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: 12/12/2018

    Is Kroger following the Sears playbook for self-destruction?

    No one has visited all Kroger stores. But the stores I visit in Oregon and Colorado all show incredible investment in store layout, design, and infrastructure. In the market I certainly don't see signs of neglecting stores -- quite the contrary -- AND there are also clear signs of the impact of their digital efforts. There ARE retailers for whom we should be concerned -- especially when they replace their merchant and store folks with people who only have digital background. But so far, I don't see evidence to be concerned about this issue with Kroger.
  • Posted on: 12/12/2018

    Kraft Heinz ‘embraced failure’ in digital transformation

    In 60 years we moved from getting to the moon “before the decade is out” because NASA adopted an attitude that “failure is not an option” to “embrace failure.” We can debate the subtleties, but the message, as I wrote recently comes across loud and clear: You can always succeed at failing -- so set your sights low, refuse to embrace what is hard with a demand for success. There is no question that processes that allow large companies to milk their cash cows are the same processes that stand in the way of innovation and new product success. BUT embracing failure is not the answer. Understanding the diseases built into the system that prevent success and treat those diseases - not the symptoms. For example, management by KPIs is incredibly destructive to efforts to create the future. Yet management by KPIs has reached nearly religious veneration among executives in nearly every company. Embracing failure won’t solve that -- admitting the problem is the starting point.
  • Posted on: 12/10/2018

    Will Walgreens win the prescription delivery race?

    The best part of this announcement is “$4.99.” And I hope that Walgreens has the wherewithal to stick with it. To survive, retailers need to charge for premium services like next-day delivery. This is difficult in the face of Amazon’s investors underwriting “free delivery” promises. But Walgreens is in a position to stick with it. They ARE the trusted prescription brand and if they continue to be aggressive about being trustworthy and reliable, they will succeed with the $4.99 charge. The particular caution I’ll offer is that will be hard in the day-to-day chaos of a headquarters when a division (like next-day delivery) sees a bit of growth stagnation. When that happens, today’s bogey-man is always Amazon (whether that’s real or not). Walgreens should keep the courage to stick with it -- because any stagnation is unlikely to be the result of Amazon’s illusory “next day” promises. (There’s an incredible thread of discussions on Twitter about how rarely Amazon’s deliver is reliable -- a major change over a year ago.)
  • Posted on: 12/07/2018

    Have retail store associates fallen into a hypnotic state?

    I don't think I'll be working on the floor of the store from here. That said, I've spent a lot of years selling and have never found role playing to be that useful. While simulations were brilliantly used with the early years of space to train mission control, there was a seriousness in that situation where they would make sense. Trying to help someone learn to sell more socks is a condition where role play seems silly to the average retail rep. But my main point is about respecting employees. The paternal nature of all these recommended acts is sad to see -- yet are an accurate reflection of the disrespect that has made the retail floor so dysfunctional. My point: Respect employees. Encourage and reward them for taking initiative to learn things or explore applicable things during the dead time on the floor. But don't put them through silliness. And, for me, role plays are silliness.
  • Posted on: 12/07/2018

    Have retail store associates fallen into a hypnotic state?

    Great identification of a serious problem. But the solutions are too paternal. As an active and engaged mind, nothing would have led me to leave retail faster than managers using role play to fill dead time. What’s not on the list, for example, is encouraging employees to use initiative to learn things related to your products. Perhaps learn to use them, learn to tie bow ties, learn to use the Cricut machine in Joann Fabric, learn ... The biggest boredom factor comes when people are not responsible for using their time wisely -- but are led to expect that managers will demand they do mundane things. My suggestion? Retailers should look for ways to make it clear to employees that initiative is expected and respected.
  • Posted on: 12/07/2018

    IKEA assembles holiday messages to drive sales

    Interesting approach. The magician versions get too carried away in the magic story. As uplifting as the child magicians are, IKEA leaves a weak connection with their wares as part of the story -- I can’t see it increasing store traffic as much as alternative approaches. But the “Maybes” spot seems to hit a tremendous number of the right buttons -- and the idea that there’s goods at IKEA for every situation is an excellent set of messaging. Great production in all three -- and the first is the best without challenge, to my mind.
  • Posted on: 12/05/2018

    The RetailWire Christmas Commercial Challenge: Pier 1 Imports vs. TJX Companies

    I give this one to TJX Companies. The Pier 1 ad wastes too many valuable seconds of media time on an awkward hug that’s neither attractive nor positive. And when we finally get a bit of a view of what’s been bought, it is not clear and not interesting. TJX does a better job of showing examples and moving straight into message. (That said, if a boss is picky about coffee, I don’t know why we would ever expect to find coffee to impress them at TJX.) Overall, the TJX spot will draw more people to the store and have a better impact (short AND long term).
  • Posted on: 11/29/2018

    How can retailers get customers to complete feedback surveys?

    Most consumers are tired of being pestered by retailers for constant surveys. My blog posts about this are the most widely read and enthusiastically endorsed of all my blog posts. Here is one example -- about how customer surveys create unhappy customers. This sounds, then, like a group with a product attempting to sell their product with research they interpret to create a need for their product. What needs to happen is retailers need to back off of customer surveys and return to periodic outbound research to a sampling of customers, with managers taking the responsibility of being in stores and talking with both customers and employees. The good news? By doing this retailers will learn more and make better choices than any research dashboard would ever lead to.
  • Posted on: 11/28/2018

    Can customer lifetime value scores work against retailers?

    The big downside to CLV is the incredible risk of adopting measures without understanding their limitations. While CLV may seem interesting (especially given the incredible belief in loyalty programs among retail marketers), there are clear risks. Byron Sharp’s work on marketing’s Law of Double Jeopardy shows that strong brands become strong by building higher numbers of low value shoppers. And, by doing so, on average each shopper buys more. Except CLV focus ignores low value shoppers, perhaps even penalizes them, despite the low value shoppers being exactly where brand growth happens. We do well to remember Goodhart’s Law when dealing with metrics: “When a measure becomes a target, it ceases to be a good measure.”
  • Posted on: 11/28/2018

    RetailWire Christmas Commercial Challenge: Target vs. Walmart

    Despite the relatively mundane topic (shipping, pickup) both ads are excellent. Finally a pair that I can say that about. Both get across a solid core reason to shop at the retailer. Both are superbly on-target for the brands they represent. I’m particularly pleased with the family represented in the Walmart ad. But I also always love Target’s embracing of their clear brand-distinctive assets. (The Target ad is more distinctive, so there's a slight advantage there. Tune into the middle of Walmart’s ad and it could be about anyone...) It is concerning that Target is giving away two-day shipping. When will we come back to economic stability and charge for premium services? Sigh. I give a slight edge to Target -- but perhaps that’s because I shop there more often and have stronger brand connections to Target.
  • Posted on: 11/21/2018

    Candytopia’s pop-up museum puts AR on display

    I must be missing something. Because I suppose this could technically be called “AR.” Yet it really sounds like nothing more than a mix of gaming, Pokémon Go, and clever graphics. LEGO did something similar years ago -- and as a regular shopper/buyer of far too much LEGO, it was rarely in use in the stores. I used it -- mostly to try to figure out why they were investing in it. So this appears to be a clever digital gizmo from Candytopia. But I don’t think it signifies any trend we should follow or an untapped power for other retailers. Just seems smart for them.
  • Posted on: 11/21/2018

    Will loyalty programs drive market share gains for Lyft or Uber?

    I doubt that these are significant additions to their business. We need remember that the primary beneficiaries of reward programs are those people already loyal to your brand. Research into loyalty programs (by Byron Sharp, among others) shows that they rarely have the loyalty impact that is hoped for.
  • Posted on: 11/20/2018

    Is Hasbro trolling Millennials with its new Monopoly game sold by Walmart?

    I think it’ll prove a flop. There’s a lot of good fun in the titles and concept. But the idea of “experience” over “money” reminds me of the mythology of the New Soviet Man. A bit of moralizing silliness in this case - and moralizing is bad marketing. Were I a merchant, I’d stay away from this one. No need to end up with a big January back stock of kitsch that’ll end up being sold off at a loss.
  • Posted on: 11/20/2018

    Will 2018 be the last holiday season for long checkout lines?

    Media is always attracted to the thing which is most visible -- which makes the best film and photographs. Lines do that. What do lines mean? There’s far more sold in the two weeks before Christmas at retail than in the week of Black Friday. So the lines don’t mean a whole lot. Besides, if we focus on “line length and chaos” any retailer can create that by offering deals that are bad business. It’s a Goodhart’s Law effect, where the “measure” (news coverage) leads to bad management.
  • Posted on: 11/20/2018

    The RetailWire Christmas Commercial Challenge: Big Lots vs. Dick’s Sporting Goods

    I’d have turned away from the Dick’s ad long before I had any idea who it was from -- hence a zero advertising effect. That said, it’s beautifully produced, a very sweet story. I’m torn by the fact that they give such an honest portrayal of what a ping pong table gets used for. It’s true. Yet it’s like advertising fitness equipment by showing the laundry hanging on it -- true, gritty reality yet not a good choice for advertising. Yet once more: production A+ and advertising F. Big Lots will have much more impact with their ad. We know who it is. And at the end they tell us what we might find. However, they needed to have connected the dots. We see bags -- we never get a connection that, for example, the tree lights are from those bags. Yes, many here might scoff at such things. But having used advertising to drive millions of units of brand new product out retailer doors at the holiday, those details matter. Big Lots should have connected what comes out of the bag with what they show in their vignettes.

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