?

    That Dunkin’ would become focused on more than donuts is smart business. But losing the key name attractors that draws consumers into their shops? A very poor move. This seems driven by neat or theoretically neat “brand alignment” hoo-hah. Brands, and consumer minds, don’t work that way. I understand that WITH Donut in their name their business has already made the change they wanted. Why change what works? Looks like bureaucracy at work or a desire to communicate with investors -- not driven by any true consumer value in the name change. That is worrisome. Because consumers need consistent, long-term reliance on brand names that don’t change. All that said, the Weight Watchers name change/logo re-work is far far more destructive. So I think Dunkin’ will do OK. But it’s not a smart move.
  • Posted on: 09/24/2018

    Are big box retailers going too small with new store concepts?

    There’s a fundamental expectation problem with moving from big to small. All of these retailers have built customer loyalty and expectations based on the large and deep assortments possible in large stores. As Mark Ryski observed, though, small stores reduce potential profit per store while maintaining nearly the same level of per-store operational challenges. Even worse, when the customer visits a small store, they are quite often disappointed in the brand -- because the small store cannot go deep with assortment. Can it be done? Of course it can. But it is not easy. Target seems to have the best start with their existing urban stores. That said, we had a small Walmart in our neighborhood ... and it closed within 18 months of opening. Every time I drove by I wondered why it existed since it wasn’t a “real Walmart.”

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